WFTV Channel 9 in Orlando recently aired a story about a local charity claiming to buy Kevlar bullet-proof vests for K-9 officers in Central Florida. Unfortunately, after some research, it’s been discovered that not only is the charity, Florida Police Protection Group, not registered in the state of Florida, but they also have been under investigation by the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Even worse, the husband of President Ann Gullett, Brad, was investigated and penalized in the past for using a religious charitable cause to raise funds that never went to support its stated mission, according to WFTV Action 9 reporter Todd Ulrich. Prior to operating in Central Florida, the Gulletts managed a similar charity in south Florida; however, the BBB can only confirm the donation of one bullet-proof K-9 vest.
With so many animal lovers out there wanting to support animal welfare organizations, this brings to light a challenging question: how does one determine the best charities to support, either financially or as a volunteer?
There are several resources available to investigate charities and nonprofits prior to making donations. Be sure to review the charity’s information on CharityNavigator.org and Guidestar.org. Guidestar.org makes available to consumers a nonprofit’s IRS Form 990, which breaks down all its financial statements and allows you to analyze its revenue and expenses.
Additionally, find out whether the charity is registered with the BBB in your area. The BBB also provides a list of recommendations for selecting charities to give your money and time. A few widely accepted standards are listed below:
– Worthy charities or nonprofits will “spend at least 65 percent of its total expenses on program activities,” and many highly effective nonprofits will spend at least three-quarters of its budget on program activities.
– Worthy nonprofits will spend “no more than 35 percent of related contributions on fund-raising.” Another good measurement is the expense to raise $100 of donations. It should cost no more than $35 for a nonprofit to raise $100 in funds. An exceptional charity will be able to raise $100 in donations for no more than $25 in fund-raising activities.
– Charities should not stockpile more than three years of funding that could be used toward program activities that actually benefit their stated purpose.
Lastly, an unbiased organization called the American Institute of Philanthropy produces a guide three times yearly, the Charity Watchdog Report, which consumers may order online for a $3 fee for postage and handling.
All in all, beware of tear-jerking advertisements and heartwarming stories. While it is important to find a charity or cause you can be passionate about, it is even more important to logically and analytically select a charity that is meeting its stated goals and objectives, or your time and money will go to waste.