Wayne Adult Community Center

Feature article from the January, 2005 Newsletter

Is Your Charity Donation Going Where You Think?

Most people give to charities on faith. However, charitable donations often are not used as the donor intends or expects. For instance:

Some charities use an external fundraising company. Some of those companies guarantee the charity a specified amount, and keep anything they collect over that amount. The result is often that most of the money stays with the fundraiser.

Some charities pay their top executives extravagant salaries, and may also be so top-heavy with staff, that most of their money goes to "administrative expenses".

Some charities do not use the money for purposes the charity claims to represent. Even an organization as venerable as the American Red Cross was recently caught diverting money collected for 9/11 victims, to other uses.

And some "charities" are outright scams, such as a group that claims to be connected with New Jersey police forces but in fact has no such connection.


So how can you have some assurance that your money is going to your intended purposes?

There are rating services, such as the "BBB Wise Giving Alliance", which sends detailed questionnaires to over 400 national charities, and publishes ratings based on 23 criteria*. The criteria concern the matters raised above, as well as other things such as how well expenses are controlled and documented.

In the case of charities for which no reliable ratings are available, your newslet­ter editor uses the approach summarized below.

    Each charity being considered for donation is sent a short questionnaire with questions such as: "What is the total compensation of your two top execu­tives?" and "Do you use an external fundraiser; if so, what proportion of collected money goes to you?"

Donations are never made in response to telephone solicitations, since verbal statements of purpose and legitimacy have no legal standing.

Donations are never put in those boxes you see in stores, or the ones that are thrust at you on the street, or are brought to your door. You have no idea whether any of that money ever gets to the charity.

Donations are made based only on written appeals received through the mail. Anyone who refuses to send definitive material by mail is probably run­ning a shady operation and knows that they could be prosecuted for mail fraud.

There is no way you can be absolutely sure that your donation will be used well, but the information above should allow you to go a long way towards confident giving.

W. A. Shapiro

* They publish a quarterly listing, but you can read their excellent reviews on the World Wide Web free of charge at Yet another reason for those of you who are Luddites, to enter at least the 20th century (if not the 21st) technologically by getting a computer and Internet access.