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BLOG: Top 10 Most Inquired About Charities

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 By Jim Donovan:  Just because a charity claims to help those in need, that doesn’t mean they all deliver the goods.   So that is why the New Jersey Attorney General is reminding consumers to Investigate Before You Donate.

With very similar and inspiring names – Disabled American Veterans; Disabled Veterans National Foundation; Disabled Veterans Services; Paralyzed Veterans of America; Veterans Support Foundation; and Wounded Warrior Project – dominate the list of New Jersey’s “Top 10 Most Inquired-About Charities” for the first half of 2012.

Though they have nearly identical names and mission statements, the groups are not equal when it comes to the way they spend donations made by consumers.

When Veterans Support Foundation, of Silver Spring, MD, spent money during its most recent reported fiscal year, the group dedicated just 25 cents of each dollar toward its stated mission to improve the lives of America’s Vietnam-era veterans.  The organization spent 44 cents of each dollar on fundraising, and 31 cents on management and general costs.

 By contrast, Disabled American Veterans, of Cold Spring, KY, dedicated 69 cents of each dollar toward its stated mission to help veterans and their families obtain benefits and services.  The organization spent 26 cents of each dollar on fundraising, and 5 cents on management and general costs.

 Spending by the other veterans groups fell in between those two extremes.

The biannual list of New Jersey’s Top 10 Most Inquired-About Charities is drawn from consumer calls to the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Charities Registration Hotline, 973-504-6215.

The list provides information on the 10 charities most often asked about by consumers who called the Hotline from January through June 2012. A large number of inquiries may mean a charity solicited donations or held a campaign drive during the months in question.

The Better Business Bureau’s Standards for Charity Accountability state that a charity should dedicate at least 65 percent of its expenses toward program activities, and no more than 35 percent toward fundraising. Consumers can compare that guideline with the expenditure reports that State-registered charities must provide annually to the Division of Consumer Affairs.

Each of the Top 10 Most-Inquired-About Charities is listed below, beginning with those that dedicated the smallest percentage of their expenditures to charitable programs, according to their most recent fiscal year reports. Click on each charity’s name to see the full pie chart and additional information.

Veterans Support Foundation, of Silver Spring, MD

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 9/30/11:  $2,657,858

Charitable program expenses:  24.6 percent

Fundraising expenses:  44.2 percent

Management and general expenses:  31.2 percent

Cancer Support Services, of Dearborn, MI

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/10:  $10,996,256

Charitable program expenses:  43.5 percent

Fundraising expenses:  51.7 percent

Management and general expenses:  4.8 percent

Disabled Veterans Services, of Pompano Beach, FL

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/10:  $4,552,968

Charitable program expenses:  47.5 percent

Fundraising expenses:  49.6 percent

Management and general expenses:  2.8 percent

Disabled Veterans National Foundation, of Washington, DC

 Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/10:  $30,557,458

Charitable program expenses:  56.8 percent

Fundraising expenses:  35.3 percent

Management and general expenses:  7.9 percent

Paralyzed Veterans of America, of Washington, DC

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 9/30/11:  $114,656,518

Charitable program expenses:  61.7 percent

Fundraising expenses:  31.4 percent

Management and general expenses:  6.9 percent

National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, of Washington, DC

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 3/31/11:  $26,500,070

Charitable program expenses:  63.8 percent

Fundraising expenses:  5.8 percent

Management and general expenses:  30.4 percent

Wounded Warrior Project, of Jacksonville, FL

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 9/30/10:  $34,843,801

Charitable program expenses:  64.1 percent

Fundraising expenses:  28.3 percent

Management and general expenses:  7.7 percent

Disabled American Veterans, of Cold Spring, KY

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/10:  $125,556,794

Charitable program expenses:  69.2 percent

Fundraising expenses:  25.9 percent

Management and general expenses:  4.9 percent

United Service Organizations, of Arlington, VA

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/11:  $115,763,245

Charitable program expenses:   70.6 percent

Fundraising expenses:  17.9 percent

Management and general expenses:  11.5 percent

Humane Society of the United States, of Washington, DC

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/10:  $127,994,681

Charitable program expenses:  76.1 percent

Fundraising expenses:  20.2 percent

Management and general expenses:  3.7 percent

As part of its ongoing Investigate Before You Donate campaign, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs encourages New Jersey consumers to learn about charities before making a donation.

  • 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.

 Consumers can also obtain this information from the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.  Visit the Division’s Charities Registration page at  www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov;  call the Division’s Charities Hotline at 973-504-6215 during regular business hours; or use the Division’s free “New Jersey Charity Search” smartphone app, available for download at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/new-jersey-charity-search/id503535534?ls=1&mt=8.

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