Friday, June 01, 2007

Disgusted: Charities Get What %???!

Every year, I get a little envelope sent to me from a relative soliciting a donation to the American Diabetes Association. As someone at risk for developing Type II Diabetes, I don't mind aiding the cause.

But, out of curiosity, a curiosity fueled by a call today asking me to donate to "our soldiers"--and I've donated to various veteran aid organizations since the war began, including Disabled American Veterans, Soldiers' Angels, and my ready to go donation to the USO. I asked the caller how much of what I donate will go to the cause, ie, to the actual care kits for the soldiers. I was transferred to a supervisor. The supervisor had me repeat my question. I did. She said something like 23% went to the actual care kits. The rest, 77% went to "program costs and administrative."

I think you can guess what I told them. Yeah...exactly.

So, now I'm getting really cautious. I look at that ADA donation ticket and I hit the internet:

I checked out what Charity Navigator and other sites say about the ADA. Well, they only got 2 out of five stars at C.N., and Charity Watch doesn't have them listed on their top-rated charities. (Juvenile Diabetes Foundation WAS listed.) I also read the report over at Give.Org.

Now, I did do some googling to confirm they actually sponsor research (my main desire is to support genuine research, not just passing around pamphlets with info any doofus with a computer can find online using Google). Okay, they do give grants. And they have other good programs. So, fair enough. I can still send my wee check to them, though it always sticks in my craw when CHARITY head honchos make big moolah. Seems to me if you're gonna get paid via donations, you shouldn't be making half a million bucks a year. Go work for Sony or Nike or something.

Then I noticed that at the bottom of the "receipt" for my records that the ADA is using a telemarketer called FUTUREMARKET TELECENTER. Well, I checked THEM out, and it turns out that according to the site that gives their specifics, this organization does fundraising, and they keep 66% of the take. The ADA would only get 34% of what FUTUREMARKET TELECENTER raises. (Compare that to InfoCision Management, where 53% of the donations go to the ADA, or Strategic Telecommunications which returns 52% to its clients. Much better than 66%. Granted, DialAmerica was the worst I saw, returning 14%--yes, you saw that right--to the charity. MADD and March of Dimes do or have used them, among many others. Urp. Are they mad?

I'm not really happy with those numbers, sorry. That's just one more layer of money NOT going to research, not going to send a kid with diabetes to an educational camp, money not going to help sick folks.

I don't want to donate money to pay the bills of some telemarketer, thanks. Considering how big a staff the ADA has, and how dang much they pay their Top Dog, seems to me they could find a way to raise funds that's a tad more efficient. Or, you know what, just pay for online advertisements wherever the fat and the sickly and the charitably-inclined hang out. They'd be less than 66% of the take.

Pay an American Idol to sing a song about diabetes. Ruben Studdard looks at risk. Or, hey, Patti Labelle. She's got diabetes. So does Halle Berry. They're all wealthy enough to be willing to help out for free, no? (God, I would hope so.)

All right. I'm getting deliriously silly from the shock.

Yes, I'm pretty disgusted with charity fundraising about now.

I don't even know if I will donate this year to the American Diabetes Association. I'm gonna have to ponder this. And if I do donate, it won't be through FUTUREMARKET TELECENTER. I'll donate directly to the ADA or whatever other charity comes a calling, literally a calling, or figuratively via mail.

My advice when you get a solicitation call: Write down the organization's name and then ask how much of the funds raised in this campaign goes TO THE CHARITY itself, and how much goes to the ACTUAL service for the needy they are pushing. If they hedge or refuse, say, "buh-bye" and hang-up. Or say, "Sorry, I need to research that organization on the internet. If this charity checks out, I'll send money to them DIRECTLY so they have MORE to use for the great need involved."

Don't use their envelopes unless you check that it goes DIRECTLY TO THE CHARITY and is in no way marked as coming from an intermediary. Write your own envelope after getting the direct charity address online, or give online to bypass payment to a fundraiser.

Of course, before you give a dime: Check the charity out online (Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, Give.Org's Charity Reports, The BBB's charity reports), and only give to charities that are actually doing some good with the great majority of what they obtain in funds. If they have "F" or "D" ratings or No Stars or One Star, stay far, far away.

