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Memphis TN Shrine telemarketing fundraising methods questioned

Rotating Compass & Square

WREG TV - Memphis

Shriners donation "under the doormat"

Feb 8, 2007

MEMPHIS, TN -- Leave a check under your doormat, and you leave your bank account and other personal information wide open.

But that's what the local Shriners center at 5770 Shelby Oaks Drive wants you to do when its telemarketer comes calling.

The center has hired Cunningham & Moore of Dallas, Texas, to telemarket Mid-South residents. The telemarketers ask them to make a donation to the Shriners to cover the costs of the center's annual circus at the Mid-South Coliseum. The proceeds of the circus are then used to operate the Memphis center.

But the telemarketer won't ask them to mail the check. He'll ask them to write a check out to the Shriners marked "For Deposit Only," and leave it under a doormat or someplace else where a local Shriner or independent contractor with the telemarketer can pick it up.

"We call one area, and so we're going to send somebody out," says Chris Moore, co-owner of Cunningham & Moore. "They're going to collect the checks in that one area, that one neighborhood, and, as I said, we do about an 80 percent collection rate as opposed to spending tons of money on mail that's, you know, people who aren't going to send it back in."

Moore says they have conducted the same "under the doormat" fundraiser in 10 cities for the last 18 years. Not a single check has been stolen, he says.

Fred Sexton of the local Shriners center would not say how much the center has raised with this method, only to say that it is "substantial."

A 3 On Your Side viewer e-mailed us to say he was initially uncomfortable with the charity pitch. But when he was able to ascertain that the telemarkerter truly represented the Shriners, he left a check on his front porch.

"I called the President of the Shrine organization and he verified it was legit, but a little unorthodox way of handling the problem of people saying they would send a check and then never doing it," says Dan Dancy. "They did come by and pick up my check and left a receipt the very next day."

Randy Hutchinson, President of the Mid-South Better Business Bureau, says he's aware of the Shriners' fundraiser. He says as long as consumers verify that the fundraiser is connected with the Memphis center, he doesn't have a problem with people leaving personal checks on their front porches.

Further Reading:

The Royal Order of Jesters - The Shriners Secret Society Secret Society - 'Mirth is King'

The Shriners - The 'Krafty' Klowns