Note: The following column written by David Biemesderfer, President & CEO of Florida Philanthropic Network, and Rena Coughlin, Board Member of the Florida Nonprofit Alliance, appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat on March 23, 2014:
David Biemesderfer, President and CEO, Florida Philanthropic Network:
In January, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam announced his legislative proposal to revise Florida’s laws regulating charities and charitable solicitations. His proposal is in response to the Tampa Bay Times’ “America’s Worst Charities” investigative report from last year, which highlighted the unscrupulous practices of for-profit telemarketers used by some charities to solicit donations. Eleven of the charities on the Times’ list of the country’s 50 Worst Charities are in Florida, more than any other state.
Although the vast majority of charities in Florida operate in a proper and responsible manner when seeking contributions, the Times report revealed a handful of organizations that preyed on vulnerable citizens with deceptive and fraudulent practices; spent as much as 90 cents of every dollar raised to generate more donations; and claimed to raise money for worthy causes but actually funneled most of the funds to charity founders themselves and the for-profit telemarketing companies they hired.
It’s easy to be skeptical about Washington these days, what with the apparent rise in partisanship, the seemingly oversized influence of money in politics, and the perception that not much seems to be getting done. So why bother meeting with your congressperson, one may ask, particularly traveling all the way to DC to do it. Is it really worth it? It’s a fair question, and one to which I’d respond with an unequivocal “Yes.”