A Florida state senator announced this week that he is drafting legislation to crack down on wasteful charities following a yearlong investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting.
In June, the Times and CIR published a list of America’s 50 worst charities based on the money they squandered over a decade hiring for-profit solicitation companies. Those charities raised more than $1.3 billion in donations but paid their solicitors nearly $1 billion.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican from St. Petersburg, said he is working with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to improve oversight of charities and solicitors in the state. Florida is home to 11 of the 50 charities on the Times/CIR list, more than any other state.
Brandes said it is too early to say what reform measures will make it into the bill. One idea being considered, he said, is increasing the fines for charities and solicitors that fail to register or that provide incomplete information to state regulators. Florida routinely charges $500 for such offenses.
Brandes said he also is looking at increasing the number of officials assigned to audit charities and directing them to pay special attention to those that get low marks from independent evaluators like Charity Navigator.
Another option is requiring criminal background checks for charitable telemarketers. Florida requires only solicitors calling on behalf of businesses to undergo mandatory screening.
“Florida has a large elderly population and a large transient population,” Brandes said. “For a lot of reasons, Florida needs to have a heightened regulatory environment for those bad actors.”