Monday, January 24, 2011

When charity just isn't

I just got off the phone after being solicited by a charity raising money to provide pain medicine and chemotherapy for women with breast cancer who cannot afford their treatment.

We do give a number of organizations and causes money every year--it's part of what I consider my membership fee for being a member of the human race, and for the good fortune I've had in my life.

This seemed like a cause well aligned with my personal life and beliefs.



But I always ask what percentage of my donation goes to the charity and what goes to overhead.

The woman I was speaking with handed me off to a male supervisor who informed me it was an 80/20 split.  Well, 20% overhead is a bit high in my mind--I tend to look at Charity Navigator to look at how effective and efficient the charity is before I give money--and then my mouth dropped to the floor.

It wasn't 80% to the charity.

It was 80% to the fundraisers.

Only 20 cents of every dollar raised is used to help women pay for their medicine.

Am I crazy that I think something is seriously wrong with this picture?

It feels like there is a scam going on.  So much money flowing to fundraisers, all in the name of charity and pulling at our heartstrings. How can they justify that kind of upside down accounting? 

I just don't know.  I am appalled.


  1. It sounds like a complete rip off!

  2. Leave it to you to track down a web site giving information about charitable donations. We support so many charities that now, I feel duty bound, to do what you did and look at the percentage of dollars going to the charity. Thank you, again, for this important information.


  3. Having looked up a few of the charities we support, I wonder if you misread the results of your search. "Program expenses" is what money goes to the programs in the charity. For example, PETA (with only 2 stars) spends 80% of the donated money on the organization. DELTA Rescue (with 4 stars) spends 89% on their programs. Check again and see if I'm correct!

  4. Oh, no, I didn't get this from charity navigator, but from the manager who was the person who told me that only 20% of every dollar raised went to the charity.

    Apparently, there is a fund raising organization that raises money for several 'charities' with extremely high overheads. According to documents from Washington State, the charity that solicited me, "The Breast Cancer Society, inc" is solicited for by Associated Community Services which averaged a 41% pass through rate to the charity in 2009.