This week is highlighted by Giving Tuesday when we recognize the benevolent nature of so many individuals and groups in our area. Throughout the Coastal Bend we are a people recognized for having big hearts and a willingness to open up our wallets for causes.

On any given day, there is no shortage of legitimate benefits and fundraisers going on to assist persons and organizations that need a helping hand and assistance of various types and levels. 

Unfortunately,we also live in a society today where there are those ready to take advantage and exploit those who give out of caring and generosity.These situations are the focus of concern and interest.

A critical responsibility for vetting all fundraising rests with both the people and organizations involved. Each has their share of responsibility to either provide or obtain relevant information that would shed light on their fundraising efforts and history.

The public should always insist that a group offer evidence of being a registered or recognized charity and be able to provide information about how funds have been, or are, going to be used. They should be able to point to recipients that are partnered with the project. Financials should be readily available to examine if requested. In too many cases these steps are not being followed. They can serve as safeguards for both the sponsor of the benefit or fundraiser or the recipient of proceeds.

There should be concern when any organization cannot provide evidence of being a legitimate or recognized charity with 501 c 3 or similar designation. This can even result in tax and other consequences for donors,sponsors,and recipients if appropriate laws are not followed.

One of the biggest violations locally according to state sources is the holding of illegal raffles that could also carry criminal penalties for illegal gambling if pursued. State law is very clear that only certain IRS recognized charities have the ability to sponsor a legal raffle. A number of organizations and even local entities are placing themselves and others in potential legal jeopardy by sponsoring illegal raffles. Very few of the organizations or entities sponsoring them are qualified to hold them and many are not complying with state law provisions and specific restrictions on them.

These safeguards are not in place to hamper fundraising, but to protect the interests of both an organization and the public. Fundraising fraud does occur and it hurts legitimate programs that need and deserve the public trust. 

Even some cities have found it necessary and advisable to adopt ordinances regulating local fundraising due to the proliferation of these benefits and solicitations causing public concern. At the very minimum, individuals and groups are required to register (no fees) and to document their status or standing by way of federal and state standing and financial reports to establish their financial accountability.

Fundraising is important and necessary. However, It must be conducted with a legal, responsible, and accountable process. Be sure to check and verify before you write one.