Nationwide direct-mail solicitations are even more “out of hand” than fund-raising dinners (“Fund-Raising Dinners Are ‘Way Out of Hand’ ” by David Johnston, Sept. 22). At least a local dinner, with a necessary Social Service Department solicitation approval card insert, provides some protection from fraudulent appeals that benefit the promoter more than the so-called charity.
For one to challenge a national mail appeal takes time on the part of the questioner. First, there are the Better Business Bureaus of the Chambers of Commerce, which have departments that make inquiries. Second is the listing the Internal Revenue Service provides to foundations that distribute charitable funds.
But all too often the IRS, burdened with a tax collection priority, hasn’t the time, or inclination, I believe, to investigate these appeals, especially those that may hide behind a religious “front.”
A doubting recipient of an appeal would have to make individual inquiries, without the power of government, before fraudulent use of the mails can be charged.
On the state level, the attorney general’s office has a Registry of Charitable Trusts. But here, too, one has to make personal inquiries.
I know of no public reporting by city, state or federal agencies as to charitable appeals, good or bad, honest or crooked. And as the amounts at stake, let alone the claimed tax-exemption, and loss of tax revenue are great, we may need legislation authorizing more investigations and study and public awareness.
HYMAN H. HAVES