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Overly Charitable: When organizations exploit the generosity of senior citizens

As people reach their later years, they often begin to contemplate ways they might make a difference – to leave the world a better place. Many will start sending money to charitable organizations that support causes with which they feel an affinity. In doing so, they feel as if they have done their part to address a serious need.

What the donor does not know is that contributor lists are widely shared amongst the marketing firms that spearhead fundraising efforts for the various organizations. Consequently, the donor will typically begin to receive solicitations from many other groups, which often using slick promotional materials that appeal to their individual values.

In many cases, the marketer receives the lion’s share of the money that is given to the cause. Coupled with added administration fees, the percentage of donations being applied to the stated outreach can be minuscule – or even nonexistent. The starving child depicted in the advertisement may never receive any assistance.

A senior citizen who donates money to support entities such as veterans’ or police associations can expect to be inundated with requests to help with “urgent” funding needs of comparable groups. Calendars, caps, autographed photos, and elaborate certificates are some of the devices used as hooks to heighten the donor’s sense of obligation to reciprocate with a monetary gift.

Donations can quickly spiral out of control, especially for those who live on a fixed, limited income or suffer from diminished cognizance. Moreover, telemarketers are especially adept in pressuring the elderly into providing a credit card number and then tricking them into a recurring monthly contribution that can be burdensome, or even unaffordable.

The Federal Trade Commission, in its online Consumer Information section entitled “How to donate wisely and avoid charity scams,” provides a wealth of information about how to screen and deal with charitable organizations. One of the best databases ranking such groups is Charity Navigator (

For more information, or to request an analysis of a specific charity, call the caring professionals of ResultQuest® at 713/781-9040. We will help you to determine if the organization receiving the hard earned money of you or a loved one is the worthy cause it claims to be.