State warns of charity soliciting donations against state law

By Gene Petriello - bio | email

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, VA (WWBT) - A consumer alert tonight. This is the time of year when several charities are calling asking for your donations. But the State Consumer Affairs Office is warning you not to donate money to a charity from Louisiana.

This is key: know where the money you donate to charity is going. This after the State Department of Consumer Services says an organization from a New Orleans suburb, called, Wishing Well Foundation USA, has asked for your money, but has not filed with the department. That's against state law.

Before falling into a trap this holiday season, the Better Business Bureau offers this advice.

"It's an area that you want to be very careful with. If someone calls you, tell them to send you mail to you what their appeal is and mail you a copy of their financial breakdown," said Tom Gallagher, President of the BBB in Richmond.

That includes a 990 tax form. It's public record and open to you.

"Anyone that doesn't have anything to hide is going to give it to you," said Tom. That includes the form and any other information.

This what you need to look for: total contributions. In 2008, the company received more than $1.3 million in contributions and grants. Then, you need to go to Part 9 of the form and look at line 2. in 2008, the organization only gave out nearly $58,000 out to people in the cause.

Gallagher says generally it should be much more than that. In fact, he says the BBB's standards are 65% of the money obtained through contributions should be going to the individuals involved with the charity. Of course, there are some expections, like construction ventures or the economy.

Here's another option: to find out if the charity that is calling you is licensed here in Virginia, go to the state's consumer affairs website and click on charitable search. That website is From there, you can type in the name of the charity you want to research. There, you can find all of the information about the charity here.

In this case, Wishing Well Foundation USA's current registration expired on May 15th of this year.

If you're still skeptical, Gallagher says ask questions about where the money is going.

"They're after you. They are after your dollar. They are after my money and you have every right to know what the answer is," said Gallagher.

Even more important, don't give away your money without knowing who you're giving it to.

"Make sure that you don't give money on an emotional pitch," said Gallagher.

Especially important so your money does not end up in the wrong hands.

For more information about Wishing Well Foundation USA and this story, head to

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.