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:
Find out whether the charity is registered in New Jersey, or is exempt from having to register (Certain religious and educational organizations, and charities whose annual income includes less than $10,000 in public contributions and fundraising, are exempt from having to register with the state).
Find out how much the charity spent during recent fiscal years on program costs, management costs, and fundraising.
Learn about the charity’s stated mission.
Don’t hesitate to ask the charity for all of that information. If you’re rejected, check the DCA’s charity page.
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.
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