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A rollicking MUST READ for charities, fundraisers and regulators.

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Needless to say, we believe every word posted on the Hootville website is a gem to be read and treasured by our citizens. Then of course there are the genuine must-read items. This alarming piece of investigative journalism spotlighting America’s 50 worst charities is such an item and should be consumed by anyone who cares about fundraising and charities, those in the profession, serving on NFP boards or our new regulator the ACNC.

Rating Australian charities

Vital statistics, at donors' fingertips.

Sadly we didn’t write the article – the Tampa Bay Times in Florida did with the assistance of The Centre for Investigative Reporting. The paper has a pugnacious reputation and this multimedia extravaganza of data-driven journalism has award-winner written all over it.

Essentially America’s 50 worst charities have been named and shamed. These are ‘charities’ which raise much but donate little. They purport to represent all the right causes – sick kids, women with breast cancer and of course, this being America, police, fire and the military. Funds raised however, go mainly to the founders ands their kids, sons-in-law and best friends.

One note: when you read “solicitors” think fundraisers soliciting for donations by phone or mail not lawyersAnother note: this article is about downright corrupt, fraudulent charities – not merely the inept, lacklustre or meaningless.

It could never happen here – could it? Of course it could. And it does. The Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission (ACNC) should read this to know how the bad guys operate.

Though this media project is laudable as hell and will have impact (mainly by giving prospective donors reasons to not give) America is already blessed with an ongoing non-profit organisation devoted to breaking down charities’ balance sheets and rating their effectiveness. It’s called Charity Navigator and it is astounding. We’ve raved about it here before.

America's worst charities

James T. Reynolds Sr does not come out of the article looking very good.

Six thousand charities are rated and compared against rigorous criteria: admin costs, debt levels, fundraising costs, CEO salaries. Solid apples-with-apples comparisons. The site trawls the financial returns and annual reports and breaks them down. The information is available quickly and simply 24 hours a day.

Charity Navigator does not just concentrate on weeding out totally dodgy operators – it’s mission is far broader and more valuable than that. It rates 6000 charities showing the mediocre as well as the mendacious. It is all about transparency and effectiveness.

For instance – imagine if we could compare every Australian charity in terms of the CEO’s salary as a percentage of total turnover. What an interesting reads that would make.

We desperately need something just like Charity Navigator here in Australia. Now. It would do more to educate and reassure the giving public and weed out the half-baked and ill-conceived than just about anything else, perhaps even the ACNC.

(Thanks to the ever on-line Roslyn Grundy for alerting us to the article.)

 

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