The nonprofit sector has responded with a mixture of both alarm and calls for action to the investigation that uncovered unsavory practices by the “50 worst” charities in America.
In the meantime, Oregon has become the first state to crack down on charities that fail to spend enough of their donors’ contributions on mission.
Last month, the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting published a report identifying 501(c)(3) charities around the country that gulled donors by adopting popular causes or calling themselves names similar to those of well-known charities.
“The nation’s 50 worst charities have paid their solicitors nearly $1 billion over the past 10 years that could have gone to charitable works,” the report said.
Last week, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that only one major nonprofit group, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, had issued a statement about the investigation, and it seemed more critical of the reporters than what they uncovered.
The association said the organizations named in the exposé “are such extreme cases that they are not representative of what a typical charity looks like or how it operates.”
The Chronicle reported that another organization, a startup called Charity Defense Council, had urged the investigative reporters “not to write a story based on overhead and fundraising ratios but to write a story based on impact.”
After the article appeared, the group dismissed it for “clearly using a headline to grab readers,” making it suspect from the start.
The Chronicle said several groups on the “50 worst” list had contested their rankings, while some not on the list had tried to put distance between themselves and the others.
On a more proactive note, Roger Craver, a direct-marketing expert, urged nonprofits to tackle the issue head on, according to the article. Remaining silent, he said, amounted to “nothing more—or less—than the collective turning of our backs on the donor.”