SEATTLE - Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed recently issued his annual report on commercial fundraisers which boasts the largest contributions to charity in ten years.

In the 2005 report, charitable donations topped more than $444 million - likely related to the year's devastating hurricanes that swept America's southern states and the tsunami that struck the coasts of the Indian Ocean.

Each year, the Secretary of State releases a report on fundraisers who solicit donations from Washingtonians on behalf of various charities. The report reveals the percentage of those donations fundraisers return to their charity clients.

In the 2005 report, Reed highlights the ten fundraisers which returned the greatest percentage to charity and the ten which returned the smallest.

In the 2005 report, roughly half of the money raised or $222,429,687 was returned to charity; five fundraisers returned at least 80 percent to charity; six fundraisers returned 10 percent or less to charity.

Contact the State's Charities Hotline at (800) 332-4483 with questions or search online at www.secstate.wa.gov/charities.

• Ask if the solicitor is a charity volunteer or a paid commercial fundraiser.

• Find out, of the total funds raised by the commercial fundraiser, the amount returned to or retained by the charity.

• Find out specifically how the donation will be used and how much will be applied to the charitable cause.

In addition Reed suggests consumers:

• To carefully consider the charity's name. Certain charities have sympathetic sounding names, or names that closely resemble those of respected, charities.

• To ask for written material from the commercial fundraiser and charity.

• To insist on sufficient time to make their donation.

• To pay with a check made out to the charity using its full name, not initials. Consumers should not write a check to a fundraiser or give a credit card number.

• To ask for identification if the fundraiser comes to the door.

Under Washington law, commercial fundraisers soliciting in our state must register with the Secretary of State and disclose certain financial information. To find out if a commercial fundraiser is registered, visit our Web site at www.secstate.wa.gov/charities.

Enforcement on this issue is handled by the Washington Attorney General. Anyone who witnesses something suspicious regarding a charitable donation should contact the Attorney General's Office at (800) 551-4636 or online at (www.atg.wa.gov)

*The financial information provided by the Commercial Fundraisers is aggregate and may reflect activities in Washington State, nationally, or a combination thereof.

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