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Charitable Donations
Some Groups Spend More On Raising Money Than On Their Missions
June 12, 2013

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In an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times newspaper and Center For Investigative reporting, journalists compiled a list of 50 charities which they call America's worst. They base that on the amount of money the charities paid to professional fund-raisers over the past decade.

A check of the West Virginia Secretary of State's website shows that 24 of the 50 charities operate here in West Virginia.

At the top of the investigation's list was the Kids Wish Network, which raised nearly $128 million over the past ten years, but paid nearly $110 million to do it. Reporters found that less than three cents of every dollar raised went to help sick kids.

Over a 12-month period, the Kids Wish Network received nearly 146-thousand dollars from West Virginia donors.

Another charity on the list, Children's Wish Foundation International, was given more than $75,000 by West Virginians.

Both of those groups mimic the name of the well respected Make-A-Wish, which may aid in their fund-raising efforts.

"That affects our fundraising," Marisa Pedrom with Make-A-Wish, said. "Because when we go out and do what we normally do is a grass roots approach. They'll say, 'Well, I already gave to Children's Wish Foundation, isn't it the same thing?' And a lot of time we spend saying, 'no it's not the same thing.' Make-A-Wish is a completely different thing and our funds pretty much go straight to the mission. Our administrative costs are less than four percent and we take pride in that because our number one goal is to bring a dream to a child."

In all, West Virginians donated more than $541,000 to the 24 charities named by the Tampa Bay Times and CIR as some of the worst in the country..

Other fundraisers said charities who don't put their money into their mission make if difficult for those who do.

"So many people have the best of intentions in wanting to help these organizations and they're doing it for all the right reasons," Kevin Pauley, with the American Heart Association, said. "But the organizations that they're donating towards aren't necessarily organizations that are going to help them achieve what they want to achieve with their donation. That's disheartening because it takes advantage of people's good nature and it will also make people more gun shy to help other organizations in the future."

Even with the best of intentions there's a chance that if you don't do your homework your charitable donation will go to an organization that isn't spending it the way you think it should be spent. That's why it's important that you do your homework before you give any money to anyone.

"Look at the company you're really making this donation to," Pauley said. "Do a real investigative search. You can even call the secretary of state's office or the attorney general's office to find out more about these organizations to make sure that they're on the up and up and to make sure that they're doing they exact work they say they're doing when you're making that donation."

"Make sure you ask where the dollar's being spent," Pedro said. "Ask them about their administrative costs and also ask them, are they local? I mean, that's the biggest thing. And then do your research. Don't give them the money right over the phone right away. Stop there. Hang up the phone and say you know, I'll get back to you. Can I have your local number? And then start there."

Local charities said if you're careful about who you donate to, you can be more sure your money is going where you want it to go.

Experts said there are some things you should ask of any solicitor before donating money.
1. Find out where the charity is located. Be very careful if the charity's name is similar to another, well-established organization.
2. Ask how much of your donation goes to the cause, and how much is spent on administrative purposes and on fundraising.
3. Ask specifically what they do with your money.
4. Ask for a local number you can call back after you do some research about the charity.


24 of the listed 50 worst charities (according to the Tampa Bay Times and Center for Investigative Reporting) operate here in West Virginia.

Total donations from the state to those 24 charities over the last 12-month reporting period was $541,322.

The 24 charities and the amount donated to them over the last 12-month reporting period are:

American Association of State Troopers $10,314
American Breast Cancer Foundation $3,031
American Foundation For Disabled Children $2,715
Breast Cancer Relief Foundation $12,251
Children’s Cancer Fund of America $77,278
Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation 0
Children’s Wish Foundation International $75,658
Circle of Friends For American Veterans $29,001
Defeat Diabetes Foundation $11,462
Disabled Police Officers Counseling Center 0
Firefighters Charitable Foundation $3,471
Heart Support of America 0
International Unions of Police Associations, AFL-CIO $102,555
Kids Wish Network $145,968
National Cancer Coalition $31,390
National Caregiving Foundation $7,722
National Veterans Service Fund $466
Operation Lookout: National Center For Missing Youth 0
Project Cure $346
Reserve Police Officers Foundation $2932
United Breast Cancer Foundation $24,762
United States Deputy Sheriffs’ Association 0
Veterans Assistance Foundation 0
Vietnow National Headquarters 0


To view all charities operating in West Virginia, go to the WV Secretary of State's website:

http://apps.sos.wv.gov/business/charities/index.aspx

Click “show advanced search options” and then click on “show all valid current charities.” There are currently 3,422 listed.

To read the original report from the Tampa Bay Times and Center for Investigative Reporting, go to:

http://www.tampabay.com/topics/specials/worst-charities.page




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