Special Report: America’s 50 Worst Charities Named

A collaboration between the Tampa Bay Times, CNN, and The Center for Investigative Reporting has resulted in a list of “America’s Worst Charities.” In addition to producing a list of the 50 worst charities, the report analyzes the activities of the charities 

Worst Charities LogoThe report found that $1.4 billion in donations went to the 50 worst charities over the past 10 years. Of that, $970.6 million went to paid solicitors while $380.3 million went to charities. However, a scant $49.1 million went to direct aid.

In other words, the investigation found that just 3.5 percent of donations to the 50 worst charities went to services fulfilling charitable mission.

Watchdog groups say that no more than 35 percent of donations should go to fundraising expenses. Among the 50 worst charities, 69 percent of donations were spent on professional solicitation companies alone!

The report accuses some of the 50 worst charities of lying to donors about how their donations will be used, employing executives who take multiple salaries and/or who are also paid as consultants, contracting with outside fundraising companies owned by friends, family members, or the executives themselves. The report even accuses some of the 50 worst charities of using “accounting tricks” to inflate the value of the charitable work they are doing.

The 50 worst charities contract with a variety of professional solicitation companies. The report provides a list of these companies. Some on the list actually created the charity that they raise money for. Others on the list are fundraising companies that have enjoyed good reputations despite working for some clients who have made the 50 worst charities list.

I encourage all ethical development professionals to join me in applauding the report and denouncing the so-called charities that have been identified. In addition, ethical nonprofit organizations should think twice before agreeing to contract with any professional solicitation company that serves a charity on the list.

Furthermore, I call on my fellow consultants and professional solicitors to stop working for unethical nonprofit organizations. Yes, there are times when a fundraising campaign may yield little or no immediate net return to the charity. However, when that is consistently the case, there is a problem. Like it or not, the reputations of professional fundraising companies can and should be linked to reputations of the clients they choose to serve.

As a profession, we must do more to self-regulate. If we do not, we can expect others to fill the vacuum. The investigative report is one example of how those outside the nonprofit arena are filling that vacuum. It’s only a matter of time before government regulators become even more engaged.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?


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3 Responses to “Special Report: America’s 50 Worst Charities Named”

  1. Michael, I cannot agree with you more. People need to know that their gifts will be used properly and effectively. When organizations like those named in the article abuse the trust of donors, they give a black eye to the ethical organizations that do what they are supposed to do. I believe it is important to expose these questionable organizations, but at the same time, we must continue to promote good organizations as well.


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