Enhanced Charity Laws in effect in advance of Hurricane Matthew

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.– In advance of Hurricane Matthew, which poses a significant threat to life and property, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam today reminded Floridians always to research charitable organizations prior to making a contribution. Often in the wake of disasters, such as hurricanes, fraudulent charities are created to take advantage of people’s generosity.

Commissioner Putnam encourages Floridians to visit FreshFromFlorida.com, where they can research charitable organizations. The Gift Givers’ Guide is a resource that provides the financial information reported to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services from charitable organizations. Consumers should browse the resource before giving to confirm that a charitable organization is in compliance with the law and review the programs and services supported by the organization.

Charitable organizations are required to register with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services prior to soliciting contributions in Florida, and those that raise $50,000 or more in the aftermath of natural disasters or other crises must submit specific documentation to the department.

In the wake of a storm or other disaster, such as Hurricane Matthew, charitable organizations must submit financial information regarding contributions and program service expenses on a quarterly basis, except for charitable organizations that have been registered with the department for at least four consecutive years. The department will post a notice on its website of each disaster or crisis that is subject to the reporting requirements of this section within 10 days after the disaster or crisis. s. 496.4072, F.S.

Commissioner Putnam’s full list of tips for consumers to consider when supporting charities, includes:

  • Ask questions, such as: “Who is the fundraiser and who will benefit from the donation?”; “How much of the contribution goes to the charity mentioned in the request”; and “How much of the donation goes toward administrative and fundraising expenses?”;
  • Check if the charitable organization is registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services;
  • Research the charitable organization at to see how much of a donation will go toward the individuals the charity intends to help versus operating expenses;
  • Report any suspicious charitable solicitations by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832).

Commissioner Putnam worked closely with the Florida Legislature in 2014 to strengthen laws to protect consumers from charity-related scams by: banning organizations that have violated certain laws in other states from soliciting funds in Florida; prohibiting felons from soliciting funds for charity; requiring professional solicitors who operate like telemarketers to provide fingerprints for background checks; requiring a charity that receives more than $1 million, but spends less than 25 percent on its cause, to provide detailed information; and increasing fines for fraudulent or deceptive acts in violation of the law.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.

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