The good news is that Oregon Ranks in the Top 10 in volunteering and civic engagement. Volunteers in Oregon have demonstrated their commitment to strengthening their communities in a variety of ways and earned the #8 ranking among the 50 states, according to the Volunteering and Civic Life in America (VCLA).
However, in the charitable world there’s another side which is not so positive. The bad news rests squarely on organizations that front as charities but through greed and false promises they accept funds for good causes, but the money goes into the organizers’ pockets instead.
The Department of Justice’s 20 Worst Charities list is an annual review of organizations that spend the vast majority of their donations on fundraising and other administrative costs rather than charity.
All of the organizations profiled are registered to solicit in Oregon. However, none of the charities on the list are based in Oregon. As in previous years, many claim to support causes that have an emotional appeal, such as public safety, missing children, veterans and the terminally ill.
Charities are required to file periodic financial reports with the Oregon Department of Justice documenting their national fundraising and expenditures and explaining how donations were spent. Under guidelines issued by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), organizations should dedicate at least 65 percent of their funds to charitable programs, with no more than 35 percent toward administrative and fundraising costs.
Topping the list of the most unscrupulous is the Law Enforcement Education Program of Troy, Michigan. The group spent less than 2.7 percent of its $2.3 million in annual expenditures on creating and supporting educational programs for the law enforcement community – its purported charitable mission.
Florida had several groups on the devious list: American Medical Research Organization, Disable Police Offers Counseling Center, Woman to Woman Breast Cancer Foundation and Disable Police Officers of America. Beware of organizations based in Florida!
Oregon has no charities on the top list, but closer to home Everett, Washington has two unscrupulous groups: Operation Lookout National Center for Missing Youth and Caring for Our Children Foundation. Together they raised over $2 million and kept about 90 percent of it for themselves.
State law requires Oregon’s 18,000 registered charities to file periodic financial reports with the Attorney General disclosing how much money the organization raised and how the funds were spent.
Under current law, the Department of Justice cannot dictate how charities spend the funds they raise. So it is up to us, as contributors, to do some basic research to ensure our money is put to the use for which it is intended. Our job is to be vigilant in researching where we contribute.
Most donors have no idea where the money they contribute goes. They just assume, the charity is using it for its intended cause.
By volunteering with an organization you can be assured that your efforts are going directly to the cause you care about. You will also be made more aware of where intended funds go. Oregon’s volunteer rate reached an all-time high in 2011with nearly 1.1 million volunteers serving more than 136.7 million total hours, which is valued at more than $2.6 billion.
Oregon ranks 20th in the nation in financial donations. Reported in August 2012, Oregonians gave $1.5 billion for an average give of $2,163 and a total of 4.6 percent of income (which averaged $47,450).
Compare this to the State of Washington that ranked 33rd giving $3 billion for an average of $2,319. However their average income was $56,282 so they only contributed 4.1 percent of their discretionary funds.
We are not as generous as we could be: Utah ranks number one in contributions (10.6 percent of income), largely due to the Mormon tradition of tithing. However number two is Mississippi giving 7.2 percent of their disposable income which is averaged at $55,264.
In Central Oregon there are hundreds of reputable nonprofits doing exceptional work, collecting funds that actually help specific causes or those in need.
A list of local nonprofit organizations, there’s at least 150 in Central Oregon, can be found on the Cascade Business News website: www.cascadebusnews.com. pha
Free wise giving advice and charity reports are available through the following resources:
Better Business Bureau: akorww.bbb.org/charity
Oregon Department of Justice: www.doj.state.or.us/charigroup/pages/howto
Internal Revenue Service: irs.gov/charities-&-non-profits
Charity Navigator: charitynavigator.org