But this is getting ridiculous! Today’s four included two from the same charity. I realize that the Christmas and fall holidays are the time when most charities depend on good will and holiday spirit to accumulate contributions, but I don’t need five letters, a nickel, or address labels to get me to donate to one charity. One request will do, thank you very much..
More important, how much of the donation goes directly to pay for the administration, PR, and mail campaigns for the charities, and how much goes to funds the on-site services and equipment needed?
THE IMPORTANCE OF GIVING TO CHARITY
Don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not bad-mouthing legitimate charities or making charitable donations. I personally believe that all of us have the responsibility to care for and assist people who are less fortunate than ourselves. Nor am I giving anyone a lecture on how, when, or if they make charitable donations or how good it can make them feel. Giving is a personal decision and nobody else’s business.
Limited resources work both sides of the equation. The resources charities depend on are inadequate to address the needs. The needs are real and endless, and will continue to be. Charities will never have enough, and they have to fight for every dollar. When I was in charge of the San Bernardino County Office of Community Development, the county distributed federal funds for projects to assist low-income persons and communities. The charitable groups were, and still are, fiercely competitive because they have to be. [I found they weren’t hesitant to undercut each other in the process, either.]
In most cases, charities do important work and warrant public support for their efforts. In fact, part of the problem is that they are nearly all worthy. [By “nearly all”, I mean only that there are some that are simply not viable, and there are scams.]
Therein lays the problem for the average middle-class family. Their resources are also limited, and many families struggle to make ends meet just as the charities do.
Fortunately, Americans tend to be empathetic and give generously to the causes they choose.
Bank of America partnered with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy to produce the 2021 Bank of America Study of Philanthropy: Charitable Giving by Affluent Households* which provides insight into the charitable habits of affluent households. They found nearly 90% of affluent households gave to charity in 2020, similar to previous years, meaning that in spite of the economic situation in 2020, affluent families continued to be as giving as they had been in better economic times.
[*Affluent households in the study have a net worth of $1 million or more, excluding the value of their primary home, and/or an annual household income of $200,000.]
While some donors may not care, the majority of middle class contributors would like to get the most out of their contribution dollars. They care about percentage of funds which go to administration, including advertizing, vs. the percentage that actually carries out the services.
Here’s the thing. Despite the number of watch dog and reporting organizations all over the internet who are supposed to rate charities and guide the donors in wise decision making, it was practically impossible to obtain any statistics about the charities’ spending practices. At best there are ratings giving up to four stars for the best. Maybe with more diligence, I could find what I was looking for, but it is not something a person can do quickly or easily. [If there are, let me know where.]
Although there is no standard percentage requirement for administrative costs, typical nonprofits spend from 15 to 40 percent of revenue on administrative costs. Other sources say, on average, 75 percent goes to programs. While there are some legitimate reasons for differences, depending on the nature of the charity, 15 to 40 percent is a big spread. When I was administering federal programs, the guidelines usually held agencies to 15 percent administrative costs.
Advice on checking out charities always begins with determining the causes you care about. Most people already know due to personal circumstances, friends, relatives, and areas of interest.
● Search online for the charities addressing the causes you care about.
You undoubtedly know what some of the charities and non-profits are, but there might be others you don’t know about that would interest you.
● Check them out online.
Search the charity name followed by these words [one at a time]: “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” “fraud,” or “scam.” If you find bad reviews, maybe there are better organizations.
●Check out the charity’s website.
Does it give you details about the programs you want to support or how it uses donations? How much of your donation will go directly to support the programs you care about? If you can’t find detailed information about a charity’s mission and programs, be suspicious.
● Use one of these watchdog organizations to help you research.
All these links were live and correct when I checked them in October, 2022.
• Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance at https://www.give.org/search
• Charity Navigator at https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=1887
• CharityWatch at https://www.charitywatch.org/top-rated-charities
• Candid at https://candid.org/about
• Guide Star at https://www.guidestar.org/
● Find out if the fundraiser and/or charity is registered.
Some states require that charities register with the state regulator. Check to see if the fundraiser or charity soliciting your dollars are registered with your state’s Charity regulators.
If this is important to you, confirm that the organization you’re donating to is registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt organization. Look up the organization in the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search.
[I can’t imagine a legitimate charity that hasn’t registered with the IRS for tax exempt status. Charities do not want to pay taxes.]
