America's 50 worst charities
June 6, 2013 12:12 PM   Subscribe

 
Eight-year-olds, Dude.
posted by dhartung at 12:23 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


The moral of this story is: If you want to help a dying child make a wish-Grant it to them yourself.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 12:25 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Outstanding reporting by the Tampa Bay times. I hope the investment in this year-long investigation pays off in prompt and appropriate action. It'd be a shame if the Times' investment of time and resources turns out to be as futile as a donation to one of these so-called "charities."

Speaking of: Shame on them.
posted by Gelatin at 12:28 PM on June 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


If only there were some sort of organization devoted to assessing the effectiveness of charities and ranking them. Then we'd be able to...ahem...give well.
posted by R. Schlock at 12:31 PM on June 6, 2013 [26 favorites]


That's the the first story from an on-going series, and there is more information online, including a PDF of the 50 worst charities or a webpage with that same list in a slightly different format.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:32 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


What this post is missing. The actual list.

filthy light thief beat me to the punch.
posted by PipRuss at 12:33 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know some people are against vigilanteism and every day I see this sort of shit. We need another Robin Hood or Pancho Villa. Hell, I'd settle for a Batman.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 12:35 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


If only there were some sort of organization devoted to assessing the effectiveness of charities and ranking them

Actually, there are a few: Charity Navigator, which displays a Donor Advisory for Kids Wish

Charity Watch, formerly American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP), which doesn't have Kids Wish in their list.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:36 PM on June 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Hell, I'd settle for a Batman.

Best I can do is Elizabeth Warren.
posted by R. Schlock at 12:36 PM on June 6, 2013 [47 favorites]


The 50 worst charities in America devote less than 4 percent of donations raised to direct cash aid. Some charities give even less. Over a decade, one diabetes charity raised nearly $14 million and gave about $10,000 to patients. Six spent nothing at all on direct cash aid.

[snip]

Collectively the 50 worst charities raised more than $1.3 billion over the past decade and paid nearly $1 billion of that directly to the companies that raise their donations.

If that money had gone to charity, it would have been enough to build 20,000 Habitat for Humanity homes, buy 7 million wheelchairs or pay for mammograms for nearly 10 million uninsured women.
Hulk. Smash.
posted by Gelatin at 12:37 PM on June 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Actually, there are a few

Whoosh
posted by Sternmeyer at 12:41 PM on June 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Actually, this shit is beyond stupidity. Can't we make it a law that you must spend at least 15% of your charitable intake on charity or close? And that every year you must publish, in an easily and accessible posting, which the government will also post, of how much you actually spent on charity? Why on gods green earth is there any conceivable reason we should let these parasites operate a fraud? Unfortunately we can't take these bastards out into the street and shoot them, but can't we shut them down?

I mean hell, this is the ultimate baby-kissing legislation to boot. There's no way this can't be bipartisan.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 12:44 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


They missed my personal bete noir, the National Association of Chiefs of Police. I am not quite sure how to interpret their Charity Navigator page. I remember looking at them before, in past years they spent less than 8% on actual charity work. This year it appears they spent -5%. I don't know how that is possible, but I am sure they found a way.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:46 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I mean hell, this is the ultimate baby-kissing legislation to boot. There's no way this can't be bipartisan.

Keep in mind this is the nation of GOVERNMENT HANDS OFF MY MEDICARE.
posted by TrialByMedia at 12:46 PM on June 6, 2013 [9 favorites]




ishrinkmajeans: I mean hell, this is the ultimate baby-kissing legislation to boot. There's no way this can't be bipartisan.
You are assuming that both parties would back legislation seeking to move money out of the hands of the wealthy* and into the hands of the needy? Baby-kissing or not, that isn't going to happen.

