Oregon Department of Justice

Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum

Oregon Department of Justice - Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum
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Giving Back: Tips For Businesses

Oregon business owners are known for being socially responsible and giving back to the community. However, this same generosity makes them principal targets for unscrupulous solicitors. In addition to the advice offered in the consumer's Tips for Charitable Giving, what follows may help businesses steer clear of sham charities and other pitfalls to make the most of their giving.

This guide is divided into three sections:

Advertising in Non-Profit Publications

As a business owner you may be asked to purchase an advertisement in publications that appear to be sponsored by a non-profit. The vast majority of these appeals are made by professional telephone solicitors, and they are required to disclose this fact to you.

Check the solicitor's status. If they are working on behalf of a nonprofit organization not only must they tell you that they are a professional fundraiser, they must also be registered as a professional fundraiser with the Attorney General's office. Confirm that a solicitor is properly registered by calling DOJ's Charitable Activities Section at (971) 673-1880.

Confirm with the organization. If the solicitor claims to be working in conjunction with a local charity or school program, check with the organization and confirm that they are aware of any fundraising being conducted on their behalf. In a significant number of cases, there is no working relationship or the claims of cooperation are exaggerated.

Identify the target audience. Solicitors often imply that placing an advertisement in the publication will be a good use of your advertising dollar. However if the publications are produced and distributed out-of-state and won't reach your customers, such claims are untrue. As when purchasing any advertising space, understand how the publication will be distributed and who is likely to see it before you make a purchase.

Some other questions you can ask:

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the publication sold or given away?
  • Will it be distributed to the public or just other advertisers?
  • If it will be distributed through other organizations, have they approved it for distribution to their members?

If you have questions or concerns about a solicitation, please file a complaint online or call DOJ's Charitable Activities Section at (971) 673-1880.

Donating Goods or Services

Businesses are often in a position to offer alternative forms of support to non-profit organizations other than just money.  These are called in-kind donations. 

It is important to be aware that not every kind-donation will qualify for a tax write-off. Generally speaking, businesses can deduct the fair market value of donated goods. This applies to everything from items that are up for bid at charitable auctions to office space and supplies.  Business cannot, however, deduct the value of donated time or the cost of performing a service. Certain exceptions may apply.

If you intend to deduct any in-kind donations from your taxes, the charity must meet IRS requirements. For more information about the tax deductibility of in-kind donations, consult with your tax professional or review the information provided on the IRS website.  Also, check our database or call (971) 673-1880 to confirm you are giving to an organization in good standing in Oregon.

As with any type of donation, maintain good records of any in-kind donation that may be deductible, including documentation of how it was valued. Documentation includes receipts and/or written acknowledgment of your donation from the charitable organization.

Vending Machines, Collection Boxes and Donation Drives

Sometimes a business will be asked to display candy machines, honor boxes,  donation canisters, or collection boxes to raise money for a cause. Other times, a business may be asked if a charity can solicit donations on the company's premises.  When you allow such activities, your business is communicating to your customers an implicit stamp of approval of the organization.  Accordingly, you may wish to do some additional research to verify the organization is one your business wishes to support. 

If you are considering the placement of a collection device at your place of business, know who you are dealing with. If the device is not operated by employees or volunteers of the organization itself, request a copy of the vendor's contract or letter of agreement with the charity before you agree to let them set up shop.  In some cases, the vending machines or collection boxes are owned by for-profit companies and most of the proceeds from purchases or donations will go to that company.  In addition, The operators and the charities may be required to register with the Attorney General and make disclosures on the device about the amount of proceeds that goes to charity. 

If you are approached by a nonprofit organization that wants to conduct solicitations at your location, the organization may provide copies of paperwork reflecting that the organization is incorporated as a nonprofit.  However, that is not a sufficient basis to conclude that the charity is legitimate and worthy of your support.  Instead, you should ask to see a copy of the organization's IRS determination letter and confirm that the organization is registered with the Attorney General.  In addition, most charities soliciting donations in Oregon are required to file annual public financial reports with the Attorney General and you may wish to review copies of those reports to see how the organization uses the donations it receives before you make a decision about promoting the organization to your customers. 

If you have questions or concerns about a solicitation, please file a complaint online or call DOJ's Charitable Activities Section at (971) 673-1880.

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