The correct tax status for a non-profit charity is a 501(c)(3). If you donate to a 501(c)(3) organization, you may deduct the donation from your taxes. And by the way, a 501(c)(3) may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities, and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates, local or not.
● Don’t Be Taken In By The Designation “Not-For-Profit”
Although the terms “nonprofit organization” (NPO) and “Not-For-Profit organization” (NFPO) are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not the same, and neither is a charity. There are key distinctions between the two types of enterprise.
A key one is their purpose. Nonprofits must offer some social benefit and provide goods or services. Not-for-profits need not have such an orientation and may exist simply to serve their membership rather than society at large, such as a health club that only serves its members. These organizations have the tax code status of 501(c)(7).
NonProfit and Not-For-Profit organizations may be tax exempt under the Tax Code 501(c)(7) provisions but they may or may not provide any social benefit. While these organizations may solicit donations, the contributions are not tax deductible. [Taken directly from: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/n/not-for-profit.asp]
Charitable calls are allowed under the FTC regulations, even if you are on the FTC Do-Not-Call Registry. If you wish to be listed on the FTC Do-Not-Call Registry or just want to report a call, go to: https://www.donotcall.gov/
However, there are rules that apply to calls that are allowed for charity solicitations.
● Don’t Let Anyone Rush Or Intimidate You Into Making A Donation.
The first rule of thumb is not to let anyone rush or intimidate you into making a donation. Both legitimate charities and scammers try to rush you so there isn’t time to think it over.
I understand that charities, like businesses, have to budget for the coming year, and the more they know about their revenue stream, the more effective the budgeting. However, this bugs me!
[I also dislike those who try to force you into committing an amount, usually by saying something like “The average donation is fifty dollars. Can I put you down for fifty?”]
Another rule of thumb is not to trust your caller ID. They lie! Technology has smoothed the way for scammers, and the caller ID can be faked easily from anywhere in the world. Often such calls appear to be from some local utility.
● Be Aware of the Legal Requirements for Charity Solicitations.
• No calls permitted before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. (your time),
• They have to tell you the exact name of the charity, and that they are calling to seek a donation,
• The caller ID must be truthful.
• The caller cannot lie about the answers to the following questions. [see “Ask Questions” below]
Solicitors must be truthful when answering your questions, including:
• Charity’s address (web and mail),
• Whether or not you can get a receipt for your donation,
•The fundraiser’s connection to the charity,
• The mission or purpose of the charity (details, including where),
• Whether a donation is tax deductible,
• How a donation will be used, or how much of the donation actually goes to the charity’s programs,
• The charity’s affiliation with the government.
• If the organization lobbies to support legislation and/or endorses candidates for any public office.
If the caller unable or unwilling to answer any of these questions, beware.
● If The Fundraiser Says You Already Pledged, Check.
They may say — in a phone call or a mailer — that you already pledged to make the donation, or that you donated to them last year. They think that means you’ll be more willing to donate.
● Listen carefully to the name of the charity and write it down.
Some scammers use names that sound a lot like other charities to trick you. Research before you give. The “Cancer Fund of America” is not the “American Cancer Society”.
● Watch out for sentimental claims with few details.
Be suspicious if you hear a lot of vague sentimental claims, but don’t get specifics about how your donation will be used and how the dollars are distributed.
● Don’t donate with a wire transfer, gift card, or cryptocurrency.
Anyone asking you to donate this way is a scammer.
● Don’t donate money to a charity that is pressuring you for cash.
If something feels fishy about the situation, like if a representative is really pushy about you donating money, then you should definitely hang up or end the conversation. You don’t have to give money to people who won’t let you think about the decision first.
●Sweepstakes winning in exchange for a donation? Nope.
If someone guarantees you’ll win a prize or contest if you contribute, that’s a scam. You won’t win anything, and your donation money will go to a scammer.
● Keep an eye out for red flags.
Watch out for an unrecognized organization name, a vague mission statement, or an overly energetic person asking for money. If something seems off or out of the ordinary, such as the caller getting hostile about the questions, you should definitely be wary.