Don't use intermediaries. Don't waste money on telemarketers!

They can keep 85% of the funds raised--and it is legal. So be alert. Don't be duped.

ASK. CHECK. CHECK SOME MORE.Write Your Own Envelopes. Give Directly.

Don't give over the phone if it's a fundraiser intermediary.


And if certain charities insist on using ridiculous fundraisers, don't give to that charity. Send them an email or note saying, "Sorry, as long as you use fundraisers who keep 2/3 or 3/4 of the donations, you're wasting MONEY!" Don't give them money to waste. Give it to a charity careful enough to use fundraising companies that return high percentages to the charity.

Cause I"m on a rant roll, I'll say that if I were empress, no CEO of a charity dependent on donations from working folks would get 350K or 500K or 750K (yeah, I saw one charity whose CEO made 3/4 of a million bucks). Let the altruistic or retired dudes and dudettes who aren't out to make a second fortune from heading a charity run things. I'm guessing they might do better than the Big Wigs who are letting telemarketers keep 66% of the incoming.


Disclaimer: I'm neither a businesswoman or an economist or an accountant or a business consultant. I know squat. I just know that that set-up looks damned crazy to me, and someone getting paid half a million buckaroos to have leadership skills and vision should be brilliant enough to come up with a better way. Hmmm? I wonder if all the businesses and charities told the fundraisers, "You get to keep 20% of what you raise, and no more." Would they suddenly be able to manage after all on a smaller cut? :) Agents charge 15% to "sell" a product. The more they sell it for, the more they make. If they don't sell it, they make bupkis.

An established charity like the American Lung Association or the American Diabetes Association, man, you'd think everyone with lung disease or with a diabetes-stricken loved one (lots and lots of folks fit that profile) would be easy to hit up for donation. A 20% cut of the take means they'll work harder to make more to get more, no?

Okay, I just had to rant. My head is still hurting from those numbers. I'll have to rest before I research ALL THE OTHER charities to which I am inclined to donate. If they have a huge waste of fundraising moolah, they go off my list. And I donate to about 20 different charities every year, some, the ones I feel most strongly about in terms of their purposes and programs, I donate up to 6 times a year.

The Ruthless Razor of List-deleting Doom is about to descend on the inefficient...slash, slash.


Heather said...

I had no idea! Oy vey, this gets me. Thanks for doing the research for us.
By the way, my husband works for a ministry that raises support, and I can tell you that he makes not even a small percentage of half a million. The big dorks.

crossn81 said...

You make a lot of good points about researching an organization before making a donation and looking at what kind of % they actually get to keep. I worked for a small non-profit and we kept all the money that we brought in because we did not us an intermediary. However, that still doesn't mean 100% of the proceeds resulted in $ for programs. You also need to look at an organizations overall usage of $. How much goes to "administration/overhead"? That's a much bigger question and concern of the average donor. An organization like World Vision says that something like 82% of their revenue is spent on program and that is by far one of the best! Then you have an organization like Gospel for Asia which 100% of money goes to the field, unless otherwise designated.

I'm kind of rambling, but hopefully my point is coming across. I would agree that non-profit CEO's shouldn't be paid almost 750K but they are leading national organizations that require lots of leadership and expertise in business management.

Keep up the research!

Mirtika said...

Thanks, Crossn.

I really like World Vision. I sponsor two kids, and I had a previous child I sponsored whose village became self-sufficient. I thought that was cool. They help until people can get on with it themselves, rather than be endlessly dependent.

I hope allows us the funds to keep sponsoring kids until our dying days. I keep their pics on the fridge and pray for them and their families and villages. I've sent extra monies and seen pics of the goats and bikes and bags of grain and clothes and etc that are purchased for the family. It's a TANGIBLE result. Kids go to school, get medicine, and I can directly help a family in Africa, which I wouldn't know how to do otherwise. You feel invested--like they're distant relatives and their well-being is a personal thing, not just some article in a newspaper. World Vision does good work.