* Admittedly, the corrupt wealthy, but not actual criminally corrupt wealthy - if that even matters to them. They're wealthy. One political party considers them to be good for the economy - think of all those phone bank jobs and envelope stuffers they employ!
posted by IAmBroom at 12:49 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not surprisingly, for a nation seemingly unable to keep from obsessively fetishizing over children and people who carry guns, way over half of these charities suck on those gullible tits.

I foresee a fortune for whoever develops the "Cancerous Children who are also Veterans and Police Officers Fund." Money will FLY.
posted by umberto at 12:49 PM on June 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


If a mod cares to amend the post with the list of specific charities, I would be amendable to that!
posted by latkes at 12:50 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


We don't edit posts on our own. If there is a change you want us to make, hit us up on the contact form.
posted by jessamyn at 12:52 PM on June 6, 2013


OK (:
posted by latkes at 12:52 PM on June 6, 2013


Amazingly abusive and corrupt inefficiencies created by the conjunction of for-profit companies and private charities.

Wait... what are those two things Republicans always want to dismantle government in favor of, because they're so much more efficient?

Oh yeah. For-profit companies, and private charities.
posted by edheil at 12:54 PM on June 6, 2013 [24 favorites]


Updated!
posted by jessamyn at 1:04 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I get the feeling that anyone that proposes legislation will be accused of taking money away from kids with cancer or somesuch stupidity.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:12 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


They missed my personal bete noir, the National Association of Chiefs of Police.

They called me one day when I was sick in bed, and I guess in my fever-induced delirium I must have said I would donate or something, because after that the calls were goddamn non-stop. I have never been ruder or more harsh to someone on the phone as I was to the poor telemarketer whom I told never to call back. Now I find they are one of those asshole charities that don't actually do much. Argh.
posted by LN at 1:15 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, this shit is beyond stupidity. Can't we make it a law that you must spend at least 15% of your charitable intake on charity or close?

I think it'd be better to flip it around: you may not spend more than 15% of your charitable intake* on fundraising and salaries/perks (for executives + their relatives). That would probably be more enforceable.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 1:16 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am so curious about what all the people involved in these sorts of things are telling themselves. The people they interviewed, the Grays, don't seem to feel at all guilty that they're spending 4 times as much on salary as on charity. They clearly feel the real villains are the telemarketers. And the telemarketers' staff -- do they think they're raising money for real charities? Or do they know it's a scam?

I hope there are more installments of this in the works.
posted by gerstle at 1:23 PM on June 6, 2013


The people they interviewed, the Grays, don't seem to feel at all guilty that they're spending 4 times as much on salary as on charity.

The story seemed to indicate that prior to being contacted by the fundraisers, the Grays were hardly raising anything for their charity, and the telemarketers pretty explicitly threatened to put them right back there if they complained about the arrangement. The quotes convey a "bird in the hand" attitude, but in this case there aren't two in the bush, there are millions in a forest.
posted by Gelatin at 1:30 PM on June 6, 2013


Cosmic.osmo, it definitely costs more than 15% to do fundraising and run a nonprofit.
posted by snofoam at 1:33 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


15% of your income? Maybe. 15% of your total assets? Only if you are wildly fucking incompetent, or are acting fraudulently.

(or admittedly if you are in your first year of operations and/or do not have an endowment.)
posted by elizardbits at 1:35 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO

Isn't that a trade union? Why is it on a list of charities?
posted by Authorized User at 1:39 PM on June 6, 2013


Keep in mind that fundraising is, in itself, expensive. A new or not well known organization may spend a fair amount becoming known, growing to meet a need, etc. I'm fine with that. I'm fine with people getting fair salaries, health insurance, etc. Clearly, the companies that offer to do telephone solicitation and take a vast share of the proceeds are horrible. I never give or sign ballot initiatives for paid solicitors. I have a few well-run charities I give to that support issues I care about. Reading this encourages my cynical side and I empathize with everyone who wants to hurt these sleazeballs.