If someone is at your door asking for money for a charity, you should probably just say no unless it is the Girl Scout living across the street or someone you know and can reasonably trust. You can’t be sure where the money is going, and donating to organizations that come to your door is not good. If you encounter a situation like this, you should definitely be wary of donating. You don’t have to give money to people knocking on your door, and you don’t have to give money to overly pushy people.
CHARITY ROBO CALLS
Charities are not allowed to make robocalls. If you get an illegal robocall, hang up. Don’t press buttons to be taken off a call list or to talk to a live person. It might lead to more unwanted calls. Instead, go to https://www.donotcall.gov/.
Learn more about robocalls at https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/robocalls
THE BEST AND THE WORST
I started out hoping there would be lists of best and worst charities, but a few hours of research took care of that. There are many factors which have to be taken into account in determining best and worst, and by themselves, those words are too vague to be useful. In addition, most of the listings of best charities were in categories according to cause: those that help pay bills, medical research, those that help pay medical bills, animal welfare, charities that address world poverty, and so on. The worst ones listed I’d never heard of and haven’t sent me solicitations.
Below I list a number of websites that provide a variety of lists, more as examples than anything else, but it does not even begin to cover the variety of non-profits and charities that exist. I also include some listings that show ways the cost issue can be broken down which demonstrates some of the considerations in that assessment.
This speaks to the advice that encourages people to research the charities based on what causes they are interested in and deciding in advance, before receiving letters and phone calls.
P.S. By the time I finished this, I had put all but four of my favorite children’s charities in the trash.
Note 1: Partial List of best charities by limited categories [various sources]
Best Animal welfare charities: https://impactful.ninja/best-animal-rescue-charities/#:~:text
Charities that help with Bills: https://nonprofitpoint.com/charities-that-help-with-bills/
Non-Profits that help with funeral costs: https://nonprofitpoint.com/charities-that-help-with-funeral-costs/
Charities/help w/medical equipment costs: https://nonprofitpoint.com/charities-that-help-with-medical-equipment/
Charities/ help with home repairs: https://nonprofitpoint.com/charities-that-help-with-home-repairs/
Charities you should know about: https://nonprofitpoint.com/different-types-of-charities/
Charities/ help with legal costs: https://nonprofitpoint.com/charities-that-help-with-legal-fees/
10 best Christian charities: https://nonprofitpoint.com/best-christian-charities-to-donate/
10 best Jewish charities: https://nonprofitpoint.com/jewish-charities-to-donate-to/
Charities/ help with hospital bills: https://nonprofitpoint.com/charities-that-help-with-hospital-bills/
Best Medical Research Organizations: https://blog.charitynavigator.org/2018/09/americas-10-best-medical-
Note 2: A way to consider percentages going to programs
[Taken from: https://www.wristbandexpress.com/content/health-charities-ranked-spend-afflicted/?gclid]
The 10 Health Charities That Spend The Most Per Afflicted Person
1. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: $9,089.022. ALS Association: $2,037.08
3. Pancreatic Cancer Action Network: $342.29
4. Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation: $316.40
5. Muscular Dystrophy Association: $227.72
6. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: $199.96
7. National Pediatric Cancer Foundation: $199.74
8. National Multiple Sclerosis Society: $128.64
9. Alzheimer's Association: $49.14
10. American Cancer Society: $45.19
The 10 Health Charities That Spend The Least Per Afflicted Person
1. American Tinnitus Association: $0.012. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: $0.04
3. National Osteoporosis Foundation: $0.06
4. American Liver Foundation: $0.23
5. Lewy Body Dementia Association: $0.81
6. National Kidney Foundation: $1.05
7. Arthritis Foundation: $1.10
8. National Organization for Rare Disorders: $1.50
9. Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Foundation: $1.72
10. Cerebral Palsy Foundation: $2.03
The 10 Health Charities With The Highest % Of Total Expenses Spent On Programs
1. American Kidney Fund: 97.3%2. AIDS United: 92.9%
3. Cure Alzheimer’s Fund: 92.1%
4. Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation: 88.7%
5. National Organization for Rare Disorders: 88.0%
6. National Pediatric Cancer Foundation: 87.9%
7. Kidney Cancer Association: 87.8%
8. Breast Cancer Research Foundation: 87.5%
9. American Lung Association: 87.2%
10. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: 83.2%
The households in the study have a net worth of $1 million or more (excluding the value of their primary home) and/or an annual household income of $200,000.