Charitable giving is important, but one should always be aware of where his or her money is actually going. AG Martha Coakley released a report today on charitable giving campaigns conducted in Massachusetts in 2009, and the numbers show that just 43% of the money collected goes to the causes represented. The rest goes to companies that carry out the campaigns.
These are most often, I believe, the mail or phone solicitations that ask for contributions in the name of the cause -- frequently police or firefighter associations -- without ever mentioning that the caller works for a firm or that most of the money will not benefit those the contributor would like to support. I think it's good advice to never commit any cash to such callers; instead, give directly if you can.
Following the links on the report reveals how much charities actually receive and how much goes to the fund-raising company.