There's a MeFite who works for NGOs getting food and aid to countries/ people in need in Africa - he had an excellent comment (or post?) about the costs of running the organization and delivering food.
posted by theora55 at 1:40 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Elizardbits, in the list it is showing incoming donations over the last ten years vs the amount going to solicitors. It also mentions 35% being a more typical split. Fundraising costs money, even without telemarketing companies.
posted by snofoam at 1:40 PM on June 6, 2013


If only there were some sort of organization devoted to assessing the effectiveness of charities and ranking them

Actually, there are a few: Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator doesn't rank charities by effectiveness. It rates them by financial health and accountability, which is different.

The original comment was a reference to GiveWell, which does impact-based assessments. If you're not keen on them, there's plenty of other places that rate by effectiveness too. Check out Innovations for Poverty Action, for example (which does randomized controlled trials) or Giving What We Can.

The idea of applying an evidence-based methodology to charity and charitable giving has taken a little while to catch on, and was initially only used internally by big NGOs. But it's now starting to gain ground in the wider community. Its one of the key tenets of the Effective Altruism approach led by Peter Singer and some philosophers from Oxford.
posted by dontjumplarry at 1:42 PM on June 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


Note that Kids Wish Network is not Make-a-Wish Foundation.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:48 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The story seemed to indicate that prior to being contacted by the fundraisers, the Grays were hardly raising anything for their charity

Right, but of the actual money that comes to them after the telemarketers' ginormous cut, they're spending 4 times as much on their own salaries as on their charitable work. That part is really amazing to me. I mean it seems like they started out intending to help people.
posted by gerstle at 1:51 PM on June 6, 2013


GOOD NEWS: Americans are generous givers with good hearts.

BAD NEWS: The people they are giving to are overwhelmingly a bunch of fucking crooks.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:51 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, for some perspective, I was once paid $2,000 to do a fundraising event for a small environmental nonprofit. The organization has a very small budget and I think total expenses for the event and promotion were only around $2,500 total. The goal was to raise at least $8k and I think it ended up raising about $15k, just because I had some generous donors of silent auction prizes and such. They were shooting for cost of about 30% of the total funds raised, I did a little bit worse than 15% and it was considered very successful. For my $2k, I worked the equivalent of more than one full-time month, so it wasn't a bad deal and I did want to help them/the project we were raising funds for, but I worked hard for the money.

There were additional benefits, though, including a lot of awareness about the project we were doing, so even though it was expensive to do it, there are collateral benefits.
posted by snofoam at 1:57 PM on June 6, 2013


> The moral of this story is: If you want to help a dying child make a wish-Grant it to them yourself

That's not the moral. "Do research before donating" is the moral.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:12 PM on June 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


Also, the next time you attend a charity event with a celebrity guest appearance, try to find out what the celeb is being paid. They probably won't tell you, and the amount might horrify you if you knew. I wish they had full disclosure laws about that as well. There are a few good souls who will not accept appearance fees: Michael Palin not only accepts no fee but pays all his own expenses -- which does have the effect of limiting his appearances to only causes he's willing to support out of his own pocket.

I'd love to see a list of what celebs charge for charity appearances.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:18 PM on June 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


According to this article on Nonprofit Quarterly, Andy Roddick sued the charity Miracle Match Foundation for two bounced checks to the tune of $50,000 each. What did he do for the money? Played a tennis game and "hobnobbed" with attendees.

That's a lot of money for glad handing and smacking around a tennis ball.
posted by BrianJ at 2:31 PM on June 6, 2013


Somebody must teach the author of this article the idea of the paragraph.
posted by Ghost Mode at 2:33 PM on June 6, 2013


snofoam: Cosmic.osmo, it definitely costs more than 15% to do fundraising and run a nonprofit.
BULL. SHIT.

