9 Investigates Florida charity regulations

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ORLANDO, Fla. - The State of Florida is attempting to reign in how charities operate across the state. 

With some of the loosest regulations in the county, Adam Putnam, state commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, is now proposing a full set of new laws that would change how charities report their finances, how they raise money and when the state can step in to shut them down.

Part of what the state wants to do is give citizens better access to information on charities and professional solicitors. 

Many charities in Florida and across the country use professional solicitors for fundraising.  Registered with the state, professional solicitors work on behalf of charities and nonprofits raising money. 

Typically, a professional solicitor will be paid a percentage of what is collected, how much that percentage is depends on the contract.

“You want to see everything that you possibly can go where you say you’re sending it,” says Titusville resident Tom House.

House started giving used clothes to what he thought was the Red Cross more than a year ago.  Instead, House was actually giving his clothes to a professional solicitor by the name of Charity Clothing Pick-Up. 

Charity Clothing Pick-Up operates out of an industrial park in Orlando where its fleet of trucks collect clothes on behalf of a collection of charities including the Red Cross.  Charity Clothing Pick-Up calls to arrange pickup services, then takes the clothes back to its warehouse where they are placed in bins and sent to Houston where they’re sold. 

The profits from the sale of the clothes go to Charity Clothing Pick-Up, with the Red Cross getting percentage based on the number of bins filled.

“They call at least once a month sometimes two or three times a month,” says House.  “I’ve gone through everything in the house more than once and given them what I’ve been able to.”

Charity Clothing Pick-Up is not a unique business.  According to Florida Consumer Services, there are more than 200 professional solicitors registered with the state that operate either in person or over the phone soliciting donations of everything from household items to cash.

Under the proposed rules by Commissioner Putnam, “professional solicitors who operate like telemarketers would be required to provide fingerprints for background checks, submit scripts used to conduct solicitations and report the percentage of contributions collected that will be provided to the charity.”

LINK: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2014/0638/BillText/__/PDF

LINK: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2014/0638