List highlights nonprofits that spend less than 30 percent of the funds they raise on charitable services or programs they claim to support. To help Oregonians participate in “Giving Tuesday” this year, Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblumissued the Department of Justice’s “20 Worst Charities” list, an annual review of organizations that spend the vast majority of the donations they receive on professional fundraising and administrative costs rather than charity.
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The Attorney General encourages Oregonians to be generous in support of charities during this holiday season, but to exercise care in their giving decisions. “The vast majority of charities do excellent work to benefit our communities,” said Attorney General Rosenblum. “My office is committed to ensuring the handful of unscrupulous charities out there don’t exploit Oregonians’ generosity and goodwill.”
Well-informed and proactive donors can avoid supporting organizations that spend little on their charitable missions. Rather than responding to an unsolicited telephone call or mailing, take time to identify the causes that matter most to you, and which charities are doing important work in those areas.
The Department of Justice has developed a Wise Giving brochure that offers some basic advice to help Oregonians make the right choices when donating to charity. The organizations on this year’s “Worst 20” list exemplify some “red flags,” including the use of names that are confusingly similar to more reputable charities, and the use of emotionally appealing, but vague, descriptions of the charities’ activities.
There are a number of resources available to assist donors in learning more about particular organizations. For example, Charity Navigator and CharityWatch compile information about charities and rate performance. Each charity that solicits donations in Oregon is required to register with the Department of Justice and to file annual financial reports that disclose how much money the organization raised and how its funds were spent. Summary information about registered charities is available at the Department’s website. Copies of full financial reports for registered charities can be obtained by calling the Department at 971-673-1880 and are also often available at www.Guidestar.org.
Ideally, charitable organizations should spend no more than 35 percent of their funds on fundraising and administration, with the remaining funds spent on charitable program activities. Most charities operate within this recommended range. The “Worst Charities” list focuses on the most egregious exceptions among the more than 18,000 charities registered with the Department.
For the second year in a row, the Law Enforcement Education Program tops the Attorney General’s 20 “Worst Charities” list. The Michigan-based organization spent, on average, a mere 3.1 percent of its $2,097,033 in annual expenditures on fulfilling its stated mission of providing educational programs for the law enforcement community.
This is the fourth year the Department has published this list. A new law was passed earlier this year encouraging Oregonians to avoid charities that are not using contributions appropriately. The Department of Justice is currently in the process of implementing this new legislation.
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 guidelinesissued by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), organizations should dedicate at least 65% of their funds to charitable programs, with no more than 35% toward administrative and fundraising costs.
The following charities registered to do business in Oregon failed to meet that standard based on a three year average of annual expenditures. This is not an exclusive list, but represents the 20 charities that fell farthest from the BBB guidelines. For more information, visit www.oregonattorneygeneral.gov