Partners in Health: 7%
Brother's Brother: under 1%
Animal Welfare Institute: 4.5%
International Rescue Committee: under 10%
posted by IAmBroom at 2:35 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


The 10th Regiment of Foot: "Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong "

Absolutely worth watching the entire thing. Thank you for this.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:47 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Save the Telemarketers!
posted by miyabo at 2:51 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the Brother's Brother 2011 financials are an interesting example of the complexities of bookkeeping and management costs associated with nonprofits, especially when in-kind donations are considered. Their sub-1% number is based on the fact that they spent $2.9 million to deliver donated in-kind educational and medical supplies valued at over $231 million, 98% of which came from six donors. It seems a little unfair to compare that to an organization that is working at the same scale in cash and running programs.

I disagree with a lot of Pallotta's talk (see Ken Berger's rebuttal of Pallotta's 2010 op-ed), but I do agree that measuring cost-to-overhead isn't the be-all, end-all of charity evaluation.
posted by lantius at 3:04 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Penny Arcade's Childs Play: 6%
posted by Sebmojo at 3:08 PM on June 6, 2013


If just one of these charities helped just one hamburger then it's all worth it.
posted by comealongpole at 3:10 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cosmic.osmo, it definitely costs more than 15% to do fundraising and run a nonprofit.

I was once paid $2,000 to do a fundraising event for a small environmental nonprofit. The organization has a very small budget and.... They were shooting for cost of about 30% of the total funds raised, I did a little bit worse than 15% and it was considered very successful.

You bring up a good point with your example. Charities under a certain size should be exempted. Also, if I wasn't clear, I don't think regular operational costs should be capped, just fundraising and whatever perks the people in charge might be taking for themselves. I guess the definitions may be hard to get right, especially for charities that are mostly about advocacy/awareness-raising, but costs paid to fundraising-telemarketing companies and the big-boss's salary should definitely be regulated.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 3:13 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


See also Charity Watch's argument against "100% to program" claims. There are interesting dialogues happening around the role of charities, especially "advocacy-only" organizations that are essentially operating as marketing arms of "programs" organizations doing the charitable work.
posted by lantius at 3:16 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


"GOOD NEWS: Americans are generous givers with good hearts.

BAD NEWS: The people they are giving to are overwhelmingly a bunch of fucking crooks.
"

While the billion dollars we're talking about here is huge, Americans do give 300 times that every year to honest charities. This is a big fucking deal, but not anything like overwhelming.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:17 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Okay, IAmBroom, it's not impossible and it depends a lot on how the organization gets its funding. It seems that your examples are really the outliers on the other end of the extreme from the groups in the article. An organization getting major funding from grants, for example, can have very low costs fundraising for donations.

Also, if you look at the financial statement from the Animal Welfare Institute, I think there may be quite a bit of leeway in terms of how expenses are attributed. For example, they get a big chunk of money from memberships, but their membership costs are attributed to their program services and not to fundraising at all. I'm not saying this is a scam or anything, but fundraising costs do depend highly on where the funding comes from.

Also, the all-caps BS that you start your comment with is just uncivil. Your handful of examples don't do anything except prove that in extreme cases, my comment could be technically wrong. In most cases, it is impossible to do fundraising and run a nonprofit for 15%.
posted by snofoam at 3:18 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, how often do we see links here to media pieces about "the fifty best charities in.."?

FUCKIN NEVER is how often.

And that's a shame, because as dontjumplarry pointed out above, those charities and news items about them not only exist, but mechanisms for ranking and recognising NGO and charity effectiveness do too.

Which kind of begs the question.. What kind of society or community gives absolutely blindly with one hand, then on the other hand turns around and bitches its head off about subsequent mis-spending, applauds negative media coverage of charities in general, and rushes to mob judgement in public fora like this when its own lack of careful assessment of where its charity dollar is/was going ends in negative results.

Perhaps one that never gave a shit about that charity dollar in the first place, but is infinitely willing to judge and be jealous of those who receive, whether poor or rich? Perhaps one that uses charity donations as a quick and dirty handwash for its own failure to look after its young, old, poor, sick and vulnerable?

