Monday, June 24, 2013

Charities - or corrupt enterprises?

The Tampa Bay Times, in collaboration with the Center for Investigative Reporting, has published a list of what it calls 'America's Worst Charities'.  Overall, these organizations collected $1,350.9 million last year (yes, that's $1.35 billion, if you want to put it that way).  Of that astonishing sum, no less than $970.6 million (almost a billion dollars, or almost 72% of the total amount raised) was paid to professional fundraisers as commission.  Only $380.3 million (fractionally more than 28% of the total amount raised) was paid to the 50 charities involved;  and of that, a mere $49.1 million (less than 4% - yes, that's less than four cents out of every dollar raised) was paid to beneficiaries.

The whole list is worth reading, as are the articles listed in the sidebar:

  1. America's 50 worst charities rake in nearly $1 billion for corporate fundraisers
  2. Lack of regulation and meager penalties allow worst charities to thrive
  3. Intricate family connections bind several of America's worst charities
  4. How we identified America's 50 worst charities

There are other articles linked at each one above.  As an example, I found this .PDF analysis of the Cancer Fund of America charity network, run by members of the Reynolds family, particularly enlightening.  To quote from the analysis:

James T. Reynolds Sr. and his family turned Cancer Fund of America into a charity empire.  At least a dozen family members work at one of five cancer charities.  Those charities have raised nearly $250 million over the past decade and spent an average of $400,000 a year on direct cash aid to patients.  Tax filings show the family has made as much as $1 million a year in salaries.

One of the charities in the network, The Breast Cancer Society of Mesa, Arizona, is annotated as follows:

Since 2008, this charity has given nearly $1.3 million in cash assistance to about 1,900 breast cancer patients, according to its financial filings.  But that is only about 2 percent of the $54.8 million raised through direct mail and professional telemarketers.  About 86 cents of every dollar raised has been kept by the charity's for-profit solicitors.  Breast Cancer Society told the IRS it shipped $36 million worth of medical supplies overseas in 2011.  But the two companies named as suppliers of the donated goods said they have no record of dealing with Breast Cancer Society.

I've long been aware that many so-called 'charities' are often nothing more than scam artists operating under false pretenses.  (This includes the majority of those who've tried to solicit donations from me over the telephone or by mail marketing.  Yes, I checked.)  Congratulations and a heartfelt 'Thank you!' to the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting for uncovering the scale of the problem, and naming and shaming at least some of those involved.  Anyone who donates to any of the 50 charities they identify needs his or her head read!



Francis W. Porretto said...

It's always a mistake to contribute monetarily to charities. Not only is a staggering percent of the take siphoned off into the pockets of the organizers and fundraisers. This sort of "charity" violates a fundamental rule of wise giving:

Be sure your gift is not doing harm.

Money redistributed by an organization sot a class of beneficiaries cannot be tracked in that fashion. Therefore, there's no way to know whether it's not being used badly (i.e., for drugs or booze), or deepening a recipient's habit of dependency.

I only give survival necessities: e.g., food or clothing. More, I only give to my parish's outreach closet. Thus, my gifts are very hard to pervert. It allows my conscience to rest easier.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the IRS should BOLO for those 501-C applications with "Wish"in the title.

trailbee said...

I remember seeing a list like this over 25 years ago. This type of investigation is so important, it should be done every five years, because by then the people who were too busy to read the last one, will read the next tone. Why wait so long to tell people how their hard-earned donations are apportioned?
Remember the Red Cross and all the undelivered donations of clothing AND CASH for Katrina?
When no one is watching over those busy little charity fingers, those fingers are tempted to do some strange things.