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Secretary of State: Make your holiday donations count by being informed about charitable organizations

Harrisburg, PA – Secretary of State Pedro A. Cortés reminds Pennsylvanians that the Department of State offers helpful information about charitable organizations in the Commonwealth.

“We are in the season during which many generous Pennsylvanians want to share their blessings with others,” Secretary Cortés said.  “Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous individuals and organizations that will try to take advantage of this generosity.  We encourage all potential donors to become fully informed before contributing to any charitable organization.”

As part of its ongoing mission to educate the public about informed giving, Department of State staff will hold a Twitter Town Hall on Wednesday, December 14, from noon until 12:30 p.m. Join in the Town Hall by following @PaStateDept and using the hashtags #GivingSeason and #PAcharities.

The Department’s Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations, which is charged with administering the Commonwealth’s charitable solicitation law, offers the following tips on charitable giving:

- Do not give to a charity you know nothing about.

- Do not be fooled by a convincing name or one that sounds like the name of a well-known charity.

- Do not commit to donate over the phone unless you are familiar with the organization.

- Do not give cash, credit card numbers or bank account numbers. Do not wire a donation. Instead, write a check payable to the charity so you have a record of your donation.
- Do not feel pressured into giving on the spot or allowing someone to come to your house to pick up a contribution.

- Find out if your contribution is tax-deductible. 

- If solicited in person, always ask to see the solicitor’s identification.

More helpful tips about informed giving can be found at the Charities section of the Department’s website.

Charitable organizations that solicit contributions in Pennsylvania must register with the Bureau if their gross annual contributions are more than $25,000. There are some statutory exclusions and exemptions to the registration requirement, for groups such as religious institutions, hospitals, and police, firefighter or veteran organizations.

To determine if a charitable group is properly registered, the public can search in the Charities Online Database. The website also provides a list of organizations which have been subject to corrective actions taken by the Bureau. The public may also call 1-800-732-0999.

Additionally online, the Annual Charities Report contains detailed information about charitable organizations registered in Pennsylvania as well as professional solicitors and fundraising counsels. For instance, the report outlines what percentage of every donated dollar goes to the charity and how much is charged by the solicitors or counsels for their services.

“We are dedicated to our mission of working to prevent charities fraud,” Secretary Cortés said. “The information we provide allows all Pennsylvanians to make informed decisions about donating.”  

To file a complaint about any charity soliciting donations in the Commonwealth, contact the Division of Investigations/Audits at 717-787-0700, by email at, or by mail at 401 North St., Room 212, Harrisburg, PA, 17120.

MEDIA CONTACT:   Wanda Murren, (717) 783-1621



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