If you've actually given to one of the charities named in the lists here, and you're feeling ripped off, ask yourself why you didn't check out their financial arrangements in the first place. Because, in all seriousness, this is not a new topic. It's one of the perennial "what's really in your meat pie? outrage foci of tabloid papers, radio talk-back, and internet communities such as this one. We do this often enough that it's either lame or disgusting. Buggered if I know which. Probably both.

And to my mind, that all raises a series of questions..

Firstly, what are we doing leaving the care of the needy up to the private sector anyway? That's just positively Victorian. A healthy society looks after all of its members. And that's about taxation, a well designed welfare system, and efficient government service delivery.

Secondly, what makes charity donors think they are not and need not be responsible for where their money goes? Of course they are. You throw your money down a hole, it isn't the hole's fault.

Thirdly, what kind of weird dynamic of inter-related carelessness, guilt, disdain, generosity, giving and misplaced jealousy is really at play here? What's with all the turning of heads and lifting of noses while dropping a coin into a hat, followed by subsequent resentment that someone got something for nothing..

And they had a hat too. A HAT!

If you're going to feel that messed up about giving, then have the bloody self awareness to know it in advance, and don't give.

If you simply want to give to an organisation that spends in ways of which you approve, do your research, and give to one that won't rip you off.

/rant.
posted by Ahab at 3:42 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


finally! let's see if the NGO crowd can get its act together to do the same thing.
posted by parmanparman at 3:44 PM on June 6, 2013


Kids Wish has hired Melissa Schwartz, a crisis management specialist in New York City who previously worked for the federal government after the 2010 BP oil spill.

That sounds like a job the way "crisis management" is used to describe what Mike does on Breaking Bad.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:33 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


@ snofoam: I used to audit charities and prepare their financials, and there is indeed a shit ton of room to be....creative with allocating expenses between charitable programs and overhead.
posted by jpe at 5:04 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you've actually given to one of the charities named in the lists here, and you're feeling ripped off, ask yourself why you didn't check out their financial arrangements in the first place.

At least some of the donors to these crap charities were senile old people who were being taken advantage of:
What happened to Gina Brown's mother-in-law is a classic case.

Brown said the 72-year-old woman was struggling with dementia when the phone calls started.

From 2008 to 2011, telemarketers representing some of the worst charities in the nation persuaded her to write checks and charge donations to her credit card for a total of nearly $15,000.

Among those on the Times/CIR list that got multiple donations, sometimes only months apart, were Cancer Fund of America, Children's Cancer Fund of America and the Committee for Missing Children.

"She was such a vulnerable person, she must have been on the 'A' list," Brown said.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 5:07 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


We have a similar problem in Australia, but in a much smaller way.

I try to donate either directly or to organisations large enough to be reliably audited; I presume that anything in between mill mostly go on the charity solicitors. The problem is that commercial charity solicitors are like crack for charities: they figure that any money they get out of the deal is free, so why not take it? As a consequence the solicitation field is booming even though I suspect the amount actually spent on worthy causes is static.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:14 PM on June 6, 2013


Ooh, from lantius' link above:
American Association of State Troopers Scholarship Foundation (AASTSF) comes close to promising that 100% of your gift will be spent on charity. Its web site states that "97% of your donation will be deposited directly into our Scholarship Foundation account, which is used to provide college scholarships to children of our members,"
Do you see what they did there? Do you see what they just did? They promised you that 97% of your donation will go into their bank account. They also said that this bank account is used for college scholarships. They didn't say that 97% of the money in the bank account is used for scholarships, just that 97% of your money goes into a bank account. Some of it (34% apparently) ends up being used for scholarships, but they are justified in spending the rest on collection and administration because they never said that the "Scholarship Foundation account" is only used to provide scholarships.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:23 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Aren't Libertarians always telling us charities are better than taxes?

