*NOTE: This post is directly related to New Jersey, but can be used as a template nationwide (you’ll get the idea). NJ Consumer Affairs Division released info about nonprofits invoking law enforcement groups, therefore misleading the donors and avoiding the transparency issue.
The Italian American Police Society of New Jersey, which does business as the New Jersey Police Officers Foundation. The U.S. Deputy Sheriffs Association. The New Jersey Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association.
Each of these nonprofit groups invokes the name of law enforcement while soliciting charitable donations in New Jersey. But recent fiscal year reports indicate that when they spent donors’ money, relatively small percentages went toward any charitable programs. Most of the money was spent on fundraising.
In observance of National Consumer Protection Week, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs is once again reminding consumers to Investigate Before You Donate, and learn how a charity intends on spending your money before you hand over any donation dollars.
Continuing its commitment to bring transparency to the ways non-profit organizations use donated money, the Division today released the latest list of New Jersey’s Top 10 Most Inquired-About Charities, with pie charts illustrating each charity’s spending during its most recent fiscal year report, at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/charity/inquired/#list.
“This bi-monthly publication by the Division of Consumer Affairs can be an important tool for consumers considering where best to direct their charitable giving,” said Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa. “Charities should be forthcoming with the very same information. If they refuse to provide it, or if the information doesn’t match up with what the Division has on record, consumers should be suspicious.”
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.
“Consumers are entitled to know that some charities to which they may consider donating, are less charitable than others,” said Thomas R. Calcagni, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “As this list demonstrates, there are organizations that will invoke law enforcement or other good causes, but dedicate as little as 10 cents of each dollar they spend to charitable programs, with the remainder going directly into the well-lined pockets of professional fundraisers. This may not be prohibited by law, but it’s certainly something about which potential donors deserve full disclosure.”
When the Lyndhurst-based Italian American Police Society of New Jersey, also known as the New Jersey Police Officers Foundation, spent donors’ money during its most recent fiscal year, only 11 cents of each dollar went toward the group’s stated mission to help other charities and advance the Italian-American community. The bulk of each dollar – 87 cents – was spent on fundraising.
The U.S. Deputy Sheriffs Association, of Houston, Texas, states that it provides law enforcement support, training, education, and equipment to law enforcement agencies, as well as financial aid to families of slain officers and grants to underfunded county law enforcement agencies. According to the organization’s most recent filing with the Division, it spent just 15 cents of each dollar on charitable programs and 79 cents on fundraising.
According to its stated mission, the New Jersey Narcotics Officers Foundation, of Nutley, promotes and encourages mutual cooperation, discussion, and interest between law enforcement agencies, and conducts seminars, conferences, and research into enforcement and education methods for the control of drug abuse. As indicated in its most recent filing with the Division, it spent 33 cents of each dollar on charitable programs, and 63 cents on fundraising.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, spent 85 cents of each dollar on charitable programs supporting its stated mission, to provide education, training, and support for cancer prevention, recovery, and survival. The organization spent just 10 cents of each dollar on fundraising.
The list of New Jersey’s Top 10 Most Inquired-About Charities is drawn from consumers’ calls to the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Charities Registration Hotline, 1-973-504-6215. Today’s list provides information on the 10 charities most often asked about by consumers who called the Hotline from December 2011 through January 2012. A large number of inquiries may mean a charity solicited donations or held a campaign drive during the months in question.
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. For example:
- 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 may obtain information about a charity in several ways. They can ask the charity itself (reputable charities encourage you to do so); visit the charity’s website; visit the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs’ Charities Registration page at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov; or call the Division’s Charities Hotline at 1-973-504-6215 during regular business hours.