With millions of good Samaritans regularly donating a portion of their paycheck to good causes, charities are booming… unfortunately, not all of the money going into them is coming out the way we think. Donate $10 to certain charities, and rather than the full amount (or the full amount minus a small handling fee) going to the advertised cause, most of it will be siphoned off into the foundation’s executives bank account, mishandled, or otherwise misappropriated. The amount that actually makes its way to where you think it’s going ends up representing only a tiny fraction of the donation. Of course, we’ve no wish to tarnish all charities with the same brush, and by and large, most philanthropic foundations do exactly what they advertise on the tin. But it pays to be cautious… here, in no particular order, we take a look at some of the worst charities.
1. Cancer Fund of America
Cancer Fund of America is just one of many philanthropic centers run by James T Reynolds and his somewhat crooked family. That the no-shame Reynolds takes home an annual salary of around $230,000 is bad enough (and properly tells you all you need to know about where your donations are going). That the charity (and we mean “charity” in the loosest possible sense) only manages to find it in its heart to give 2.5% of its donations to support the families of cancer victims and fund cancer research (its supposed raison d’etre) is even worse. If you want to subsidize the flash lifestyle of Reynolds, then go right ahead and donate. If you’d rather your money found its way into the pockets of who it should, then maybe find yourself a better cause.
2. American Breast Cancer Foundation
The 2nd cancer research charity to make our list is the American Breast Cancer Foundation, an organization set up in 1997 with the intent of funding health education and free breast exams for women. I say intent… as one of the worst charities in the US, it’s managed to achieve only 2 of the 4 available stars awarded by Charity Navigator, an organization dedicated to informing us about the best and worst charities out there) any evidence that any of the thousands it’s raised through appeals have made their way to the appropriate services is so thin on the ground as to be non-existent.
3. Children’s Wish Foundation
Anyone reading the name of the next charity on our list stands a good chance of confusing it with the far more famous (and far more reputable) charity, The Make-a-Wish Foundation. So close are the two names, anyone with a suspicious mind may be inclined to think the exec’s over at the Children’s Wish Foundation had either never heard of their “almost” namesake, or were very craftily and very deviously trying to piggyback on its good name. Given the less than stellar reputation of owner Linda Dozoretz, we’re going to have to plump for the latter.
4. Police Protection Fund
Another charity that should come with a “donator, beware” sign is the Police Protection Fund. The fund is the third in a series of outrageous attempts by founders David Dierks and Phil LeConte to extort money from generous Americans under the pretext of donations to the nation’s police forces. Given that only 0.7% of the donations distributed over all three trust’s have made its way to our deserving officers (the rest having somehow found its way into the bank accounts of Dierks and LeConte, and the shady lawyers willing to defend them) you’d be better off keeping your money in the bank.
5. Vietnow National Headquarters
Next up we have Vietnow National Headquarters. As its name suggests, the charity supports our country’s heroes, given assistance to those in need of homes, mental health care, and educations. A worthy cause, and one well worth a few dollars of your paycheck. Or so you’d think… in fact, only 3% of their donations actually make it into the hands of Vietnam Vets. The rest does a grand job of propping up the bank accounts of the foundation’s sleazy directors.
6. United States Deputy Sheriffs’ Association
If a charity (or indeed, any organization) is forced to move its headquarters to a new state on account of the dodgy dealings and underhand practices it’s been getting up to in its old home, anyone with any sense should know to keep well away, Unfortunately, the United States Deputy Sheriffs’ Association is well versed enough in manipulation to convince even the most well-meaning of folk that it’s still a cause worthy of their support. In two words, it’s not. Unless you want your money to go toward lawsuits (it’s already coughed up $200,000 to Iowa, Florida, and Texas), take my advice and find another charity to support… although preferably one on another list to this one.
7. Operation Lookout National Center for Missing Youth
A husband and wife running a charity… what could be nicer? In the case of Mike and Melody Gibson, pretty much everything. The dastardly duo run Operation Lookout National Center for Missing Youth, a charity with the very worthy aim of providing support and assistance to the families of missing children. In practice, it does no such thing, preferring instead to siphon 82% of its donations into its solicitors’ pockets, and a good proportion of the rest into their own. Florida and Iowa have already caught up with their underhand practices, and the pair are currently banned from telemarketing in either state. Unfortunately, the rest of the country is their oyster.
8. National Caregiving Foundation
It’s national, it’s caregiving, it’s a foundation. What could possibly go wrong? In the case of the National Caregiving Foundation, a lot. Its listed activities sound well-intentioned enough (after all, who could question such noble acts as providing scholarships to those interested in a future in healthcare, providing educational kits on mental illness, and providing assisted living facilities to the elderly?) When push comes to shove, however, there’s no real evidence of the foundation doing anything of these things. What there is evidence of, on the other hand, is director Regina Salta’s salary, which amounts to a staggering $100,000 a year according to Charity Navigator. Anyone wondering how the “charity” manages to support such a huge paycheck may need to double back to the start of the article.