Rather than having Americans pay taxes lets let them give money to charities! That way we can give our money to the causes we care most about and the money won't be wasted by politicians and their pork spending. This is how America should work!

Shieeeeeeeet.
posted by Rashomon at 5:24 PM on June 6, 2013


Obligatory Mr. Show: Dream of a Lifetime!
posted by symbioid at 5:28 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The original comment was a reference to GiveWell

I realized that. For those unclear on the GiveWell reference, they astrorurfed MetaFilter back in 2007, and references to the agency have been watched closely since (at least through 2011).
posted by filthy light thief at 5:52 PM on June 6, 2013


dontjumplarry, thanks for the clarification and other similar agencies.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:56 PM on June 6, 2013


You know, how often do we see links here to media pieces about "the fifty best charities in.."?

Much more often than I see lists of the worst charities.
posted by John Cohen at 7:43 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


For those unclear on the GiveWell reference, they astrorurfed MetaFilter back in 2007,

They covered the floor in excited puppies? Because that's what 'astrorurfed' means.

In my head.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:42 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would also add that for a small nonprofit trying to accomplish something good/important it makes sense to be understanding that it can take a significant expense to raise a bunch of small donations to do something. Maybe the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation doesn't have to spend much on fundraising, but probably most mefites could look at an organization's finances and make a good judgement on a case by case basis. Strict percentages can be somewhat pointless to compare because there are so many different funding structures.
posted by snofoam at 9:05 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


As someone who works in development (fundraising) for a nonprofit, I find the above argument interesting and discomforting; while I understand the desire not to have your money go to salaries, after working in development for a while you start to feel a bit shat on with the board's insistence and inter-organizational pressure that you not make anywhere near a middle-income. The incentive is to have development staff be as underpaid as possible without them leaving, giving the annual report a more sterling finish (only 11% on fundraising! Very impressive!) -- thus you have lots of people toiling over a stressful, deadline-driven job with little hope of getting into a decent pay range. If you're not 100% committed to the organization (and it's much easier, oftentimes, to become cynical and see the problems and inefficiencies and shortfalls when you're behind the scenes), the situation really doesn't encourage staying. This may contribute to the incredibly high turnover in development. Just a view from the other side, or at least from within one particular organization. I should probably qualify that I never particularly wanted to get into development...

That said, that list is obviously a racket and fucking ridiculous. It's all the more horrifying that these tend to benefit the very most vulnerable--people with cancer, children. And FOUR especially devoted to fighting breast cancer/supporting patients. With a mother who's survived breast cancer, I'll be a little cautious with my donations to BC foundations in the future.

Has anyone else checked out the Kids Wish Network website? So creepy and depressing to see how they're fooling people.

(Oh, I should also note--most of the bigger organizations with brand recognition make a majority of their funds through individual giving, whereas smaller organizations or those without that recognition are often supported largely through grants. The fundraising consulting/service field for individual giving is one I don't know much about, but if they're not bringing in at least as much as they cost, there's a problem going on there.)
posted by aintthattheway at 9:30 PM on June 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Here's someone's idea of the 10 best charities.

Curiously, the police, the armed forces, and children are far less apparent, if there at all. Why do so many scams involve people screeching "Babies!" or "Heroes!" at dimwits?

And here's a list from the same site of highly-ranked charities with low-paid CEOs. Hey, I once gave to the Habitat in Spartanburg! Luck of the draw on my part, but still, yay!
posted by umberto at 10:14 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Note that Kids Wish Network is not Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Though it may be highly likely that they're actually the Take-A-Wish Foundation, the project that Aperture Science developed after the Heimlich Counter-Maneuver but before moving on to the Portals project.
posted by radwolf76 at 10:22 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why do so many scams involve people screeching "Babies!" or "Heroes!" at dimwits?

The electoral precedent?
posted by pompomtom at 10:32 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it'd be better to flip it around: you may not spend more than 15% of your charitable intake* on fundraising and salaries/perks (for executives + their relatives). That would probably be more enforceable.

