When making charitable contributions, it’s important to be careful. It’s a sad fact that charities are not always what they appear to be. While we like to think that our donations are going to a worthy cause, they may, in fact, be lining the pockets of the solicitors themselves. Watchdog groups say no more than 35 percent of charitable contributions should be applied to fundraising costs, which means the remaining 65 percent should be channeled to good use. Yet some so-called charities are spending less than 1 percent on direct cash aid.
Part of the problem is that these shady companies choose names that sound similar to those of respected national charities. They also incorporate key words that tug at our heartstrings—like cancer, children, police, firefighters, veterans—so it’s easy for us to be duped.
To be sure that your donations do the work you expect them to do, check out this information compiled by the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Tampa Bay Times of St. Petersburg, Florida. After examining the tax records of 6,000 charities that hire paid fundraisers, they identified the 50 worst in America. On average, these “fraudulent fifty” (our words) gave about 4 cents out of every dollar to the causes they were ostensibly supporting.
Beware List for Charitable Contributions
Following are the top ten offenders and the percentage of money raised that went to the supposed cause:
Kids Wish Network – 2.5%
Cancer Fund of America – 0.9%
Children’s Wish Foundation International – 10.8%
American Breast Cancer Foundation – 5.3%
Firefighters Charitable Foundation – 8.4%
Breast Cancer Relief Foundation – 2.2%
International Union of Police Associations – 0.5%
National Veterans Service Fund – 7.8%
American Association of State Troopers – 8.6%
Children’s Cancer Fund of America5.3%
To avoid unwittingly donating to a for-profit organization, we suggest that you follow these tips:
- Do not immediately offer money based on a phone call from a fundraiser. A legitimate charity will work within your time frame and in the manner that suits you, whether it’s by mailing a check or using a credit card online.
- If you’re interested in a particular charity, take the time to find out how it plans to spend donations.
- Check out the charity before you donate. There are several online evaluation sites that can help: GuideStar, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and Charity Navigator.
- Do some internet research to see what other people have said about the charity.
It’s noble to want to share your money with organizations that can put it to good use. Choosing the right ones can make all the difference.