Make Sure Your Donation Really Benefits Alzheimer's Charity
About two years ago, I received a phone call asking me to send out requests to my neighbors asking them to make donations to a specific charity. I had agreed to do this once before for one charity, but this particular call was for a charity that I don’t normally support. I replied to the person who had called that I appreciated the offer, but that at this point, my limited time was focused on primarily supporting charities that work with Alzheimer’s disease. I hung up the phone and had just resumed my work when the phone rang again. Turns out it was a similar request to mail out donation requests, but this time it was for an Alzheimer’s charity. I honestly felt like I had been had since it was obviously the same company calling who had passed my information on to another person in the company assigned to work with the Alzheimer’s chamber and said that I was an easy and willing mark. I told the person on the phone who was requesting that I mail the batch of letters on behalf of the Alzheimer’s charity, “No, thank you!” It turns out that I may have been right.
A recent story by Bloomberg News described a similar scenario where a woman was asked to send a solicitation to 15 of her neighbors for the American Diabetes Association. The woman agreed to do so, guessing that approximately 70-80 percent of the donations her neighbors would make based on this solicitation would go to diabetes research. She was provided with pre-printed fundraising letters and was asked to just address and stamp them before putting them into the mail. She didn’t even have to make a donation. The story, however, pointed out that instead, 80 percent of those “donations” would go to InfoCision Management Corp., a company that directed the telephone solicitors who made that initial call.
In turns out that a number of well-known charities such as the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and March of Dimes Foundation have similar agreements with InfoCision. For instance, the American Cancer Society (ACS) had a contract with the company from 1999-2011. InfoCision raised more than $5 million for this charity in fiscal year 2010; however, ACS’s tax filings showed that none of those funds were used for cancer research or to assist patients. Instead, InfoCision retained 100 percent of the funds that were raised from this neighbor-to-neighbor solicitation program and also recouped $113,006 in fees from the ACS.
So how can you make sure that your hard-earned money makes a difference for the charity that you support? Here’s what I’d suggest:
- Avoid the middle man. If you’re getting a call soliciting for a charity or asking you to contact your neighbors, be sure to ask it they work directly for the non-profit or whether they are a company that is hired by the charity to make the calls. Admittedly, some non-profits do hold their own telethons. However, based on the Bloomberg story, I’ve decided that I’m only going to give directly to the non-profit instead of participating in these phone solicitations. And I am not going to send out requests to my neighbors for donations.
- Do your homework about the charity. As I wrote in a previous sharepost, you can check out the viability of a charity through Charity Navigator. This particular organization evaluates the financial health, accountability and transparency of the largest charities in the United States.
- If you want to take a “the more, the merrier approach” and get a group involved, see if there are any opportunities for team fundraising through the charity of your choice. For example, I started walking in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s event, which happened to be scheduled one month after Mom died. A friend joined me in the 2007 walk and many relatives and friends made donations in memory of Mom. I found that participating in this effort gave me a feeling of camaraderie and mission by raising funds for something I think is important. Since then, I’ve gotten together a team to walk in this event every year. Some members of our team raise funds, some don’t, but all are committed to fighting Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s really important to support non-profits that are working on a particular cause. However, I hope you’ll agree that it’s important to do your homework and to make sure that the funds that you do donate are, indeed, going to research or services, and not into the pockets of a company that is making the solicitation calls.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Evans, D. (2012). Charities deceive donors unaware money goes to a telemarketer. Bloomberg News.