CLIFFVIEW PILOT HAS IT FIRST: Before you give to any charity: Check with the New Jersey Division of Community Affairs, which has done the legwork on how these organizations spend money.
Did you know that the AARP Foundation plows 90% of its expense account directly into free programs for those 50 and older, while other supposedly charitable organizations use a much larger chunk for their own salaries and other management-related expenses?
The Wounded Warrior Project also has distinguished itself by putting nearly 65% of the $35 million it spent last fiscal year to charitable programs. Fundraising expenses: 28.3%. Salaries and other costs: A measly 7.7%.
The project’s practices are literally right on the money, according to the Better Business Bureau’s “Standards for Charity Accountability.” The BBB says a charity should dedicate at least 65% of its expenses toward program activities, and no more than 35% toward fundraising, salaries and benefits.
“Potential donors are often completely unaware that certain charities spend 80% of their donations on nothing but fundraising, while others spend nearly every cent on actual charitable programs,” DCA Director Thomas R. Calcagni said.
“Before consumers donate their hard-earned dollars to a cause, they should know exactly how the charity in question will use their money,” Calcagni said.
So his staff has produced a list of the 10 charities most asked about by consumers who call the division’s hotline. You can find them and other information here: DCA Charity List
The Paralyzed Veterans of America, based in Washington, DC, dedicated 60% of its $111 million in expenses last fiscal year toward charitable causes. Its management and other costs: 8.2%. Only 15% of $10 million spent for the National September 11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center went to salaries and general costs last year, the DCA found. $5.4 million went directly to the project.
Ranking even higher was the USO (United Service Organization), of Arlington, VA. Total expenses for the fiscal year were $175 million, of which $138.7 million went directly to charitable programs. Management and general expenses? $12.6 million (7.2%).
Others who cracked “New Jersey’s Top 10 Most Inquired-About Charities” include the American Parkinson Disease Association, of Staten Island: Of its $10 million in expenses, charitable programs got nearly $7 million.
The Humane Society was equally impressive, spending only $4.5 million of its $123 million in expenses on salaries and related costs. Minus fundraising costs, the society put $94.7 million toward helping others.
Some of the DCA’s donating tips:
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website: NJDCA, or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.