Chamber to verify fund raisers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 4, 2003

A new Pike County Chamber of Commerce program may help businesses make better decisions about donations.

The Chamber's plan would create a solicitations clearinghouse of sorts, allowing chamber staff to verify fund raisers.

&uot;We would encourage everyone who does a fund raiser in the county to register with the chamber so that if there are any questions about the legitimacy of it, we can provide that information,&uot; said Dr. Jean Laliberte, the chairperson of the chamber's board of directors.

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While the chamber isn't trying to discourage groups from fund raising efforts, chamber president Jenniffer Barner said it was a service they could provide the businesses in Pike County.

&uot;If they check in with the chamber, we can call and verify the company and determine if its legitimate, or if the funds are going to the organization they say they represent,&uot; Barner said.

The concept stemmed from several incidents of fraudulent or misrepresented funds raising incidents over the past several years. In those incidents most, or all, of the funds that were raised did not make it to the implied beneficiary organizations.

&uot;We've been aware that in the past, outside organizations have tried to piggy back on (local) organizations to raise money for private enterprise,&uot; Laliberte said.

She cited examples from local school organizations raising funds, only to have a private company come behind them with a

similar fund raiser claiming the proceeds would benefit a particular school.

&uot;We want to know that the money is staying in Pike County,&uot; Barner said.

Under the program, organizations that engage in fund raising campaigns could notify the chamber of their activities and the chamber could then issue a letter verifying the organization's intent. That letter could then be shown to donors, or, Barner said, donors who had questions concerning a fund raiser could initiate contact with the chamber and have them investigate the organization.

&uot;The only thing we're attempting to do is keep businesses from trying to mislead customers,&uot; Laliberte said. &uot;As long as everything is above board there should be no problem.&uot;

Dianna Lee, who handles solicitations for Troy Bank & Trust, sees a

minimum of 40 donation requests a month.

&uot; I make it a practice to verify all fund raising requests,&uot; she said. &uot;If its footballs for the cheerleaders, I call the cheerleader sponsor to make sure they actually need the footballs, or if there's some greater need.&uot;

Lee said the chamber's program would help in making decisions about donations for her bank.

&uot;It's hard to take people at their word, especially if its not a local person soliciting,&uot; she said. &uot;(The chamber's program) would be great. That would be one less step for me if they would go ahead and verify that it's a legitimate request and a legitimate organization.

&uot;It's not that we mind giving money - we pride ourselves on our community sponsorships -

but it's important to verify the requests because we want to give to the (community organizations) who have the needs.&uot;