Charities aren’t always charitable

It’s the season to be generous, but if you follow the news you are aware that Donald J. Trump just had to pay $2,000,000 to charities his charitable foundation had ripped off. Also, he had to admit his misdeeds in court and his foundation has had its doors slammed shut for the long term.

There’s nothing new about charities not being charitable. Years ago I stopped giving to the Red Cross after learning that a huge portion of its income went to pay for fundraising and administrative cost. There were some big paychecks being handed out at the top.

People who abuse the people’s need to give come in all shapes and sizes and just because they evoke the name of religion doesn’t make them saints. Just recently the Wall Street Journal reported that a Catholic charity called Peter’s Pence was discovered diverting as much as 90% of its received donations ($55 million last year) to “fill in the Vatican’s budget deficit.” That deficit has swollen in large part by the sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the church.

In times of crisis and disaster, we would often write a check to the Salvation Army. That stopped several years ago when we learned that the SA is hesitant about offering help to the LGBTQ community.

So, how does one know if a charity is valid and how much is actually going to charity and how much to the pockets of administrators? There are several websites that review charities and one of the largest is Charity Navigator. You simply go to their site and type in the name of a charity and you’ll receive back the results of their investigations. A problem, however, is that since religions are tax-exempt they are not required to make their finances publically known. If you go to their site and look for info about the SA you’ll get no results, just a reminder that religions aren’t accountable. However, the Red Cross seems to have cleaned up its act because a search of their rating now shows they are 100% transparent and the larger portion of their donations go to their charitable projects.

If Mel Brooks hadn’t dropped and broken the third slab of commandments the 11th commandment might have read, “And thou shall donate, but verify. first”

And, BTW, one of the things we do to help ensure our charity dollars actually go to the entended cause is to donate almost exclusively to local organizations. We make an automatic monthly donation to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital but the remainder usually stays in Highland County.



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