By Scott Davis Former Los Angeles Raider- NFL
Earlier this year 4 cancer charities- Cancer Fund of America along with 3 of its affiliated groups - were accused by the Federal Trade Commission of scamming charity donors- people like you and I- out of $187 million during a period between 2008 and extending through 2012. Little of that money was alleged to have gone everywhere but the actual cancer cause.
We’ve touched on such travesties in the past but it bears a revisit periodically if simply to remind folks that it is your individual responsibility, especially in light of these horrendous stories, to actively vet and help others vet your chosen charities.
Your dollars are critical in the fight that charities lead to make a difference. In the presidential debate the other evening, Oct 28,2015, Mike Huckabee reminded us all of the glaring reality that we have a long way to go in tackling the major illnesses that plague our people including cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
Daniel Borochoff is the president and founder of a philanthropy watchdog group called CharityWatch. He is correct when he tells people not to squander charitable dollars. If we are uninformed we might take offense to a such statement leaving us offended by the gesture that helping a charitable cause is likened to squandering money. But his message is based on fact and it should empower donors to be more vigilant. Mr. Borochoff goes on to mention that essentially just because a charity organization- or one that masks as a charity- has an official website that is full of praise for their "work" and “cause” it does not mean you should just automatically assume it’s the gospel truth.
Back to that case of corrupt Charities mentioned above. A few of the defendants called out by federal officials chose to settle with their accusers. Other aspects of the case against alleged fraudsters has continued and includes additional individuals associated with both Cancer Fund of America and an affiliated group Cancer Support Services.
This very unfortunate and somewhat rare example of charities duping the kindhearted is a stark reminder that we all must be vigilant in holding such organizations responsible and accountable through and through. Modern times give us all access to a wealth of information and therefore, and fortunately so, donors are more active in researching their selected charities. the result is that Charities are therefore pressured, and rightfully so, to provide the public with deeper information about ongoing organizational activities.
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are about 1.5 million tax-exempt organizations, of which more than 1 million are public charities. an organization called Giving USA estimates that in 2013, charitable contributions by individuals, foundations, bequests and corporations reached more than $335 billion. Religious organizations received the lion's share ($105.5 billion). With that kind of money flowing into charities you bet we better continue to keep a watchful eye on theses groups. It's borderline negligence if we don’t take the extra time to keep us all informed.
There are any number of good sources to keep in mind when getting involved with and vetting charities. Consider financial advisers who can assist charity inclined donors to help vet the charities of interest. Ask around do some research and don't be afraid to approach a financial adviser about providing a thorough checklist to help further clarify your goals. Many times you can start with consulting/ charity rating websites such as GuideStar, GiveWell, CharityNavigator and CharityWatch. They all offer excellent information, statistics, and financial data on which are part of their rating process of charities. Additionally "The Better Business Bureau" offers access to information about charities. Visit them at Wise Giving Alliance at give.org.
A great example of the fine work top rating services provide is CharityWatch. They had been giving Cancer Fund of America a big fat “F” grade going back to and consistently since 1993. The point is clear that the information is available; we all just have to pay close attention. Collectively the power resides with us as individuals.