State report: More than $28M raised for Newtown

SUSAN HAIGH
Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — People from Connecticut, across the U.S. and around the world have donated more than $28 million to charities in the wake of the deadly 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, according to a report released Tuesday.

Of that, more than $15 million has been distributed to causes ranging from direct donations to the victims’ families to a mission trip to Oklahoma for Newtown teens who helped with tornado cleanup and recovery. The unspent funds have been set aside by various organizations for long-term community needs, including mental health services, scholarships and memorials.

The 66-page report was compiled by the state Office of the Attorney General and the state Department of Consumer Protection. It is based on information compiled from 77 organizations that voluntarily responded to a recent survey about their charitable fundraising activities.

“The generosity of people from all corners of our country and beyond was on display in the days and weeks following that horrible day in Sandy Hook,” Attorney General George Jepsen said. “The goal of this report is to document that generosity and provide transparency to the giving public about where their donations went while also developing strategies on how we can better prepare for and respond to tragic events.”

Months after the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre, Jepsen and Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein asked individuals and organizations that were identified as actively raising money for Sandy Hook-related causes to complete a survey about their activities. At that time, 43 out of 69 identified charities responded. A second voluntary survey was issued in the fall of 2013 to 80 groups or organizations. All but three responded.

Sixty-four of the groups or individuals are from Connecticut. Thirteen respondents are from other ten other states, including California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

“The charitable response from the public to this senseless and horrendous tragedy was immediate, worldwide and exceptionally generous,” the report said. “Within hours, donations poured in by the thousands as people gave to both national and local charities, some newly created in response to the shootings.”

When asked about the purpose of their fundraising efforts, the organizations and individuals gave varied responses. While the most popular category was “philanthropic, volunteerism, grants,” the largest number of groups chose “other.” According to the report, some that chose “other” are large organizations with missions that touch on multiple categories, such as arts, education, counseling or youth development. But some groups were small, such as Sandy Hook Wrist Bracelets, which raised $940 from selling “Sandy Hook Angels 2012 bracelets.” The money was donated to the “Sandy Hook School Support Fund” at Newtown Savings Bank.

Sixteen of the organizations said they plan to continue soliciting or accepting donations for Sandy Hook-related causes. Five of those groups raise funds specifically for families that lost loved ones, as well as other members of the community who were affected by the shooting that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.

The report found the average cost of overhead for the charities ranged from less than 1 percent to 3 percent. However, two organizations reported higher overhead costs. The Newtown Youth Academy reported 52 percent while the Newtown Youth and Family Services reported 30 percent. According to the report, both groups indicated they misclassified expenses as overhead costs.

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