State Politics

NC charities’ take is up for first time in 3 years

Meals on Wheels volunteer Michael Verdi of Apex, N.C. delivers a meal to Gene Hooker, age 87, at his home on Thursday in Raleigh, N.C. Verdi has been a volunteer for ten years, and has been delivering to Hooker for five years.
Meals on Wheels volunteer Michael Verdi of Apex, N.C. delivers a meal to Gene Hooker, age 87, at his home on Thursday in Raleigh, N.C. Verdi has been a volunteer for ten years, and has been delivering to Hooker for five years. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Traditional charities that registered with the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office brought in significantly more money last year, as seen in the 10 percent increase in donations to Meals on Wheels of Wake County, state officials said Tuesday.

It was the first such increase in three years, the Secretary of State’s office said.

In the traditional charity realm, Alan Winstead, executive director of Meals of Wheels of Wake County, noted that the need for its services continues to outpace charitable giving and public funding. The agency has 2,000 volunteers who deliver hot meals to homes or in a congregate setting such as the Center for Active Adults, on Whitaker Mill Road.

“We have 213 people that are on a waiting list,” Winstead said.

The addition of civic-issue and economic-development groups to the registry likely accounted for the seeming blockbuster increase in giving of more than 60 percent statewide, to $56.57 million in 2014-15 from $21.4 million in 2013-14. Until this year, groups designated as promoting local economic development, or civic interests rather than political candidates, had not registered with the state.

Such issue groups have played significant roles in several statewide campaigns in recent years. They are distinct from the federally designated political action committees that work for specific candidates.

“These organizations are related to the political issues of the day or dedicated to building economic activity in specific parts of North Carolina,” Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said at Raleigh’s Five Points Center for Active Adults.

Several civic-issue groups raised six-figure amounts during the disclosure period. As examples, Carolina Partnership for Reform raised $301,500, and Renew North Carolina Foundation, $580,569. Economic-development groups also raised significant amounts, with Chatham County Economic Development raising $757,500; Davie County’s agency, more than $920,000, and Lee County’s, nearly $1.3 million. The civic-issue and development groups spent relatively little on fundraising.

Marshall’s office released the annual report of its charitable solicitation licensing report, which gives total amounts raised and expenses for fundraising for agencies that used professional solicitation.

Of dollars donated to registered agencies in North Carolina, about 66 percent went directly to the organization, greater than the equivalent national figure of 57 percent.

Thomas Goldsmith: 919-829-8929, @tommygoldsmith

Look before you give

The NC Secretary of State’s office maintains online listings of amounts that agencies take in and how much they spend on professional fundraising.

For example, the charity registered in North Carolina as the Breast Cancer Society Inc., of Mesa, Ariz., took in $33,359.50 in the state in 2014-2015, paying a fundraising company called Organizational Development Inc. 65 percent of that amount and netting the charity $11,675.83.

In May, the Federal Trade Commission called the Breast Cancer Society Inc., one of “four sham cancer charities” and charged its operators with bilking more than $187 million from consumers nationally. A letter on the Breast Cancer Society’s website Tuesday said the charity has decided to close down rather than to engage in “a highly publicized, expensive, and distracting legal battle around our fundraising practices.”

North Carolina regulators noted that there’s no limit on how much a charity can spend on fundraising. Even net amounts that might appear to be a small percentage of total fundraising can be welcome, and charities don’t want to lose out on them. However, a call to the charity to get an explanation may be in order.

“The question becomes are their numbers low over several years?” Marshall said in a statement “If so, then you might want to consider supporting a different charity.”

Find the latest figures for state and national agencies at www.secretary.state.nc.us/CSL/.

Coming in Thursday’s N&O

The Triangle Gives, our annual special section highlighting various charities with specific needs, can help you decide where to give your time and money this holiday season. Look for it in Thursday’s newspaper and search our online database at nando.com/trianglegives

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