As much as I'm against the scam artists in this article, I'd also oppose this sort of law.

A non-profit CEO should not be forced to work for a fraction of their for-profit wage simply because they decided they wanted to do good in the world. Running a successful non-profit is no easier than running a successful for-profit.

Fundraising expenses should be treated like a marketing and sales budget. Every marginal dollar of spend must generate more than a dollar. If an organization can spend $1MM to raise $5MM, that is fantastic, even though it fails this arbitrary 'no more than 15%' rule.
posted by grudgebgon at 12:15 AM on June 7, 2013


"Fundraising expenses should be treated like a marketing and sales budget. Every marginal dollar of spend must generate more than a dollar. If an organization can spend $1MM to raise $5MM, that is fantastic, even though it fails this arbitrary 'no more than 15%' rule."

That is a really tricky road to go down.

Each of the worst charities listed meet your standard of every marginal dollar spent on fundraising generating more than a dollar, its just that the amount generated over fundraising expenses is trivial. For some kinds of things, higher amounts of spending on fundraising is more defensible, for example holding walk/run-athon things is an expensive way to raise money but also creates inherent benefits like getting people walking or running - you can think of the -athon as supporting both the beneficiary and the -athon as twin charities. Also some kinds of charities spending larger percentages of their incomes on salaries is essential to their mission, for example relief aid where the service provided isn't so much the tangible thing but logistical support, which can only be provided by paid staff, that got the tangible thing where its needed.

Absent these kinds of exceptions though, that hypothetical 15% cutoff is extremely generous to the point where going over it is just inexcusable as you get situations like the ones in the article where people are suddenly supporting travelling salesmen peddling bullshit rather than sick kids.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:54 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


snofoam: Okay, IAmBroom, it's not impossible and it depends a lot on how the organization gets its funding. It seems that your examples are really the outliers on the other end of the extreme from the groups in the article. An organization getting major funding from grants, for example, can have very low costs fundraising for donations.
...
Also, the all-caps BS that you start your comment with is just uncivil. Your handful of examples don't do anything except prove that in extreme cases, my comment could be technically wrong. In most cases, it is impossible to do fundraising and run a nonprofit for 15%.
Blah, blah blah, you were wrong. Period. You made a claim that is purely bullshit. Wrong. Counterfactual. Now you're hedging your statement with caveats and "well, except..." statements.
lantius:
I disagree with a lot of Pallotta's talk (see Ken Berger's rebuttal of Pallotta's 2010 op-ed), but I do agree that measuring cost-to-overhead isn't the be-all, end-all of charity evaluation.
Absolutely true. I was merely addressing the falsehood snofoam had expressed.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:43 AM on June 7, 2013


Okay, IAmBroom, clearly today I am the somebody who is wrong on the Internet. Thank God you were here to put me in my place with your sweet takedown, which I obviously deserved. I apologize to everyone for spreading such awful misinformation.
posted by snofoam at 4:26 AM on June 7, 2013


> I think it'd be better to flip it around: you may not spend more than 15% of your charitable intake* on fundraising and salaries/perks (for executives + their relatives). That would probably be more enforceable.

No no no no. For nonprofits to run the kind of well-planned programs that achieve some real results toward their goals, they they need to invest in staff with the expertise to do that work. It's not all fundraising and PR, there's research, planning, logistics, evaluation, and far more complicated accounting requirements than a lot of people realize.

It's not good business sense to hire based on who is willing to work for the least amount of money rather who is most capable of getting the job done well.

And as far as I'm concerned, it's ridiculous to favor nonprofits based on their low, low overhead rates without knowing how well they self-evaluate both their programs and their organizational goals.
posted by desuetude at 5:59 PM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nancy Brinker still CEO of Susan G. Komen Foundation, received 64% pay raise. Komen cancels half its fundraising events due to lack of money.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:27 AM on June 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


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