CharityWatch REPORT
Issued September 2018

CharityWatch Articles & Donor Alerts

CharityWatch conducts research and publishes articles on charities. Current and archived articles we have written about this charity are posted here, as are select articles we have published with topics related to this charity or its cause. Visit our Articles page to view CharityWatch's entire library of posted articles.

CharityWatch Articles

WonderWork Co-Founder is No Mr. Wonderful

Brian Mullaney, the man who for charities like Smile Train and WonderWork, popularized the dubious fundraising advertising claim of "100% to Program," may face legal action and tax penalties, potentially for unjust enrichment, self-dealing, tax avoidance, and other claims related to his tenure as WonderWork co-founder, president, and CEO from 2011 to 2017. As part of WonderWork's bankruptcy proceedings, a Final Report of Examiner, filed in November 2017 by the court-appointed Examiner, detailed Mullaney's history of employing questionable fundraising practices to play on the emotions of empathetic donors, using most of the funds raised to pay for more fundraising while also enriching himself.

Have You Been Wondering About WonderWork?

Many CharityWatch members have recently been receiving a deluge of similar-looking direct mail solicitations from several charities with different, unfamiliar names: BurnRescue, FirstStep, and 20/20/20. The solicitations of these charities look similar to one another because all three are actually programs of a single charity, WonderWork, Inc.

CharityWatch Hall of Shame

The most important lesson to be learned from the following colorful stories of charity scoundrels is that regardless of how distinguished, well-connected and honored a charity leader is, he is only human and may be tempted to use the power and influence of his position to abuse the public's trust and thusly become the next member of the CharityWatch Hall of Shame.

A Wink and a Smile Train

100% of your donation goes toward programs -- 0% goes toward overhead. Many AIP members have seen the above language in solicitations from Smile Train, a charity that treats children born with cleft lip and palate. One may wonder how a group that spends about $15.5 million or 34% of its cash budget on overhead, and receives a B- from AIP, can make such a claim.

Solicitation Train

"Make one gift now and we'll never ask for another donation again!" If you receive a solicitation in the mail from any charity that makes the above promise, you would be wise to be skeptical. No donor should ever feel obligated to make a contribution in order to not be solicited. A fed-up donor contacted AIP to let us know that she had asked Smile Train, a charity well known for its ads of children with cleft lips and palates, in September and November of 2009 to remove her name from its mailing list. In early December of the same year she received a letter with Smile Train's promise that in exchange for a contribution they would cease further solicitations to her.

'100% to Program' Claims Confuse Donors

Claims made in charity solicitations and marketing materials that promise 100% of your donation will fund charitable programs certainly sound enticing as you consider which nonprofits will use your contributions most efficiently. While most people realize it is not possible to run a charity without spending some money to raise funds and manage an organization, some charities are very skilled at using semantics or creative accounting to convince donors otherwise in an effort to boost public image and fundraising dollars.

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