9. Project Cure (Florida)
It’s big, it’s bold, it’s just two words long. Project Cure may sound like just the kind of dynamic, up and at ‘em charity that’s getting things done, but in reality, it’s not doing much beyond making up fictitious stories about raising public awareness about some of the most serious and topical diseases of the day (and paying for a minuscule storage unit in Florida that conveniently provides an address for the company headquarters). If you want to see barely a cent of your donation go towards an actual good cause, then go right ahead and pop your cheque in the post, Otherwise, save yourself the bother and send it to someone who might do something good with it … the Project Cure’s in Ohio and Colorado (neither of which are associated with their Florida namesake) represent two such possibilities.
10. Association for Firefighters and Paramedics
Deceptive fundraising ploys, improper allocation of funds, investigations by state authorities… if there was a checklist of what makes a charity less than reputable, the Association for Firefighters and Paramedics would tick every box. Unless you want your donation to fund the lavish lifestyles of the charity’s top exec’s, do yourself a favor and keep your money in your wallet.
11. Committee for Missing Children
Like Operation Lookout National Center for Missing Youth, the next entry to our list reports to help return missing children to the parent’s arms. In reality, only 2% of donations go towards the cause. The rest, funnily enough, somewhere makes it into the likes of director David Thelen’s pockets. Thelen may defend his excessive salary by claiming to spend endless hours counseling the families of the missing children, but we doubt they’ll be very thankful when they find out how little practical effort the charity puts into finding their kids.
12. Youth Development Fund
A foundation that provides funding to youth education programs, as well as helping turn the tide on teenagers falling victim to drug and alcohol abuse, sounds a noble enough cause, right? Wrong. In the case of the Youth Development Fund, the majority of its donations end up being siphoned off by executive Rick Bowen, who in turn, siphons the money into his production company. As Housely notes, unless you want your hard-earned cash going towards videos such as “underwater diving adventures,” find yourself another worthy cause to subsidy.
13. Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation
The Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation is one of 8 similarly dubious charities run by Greg Anderson. As with all his other “worthy” endeavors, the Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation uses the underhand tactic of passing off soliciting calls as charitable donations on their tax returns. As a result of training its solicitors to discuss how individuals can lessen their chances of a cancer diagnosis, 80% of the charity’s annual profits end up in the hands of its solicitors (rather than in the hands of the families it’s meant to be supporting).
14. Children’s Cancer Fund of America
Remember James Reynolds from the Cancer Fund of America (number 1 on our list, if you need a refresh). He’s back… or at least, his on-off wife Rose Parkins is. Parkins heads up the Children’s Cancer Fund of America, a foundation that allows her to draw a healthy annual salary of $227,000 (according to the IRS records of 2011, at least), a figure that is just about matched by the fund’s annual donations to charity. Of the millions of dollars’ worth of medical supplies it claims to have donated to developing nations, there’s no sign. Perhaps they ended up in the same place the Reynolds family’s credibility did…
15. American Association of State Troopers
American Association of State Troopers claims to support retired state troopers. As Smarter Giving notes, what is actually supports is the bank balances of its chief executives. IRS reports show that in 2011 alone, executive director Ken Howles drew an $87000 salary; of the little money left over, only around 9-14% made its way into the hands of the troopers.
16. National Veterans Service Fund
Kraft by name, crafty by nature… at the helm of the National Veterans Service Fund is one Phillip Kraft (and no, he’s no relation to the founder of Kraft Group, Robert (not, at least, that we’re aware. If he is, we’re sure Robert would have disowned him by now in any case). The charity boasts of providing support and care to the nation’s veterans, but the only donation the IRS has ever been able to trace to the organization is an insignificant sum towards a health clinic dealing in birth defects. The majority of the rest of the money has been used to line crafty Kraft’s pockets. Kraft remains unrepentant of the charity’s less than stellar record, telling As Vet Like Me: “A small percentage of something is better than 100 percent of nothing.”
17. Firefighter’s Charitable Foundation
The Firefighter’s Charitable Foundation says it provides financial assistance to the families of those who’ve been affected by fire or other disasters. Charity Navigator disagrees vehemently, affording the organization a devastatingly low 0 out of 4 stars. The reason? A deplorable 90% of the charity’s donations end up being claimed as fundraising expenses, leaving just 10% to go where it should be.
18. Kids Wish Network
Another charity to piggybank of the good name of the Make a Wish foundation is the far less reputable Kids Wish Network. According to Heavy.com, only 2.5 cents for every dollar raised goes towards the sick kids it claims to help- the majority of the rest, as you’d expect, is funneled back into the accounts of its fundraising solicitors.
19. International Union of Police Associations
Under any other guise, a charity which provides financial assistance to the families of police officers killed on active duty would seem a worthy cause indeed. Unfortunately, the International Union of Police Associations donates only 1% of its donations to its claimed beneficiaries.
20. Breast Cancer Relief Foundation
Whether the Breast Cancer Relief Foundation is immoral or just extremely incompetent, we’re a bit unsure. What we are sure of is that of the millions of dollars its claims to send in medical supplies to developing nations, there’s very little trace. Neither is there very much money making its way into cancer research, with only 2% of its donations ending up helping women with breast cancer.