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Sunday, June 16, 2013

50 Worst Charities

http://www.tampabay.com/topics/specials/worst-charities1.page is a wonderful, if unsurprising, article on the worst charities in America. Here’s #13:

"… the Committee for Missing Children in Lawrenceville, Ga. The charity is No. 13 on the Times/CIR list.

Over the past decade, the charity paid its solicitors nearly 90 percent of the $27 million it raised. It spent about $21,000 each year on its cause, most often buying plane tickets to reunite families.

The charity's efforts primarily consist of giving advice to families whose children have been abducted. Thelen said his group has worked with about 300 parents since 1997.

But he publicly claims credit for reuniting as many as 1,600 children with their families, even if his charity's involvement was as minimal as posting the child's picture on the charity website.

So how do charities go off the rails and become scams? The Tampa Bay Times article shows how you can go down the slippery path:

The path chosen by Jacqueline Gray shows exactly how a worthy cause can be turned into one of the nation's worst charities.

In 2007, Gray and her husband, Kevin, started Woman to Woman Breast Cancer Foundation in Lauderdale Lakes.

For a year the couple struggled to raise money by hosting golf tournaments and by making phone calls to potential donors themselves.

Then they met Mark Gelvan, a New Jersey consultant who has spent two decades transforming fledgling charities into money-making machines.

"He said he had the best dialers on the market," Jacqueline Gray recalled.

Gelvan introduced the Grays to what sounded like a winning formula.

He would help the charity expand if it signed a contract with telemarketer Community Support Inc.

The staff at Community Support would handle everything. They would create the marketing materials and run the call centers.

The telemarketer even gave the Grays $30,000 in seed money to cover bills related to the expansion. All the Grays had to do was agree to let Community Support keep the majority of every dollar raised, then sit back and wait.

The transformation was immediate.

From donations of less than $15,000 in fiscal 2008, contributions to Woman to Woman through its professional solicitor increased to $1.5 million in 2009, then leaped to $6.3 million in 2010 and $6.7 million in its most recent filing.

What the charity got to keep was far more modest. It netted about $50,000 its first year with Community Support and $544,000 in 2011.

That was still enough for Gray, her husband and her daughter to start taking salaries. In the latest year, the trio received $84,000 in total compensation. Each member of the family also has a vehicle provided by the charity.

The Grays' decision to sign on with professional fundraisers transformed Woman to Woman into one of the nation's worst. It falls at No. 22 on the Times/CIR list.

Woman to Woman raised $14.5 million in donations from 2009 to 2011, tax filings show.

It paid nearly 95 percent of that to its for-profit fundraiser and spent about $700,000 on overhead and salaries.

That left an average of less than $20,000 a year to provide mammograms and other diagnostic services for women with breast cancer

There’s more. It’s a slippery slope even if you start out honest. And, of course, many are shams from the beginning.