Last week the Tampa Bay Times published a ranking of the 50 worst charities based on the amount of money paid to solicitors and the percent of funds actually paid directly to aid the cause. Tampa Bay reporters reviewed ten years of available tax return filings to produce the list, and found that the worst fifty only paid $49.1 million out to direct aid out of the $1.4 billion in donations collected to direct aid. Over $970 million were paid to solicitors, and $380 million in funds were retained by the charities. That makes an average of 69% of funds raised being paid to people collecting donations. The generally acceptable amount for administrative costs is 35% of donations.
The list also quickly reveals that people are emotional givers. Of the fifty, fourteen of the charities have the word “cancer” in the name. Nine of them contain kids or children, and two of the top ten contain the words children and cancer. Sixteen more center on police, firefighters or veterans. The remaining eleven focus mostly on cures for various diseases, with one ministry and one focused on supporting women. The topic list seems like a perfect sample of pulling heart strings, leaving the opportunity for scamming money out of people wide open.
At the top of the list is the Kids Wish Foundation, practically a mockery of Make-A-Wish Foundation, copying its purpose and mission nearly exactly, but keeping all the money for themselves. The Kids Wish Foundation actually pays retailers to collect donations on their behalf, so think about that next time your drugstore cashier asks if you want to give a dollar to help a child. Less than three cents of that dollar will go to a child in need.
Some of the outed organizations have gone on the defense. The American Foundation for Children with Aids (AFCA), ranked 46 on the list, claimed that the charity was just getting started and needed to pay professional fundraisers in order to raise awareness. It also claims that it no longer uses fundraising services and that the initial fundraising in years prior helped to fund a growing list of aid programs that saved the lives of children. The charity was also quick to point out that many charities are not operated with a purpose of giving money away, but rather funding internal programs, which is what AFCA focuses on and is transparent about that on their website.