COLUMBIA, SC -- As more people experience economic hardship resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic, South Carolina Secretary of State Mark Hammond encourages South Carolinians to still give from the heart, but give smart. “With higher levels of unemployment and under-employment due to coronavirus-related closures, South Carolinians will undoubtedly step up to aid their communities. I simply ask that donors do their research before contributing to ensure that their help will reach those in need. Unfortunately, when crisis occurs, some see an opportunity to take advantage of others. For that reason, we all must be vigilant when being generous.”
Potential donors may verify whether a charitable organization is registered with the Secretary of State’s Office and review charities’ financial information by searching our online charities database at https://search.scsos.com/charities. In addition to using the Secretary of State’s charity search engine to determine if an organization is properly registered, Secretary Hammond encourages donors to always do the following when responding to a request for emergency relief:
Make sure the charity you are donating to has a long track record of helping those in need. Donors should beware of fly-by-night organizations that appear quickly and that can disappear just as quickly, especially through crowdfunding platforms and social media. One way to do this is to limit your donations to organizations with a long track record of transparency and accountability.
Don’t be pressured to make a donation right away. Don’t let others use this crisis to pressure you to donate before you do your own research. If a person or charitable organization asking for a donation is legitimate, they will welcome the opportunity for you to independently review their mission and their record of charitable activity.
Know who’s calling before pledging a contribution over the phone. As people are being asked to stay home, they may be experiencing a higher level of telemarketing and robocalls. If you receive a call from a professional solicitor requesting a charitable donation, they must disclose the following at the time of the call:
- that he/she is a paid solicitor;
- the name, location and purpose of the charity; and
- the registered, true name of the professional fundraising organization for which he/she works.
Also, never give out your personal or financial information over the phone. This includes your birth date, social security number, credit card number, and bank account information.
Notify the Secretary of State of any concerns you have about a charitable solicitation. Members of the public can file an online complaint through the Secretary of State’s website at https://appengine.egov.com/apps/sc/SOS/CharitableSolicitationComplaint. This online application allows donors to confidentially file a complaint with the Division of Public Charities, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“What we are experiencing with the coronavirus outbreak is unprecedented in our lifetimes,” said Secretary Hammond. “I believe that South Carolinians will come together to withstand this storm and lift each other up. Please know that the Secretary of State’s Office remains a resource in this time of uncertainty. You can visit our website at sos.sc.gov and contact our Charities Division at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-888-CHARITI (242-7484) for more information about charitable giving.”