Professional fundraisers are seen by many as a necessary evil of the nonprofit world. These are people who are hired (by charities and other nonprofits) to help them raise money and often come from professional solicitation firms.
Now, the upside for charities is that they can dedicate more of their time to their actual mission, while they leave fundraising to the professionals. The downside is that they don’t collect all of the money raised. Professional fundraisers get a cut of the funds they raise, which makes sense since they have their own business to run, but that still means that when you donate through a professional fundraiser, not all of your money is going to the cause you want to support. And most of the time, donors don’t even know that they’ve been contacted on behalf of the charity, and so don’t even realize that some of their donation is going to professionals unrelated to the organization they want to support.
The good news is that the cut those fundraisers are taking from donations is on a downward trend, at least in Massachusetts. The Attorney General of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, keeps tabs on the issue because they regulate the 22,000 public charities in that state. Some use professional fundraisers, some don’t. But those fundraisers register with the same office. According to data from 2014, charities only receive 62 cents from each dollar donated via professional fundraisers. But this is up from 2013, when they only received 47 cents, and 2012, when they only received 34 cents.
There are no Massachusetts laws governing what these fundraisers can charge, and negotiating a price is between the firm and the charity they’re representing. But it seems like the firms are asking less these days, or the charities are getting better at standing up to them.