Residents are urged to give wisely this holiday season as the state attorney general's office released a report showing that on average only about 60 percent of the money contributed to professional solicitors in 2014 went to the actual charity.
The rest went to the fund-raising companies themselves.
The report was released as "Giving Tuesday" arrived this week, an international day of donation and generosity that followed the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
"We always encourage people to give generously to the charities that benefit those in need in our state," Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement. "During this season of giving, we also remind people to do their due diligence before they donate their dollars to ensure they are maximizing the impact of their contributions and that donations are going to a worthy cause."
In 2014, over $543 million was collected by professional solicitors based in Massachusetts; $338 million of that total was given to charity, the other $205 million was kept by solicitation campaigns. That is an average of 62 cents per dollar going to the designated cause, the attorney general's office reported.
The good news is that the percentage being channeled to charity has increased sharply from 2013, when only 47 cents of every dollar collected was given to charitable organizations.
State law cannot regulate the percentage of funds that professional solicitation campaigns give to charities, the statement said, and the amount kept by solicitors can vary widely. Solicitors are, however, required to register with, and report to, the attorney general's office.
The attorney general's office suggests that people who are considering making a donation through a professional solicitor:
■ Ask if they are staffed by volunteers or professionals;
■ Ask how much of each dollar will go to the charity;
■ Ask to confirm the name of the charity and the services it provides.
"Professional solicitors are required by law to disclose certain information when asked," Healey said, "and, in general, may not mislead prospective donors or misrepresent facts."
Questions about solicitations this holiday season can be directed to the attorney general's Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division by calling 617-963-2315.