February 06, 2006

Checking Up

from - smijer

Got a fundraising call Sunday morning from the Disabled Veterans Associations. We just got our taxes done, I hadn't already invested anything in this particular type of organization, and my first instinct was to say "OK". But I wanted to make sure that this organization was legit first, so I asked the caller for the home office address, and looked them up on Charity Navigator.

Now, I already knew that organizations who rely heavily on telephone solicitation spend a lot on fundraising expenses - that the money would be more efficiently spent by a different organization. But, I didn't expect to be solicited at all by any other group, and I know myself well enough that it would be a long time before I sat down on my own and shopped for a disabled veterans organization to make a contribution.

But, I wasn't prepared for just how inefficient these guys really are. While I was talking to the fundraiser, I checked their page on the Navigator. At first glance, I thought the chart showed program expenses in yellow - nearly 3/4 of the pie - which is about right for this type of organization. A closer look told me that this was their fundraising expense. In other words, for every dollar a patron contributes, seventy cents is used to pay someone to call more people on a Sunday morning looking for money. That's plumb awful. I mentioned this to the caller, who insisted that 100% of the money went to the veterans, that he was employed by the DVA, and they did not farm out their fundraising to expensive outside companies. Well, I suspect (especially from the phrasing he used when he reiterated the first point) that the 100% figure is the amount that goes to the Association - not the amount that goes to programs, but I suggested that he send me literature in the mail so that I could review the numbers they provided. I told him that, if they had recently improved their efficiency, etc., then I might be persuaded to change my mind. I also mentioned to him that the group had not returned a donor privacy survey to Charity Navigator - also a concern to many. I suggested to him that his organization should look at their page on CN, verify that the information was correct (and provide better info if needed to the CN), and also consider adjusting their policies so that they would score better in the future.

He was pleasant and asked me for the URL. I hope that he passed this up the chain to someone in management, who can use the CN as a kind of feedback to help guide changes in the way they do their business. If so, then the Charity Navigator is doing some good work on behalf of the people served by organizations like DVA. If not, well, then they at least saved me a few dollars on a Sunday morning... And, I appreciate that a lot.

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Posted by smijer at February 6, 2006 07:24 AM
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