How to Spot a Bad Charity

A year-long collaborative effort between CNN, the Tampa Bay Times, and the Center for Investigative Reporting is exposing fraud and abuse in the charity world. There’s a tome of information on bad actors, spanning children’s issues to cancer charities to police and firefighter groups.

The investigators have boiled things down to a list of the 50 worst charities in America, based on 1) how much money a charity raised through solicitors in the past decades; 2) how much went to the for-profit solicitors and how little went to charity; and 3) how little money was paid in direct cash aid by the charity.

In short, a number of “charities” seem to be operating as essentially fundraising mills—or “factory fundraising” operations, as we like to describe the Humane Society of the United States around here.

Speaking of HSUS, the group didn’t make the list. Frankly, we’re surprised it didn’t make the cut since it gets a “D” grade from the American Institute of Philanthropy. So we decided to see how it stacked up.

Using the investigators’ criteria, we looked at how much money HSUS raised through solicitors and how much HSUS kept. We used the Pennies for Charity reports published by the New York Attorney General’s office back to 2000 to compile our data. Here’s what we found:

Year Professional Fundraising Firm Receipts $ to HSUS % to HSUS

2000

Share Group, Inc

$30,584

($65,625)

-214.57

2000

Share Group, Inc

$1,342,494

$322,642

24.03

2001

Share Group, Inc

$1,083,871

$16,543

1.53

2002

Share Group, Inc

$1,299,087

$291,826

22.46

2004

Share Group, Inc

$1,031,103

($173,726)

-16.85

2005

Share Group, Inc

$1,466,145

($175,360)

-11.96

2006

Share Group, Inc

$2,730,720

$545,843

19.99

2007

Share Group, Inc

$1,562,814

$113,686

7.27

2008

Share Group, Inc

$1,679,763

($19,486)

-0.32

2009

Share Group, Inc

$1,950,521

$103,141

5.29

2010

Share Group, Inc

$2,400,380

$872,785

36.36

2010

RMG USA Inc

$145,223

($50,665)

-34.89

2010

RMG USA Inc

$128,328

$15,905

12.39

2011

Donor Services Group LLC

$161,459

$30,408

18.83

2011

USA 800 Inc

$48,714

$17,283

35.48

2012

Donor Services Group LLC

$1,084,515

$175,765.45

16.21

2012

Public Interest Communications

$40,025

($13,716)

-34.27

2012

USA 800 Inc

$55,812

$36,314

65.07

Aggregate

$18,241,558

$2,043,563

11.20

 

In short, the solicitors raised $18.2 million and kept 89 percent of that—16.2 million. Meanwhile, HSUS only spends about 1 percent of the money it brings in on grants to pet shelters. Compared to other groups on the list of the 50 worst charities in America, HSUS is a certainly a good companion.

CIR has an online database of professional fundraisers that have been disciplined by states. Three of the six most disciplined fundraisers have been used by the Humane Society of the United States. We have written about them in the past; see our posts on InfoCision, Share Group, and Donor Services Group.

This massive investigation brings much-needed attention to abuse in the charity world. That’s good news for donors—and bad news for HSUS and those it does business with.

Posted on 06/17/2013 at 5:27 pm by Humane Watch Team.

Topics: Main

Permalink

  • April Turner

    What I just read really makes me very angry and sad at the same time. Knowing that NOW makes me happy for NOT SENDING THEM A DIME! I felt that something wasn’t right, I now KNOW the truth and for that THANK YOU HUMANE WATCH TEAM!! If you guys KNOW an honest organization that they DO HELP THE DOGS, CATS AND ALL OTHER ANIMALS please let me know. My funds are very low, by my North Carolina’s puts ( or whatever you want to call) it me in the POVERTY (LEVEL AND/OR MEASUREMENT)! So I may can’t give a lot of money but maybe time. If I can help call people for them whatever I can do.

    • WORSEKarma

      April, as always, support your local animal shelters. Volunteer, donate supplies, donate any money you can afford, etc. That’s the best possible thing you can do.