The million-dollar fine included violations of the mandatory disclosure provisions of the Act, as well as violations for misrepresentation and failure to register individual professional solicitors as required under South Carolina law. Violations resulting in fines against Strategic Fundraising, Inc. included failure to disclose that the caller was a “professional” or “paid” solicitor at the initial time of the solicitation, failure to disclose the name of the professional fundraising organization, failure to disclose the location of the charitable organization for which the caller was soliciting, and misrepresentation of the percentage of donations used for charitable programs. The violations occurred during calls that Strategic Fundraising, Inc. made into South Carolina on June 18, 2014, on behalf of several charitable organizations.
“South Carolina law clearly states that professional solicitors are required to inform charitable donors that they are “professional” or “paid” solicitors at the beginning of the solicitation,” said Secretary Hammond. “Professional solicitors are also required to provide their true name, and the true name, location and purpose of the charity for which they are soliciting. What makes this case so egregious is that these were robo-calls in which the individual solicitors were using prerecorded scripts. This wasn’t a situation in which an individual caller made a mistake and went off script—these disclosure violations were a result of deliberate choices made by a professional fundraiser who was well-aware of the requirements of the Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act.”
Under the Act, organizations are given a notice of violation prior to receiving an administrative fine. Strategic Fundraising, Inc. had already received several notices of violation, and even entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with the Secretary of State in 2009 in which it agreed to abide by all provisions of the Act, including making mandatory disclosures to donors and registering all of its individual solicitors. “These mandatory disclosures are in place to protect South Carolina donors, so they know where their hard-earned money is going when they make a charitable contribution,” said Secretary Hammond. “Individual solicitors are required to disclose criminal convictions involving fraud and theft—including identity theft—in their registration applications. If a professional fundraising company does not register its solicitors, then who knows who’s handling charitable donors’ personal information?”
Secretary Hammond encourages all South Carolina citizens to contact the Secretary of State’s Office when they receive a call asking for a charitable solicitation. “Our citizens are our eyes and ears,” said Secretary Hammond. “If you receive a solicitation that concerns you, please call the Division of Public Charities at (803) 734-1790.”
*The above is a press release from south Carolina Secretary of State Mark Hammond.