LANSING, MI – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced a Notice of Intended Action and Cease and Desist Order against professional fundraiser Corporations for Character, located in Murray, Utah for violating the Public Safety Solicitation Act.
Violations included sending pledge forms to those who had not pledged and taking advantage of vulnerable call recipients.
“Deceptive fundraising will not be tolerated,” Schuette said. “My office works daily to protect Michigan residents. You also can help by protecting yourself—research the charity before you give—and reporting suspected violations to my office. Trust your gut.”
Following a consumer complaint, the Attorney General required Corporations for Character—a licensed professional fundraiser under the Public Safety Solicitation Act—to produce call recordings and pledge forms to review for violations. The recordings revealed that Corporations for Character used sophisticated, pre-recorded messages controlled by a human operator that led call recipients to believe they were talking to a live person.
While many of the recordings included unsavory and aggressive solicitation tactics, the Notice of Intended Action only addresses clear violations of the Act, of which the Attorney General’s review found twenty-three.
The Notice of Intended Action orders Corporations for Character to cease and desist these violations and gives Corporations for Character twenty-one days to resolve the matter or face a civil action in court.
Schuette also reminded the public that some telemarketers keep 85% or more of each donation, encouraging donors to research their own charities and to give directly to the charity they have selected. For more information, see the Attorney General’s 2015 Professional Fundraising Charitable Solicitation Report.
In September 2015, the Attorney General’s office received a complaint from a Michigan resident regarding a Corporations for Character solicitation on behalf of the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). The complainant alleged that she had not agreed to pledge to the Michigan FOP, yet received a pledge form in the mail requesting that she fulfill her “promised pledge” of $15 by a “due date.” The Attorney General’s office forwarded the complaint to Michigan FOP, which forwarded it to its professional fundraiser, Corporations for Character. Corporations for Character responded by producing the recording of the call conducted by its solicitor. The recording confirmed that the complainant never agreed to a pledge. Concerned that Corporations for Character’s misconduct may have extended beyond the complainant, the Attorney General’s office requested additional call recordings.
Corporations for Character produced 850 call recordings. The office’s review of these recordings confirmed twenty-three violations. The violations fell in four categories: (1) the call recipient received a pledge form from Corporations for Character falsely stating that the call recipient had pledged, i.e., violations of the same sort made to the Attorney General’s complainant; (2) the call recipient did not pledge but was sent an informational pledge form with a form showing a pledge amount and a due date; (3) the call recipient’s spouse agreed to pledge, but the form was addressed to the non-pledging spouse stating falsely that that person had pledged; and (4) the call recipient was elderly or otherwise unable to understand and was taken advantage of by the professional fundraiser.
Michigan’s Public Safety Solicitation Act governs solicitations on behalf of public safety organizations and requires professional fundraisers to be licensed by the Attorney General. It prohibits misleading and deceptive acts and taking advantage of the vulnerable, and also requires licensed fundraisers to record their calls.
The Attorney General also regulates charitable solicitations under the Charitable Organizations and Solicitations Act, likewise requiring registration for soliciting organizations and their professional fundraisers. Corporations for Character is also registered with the Attorney General under this Act and has contracts to solicit for five charitable organizations: VietNow National HQ, American Childrens Society, Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation, Soldier’s Angels, and Disabled Police and Sheriffs Foundation. The Attorney General is reviewing Corporations for Character’s solicitations on behalf of these charitable organizations.