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Journalists Consult CharityWatch for Independent Commentary and Analysis

   Jan 09, 2023

CharityWatch regularly works with the media and lends our expertise to provide insightful commentary for articles, help with interpreting charity audited financial statements and tax filings, and context for understanding broader issues affecting the nonprofit sector.

 Here is a sampling of our many contributions to TV, radio, podcast, and print news stories in 2022.


"'There are so many red flags here, it's hard to keep score,' said CharityWatch's executive director Laurie Styron. 'Taxpayers who subsidize the existence of public charities also have a stake in knowing that nonprofits aren't being used to forward the personal interests of the people running it.'"

"'One person can't govern themselves. There is no board. There is no independence. There are no checks and balances against conflict or competing interests.'"

"'The reporting guidance is both rules-based and principles-based, and in some cases requires the governing body of a charity to make judgement calls in good faith with respect to whether or not the charity truly has the ability to make decisions independently of for-profit interests -- particularly when a charity has a small board and there is shared governance between the nonprofit and the for-profit,' Styron said."

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, commenting on concerns about the Washington Commanders Charitable Foundation.

         ESPN, 12/22/2022

"'Well anytime there's a middle person in between your donation and the charity there is a little bit more of a risk that your donation won't get to the organization or that it won't get to the organization [in] a timely manner,' said Laurie Styron, Executive Director, CharityWatch."

"If everything's above board that store [is] really just acting like an agent,' said Styron."

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, warns that while charity checkout donations can create windfalls for some charities, they are not without dangers for donors.

         KPRC2/Click2Houston NBC, 12/19/2022

“'A nonprofit, in theory, should determine appropriate compensation for an organization's leader by researching the market rate for someone with the relevant education, skills and experience needed to competently perform the job at hand,' said Laurie Styron, executive director of Charity Watch, a charity watchdog." 

 “'In some cases, there is circular reasoning applied where a nonprofit working in a particular cause may look at the compensation levels of the leaders at other nonprofits working in that same cause to justify higher pay for its own leader,' Styron said. 'This is often done even in cases where someone competent could be found to do the job for far less.'”

 - CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, comments on how some nonprofits cherry pick data as a means of justifying high salaries and compensation packages. 

           USA TODAY, 12/16/2022

"’The elevator pitch that I always give people is to be proactive. Most people, the number one reason they donate is because they're asked. But a lot of us have a lot of trouble saying 'no.' Especially here in the Midwest, we have a lot of trouble saying 'no.' So the best way to avoid scams is really to just be proactive. Ask yourself what causes are the most important to me [and] identify efficient charities working in those causes. Now you've whittled it down to probably three or four. Dig into the programs, you know. Some charities focus on raising awareness for a cause. Other ones provide direct grants, direct support, more active types of programs. So, you as the donor are in control as long as you are more proactive rather than reactive.’" 

"’Well, there are over 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States. It's really tough to dig into all of them because it's very time-intensive to really dig into all the audits and the tax filings and all the documentation. And it's pretty easy for charities to...use creative accounting to make themselves appear more efficient than they really are. But there are some general tips you can follow...’" 

CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, appears on PBS station WTTW's Chicago Tonight program to provide Giving Tuesday and holiday giving tips to help donors identify efficient charities to support.

           WTTW's Chicago Tonight program, 11/29/2022

"This is peak time for scammers, some of them being professionals who do scamming as a full-time job. This means that all of us have to be on extra alert this time of year."

"We [CharityWatch] have a list of Top-Rated charities organized by cause."

"A charity could spend $1 of your $100 donation on its programs and be operating perfectly within the law. It's not enough to know if a charity is 'legitimate.'"

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, encourages donors to avoid charity scams this holiday season by referring to CharityWatch's list of Top-Rated charities by cause.

          WENY News, 11/29/2022

"'There are a lot of very 'scammy' charities out there that sort of exist just to enrich fundraising companies, and they will target causes that are really popular,' says Laurie Styron, the executive director of CharityWatch..."

"According to Styron, there is a big difference between being a 'good' non-profit and a 'legitimate' one. To be 'legitimate,' a charity just has to be registered and in good standing with the IRS. 'There are no laws mandating that a charity has to spend a minimum percentage of your donation on their programs, so the difference between an outright fraud--a scammer--and a legitimate, but highly inefficient charity might only be the difference between none of your donation being spent on programs and 1% or 2% of your donation being spent on programs,' she said."

"It's also important to avoid making decisions on a tight deadline or under pressure. 'Instead of waiting to be asked and then having to react and try to understand if that's a worthy cause or a worthy person to help, be proactive,' Styron suggested. 'Think about what's important to you. Find a good charity working in that cause and support that organization.'"

CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, reminds donors that just because a charity is "legitimate" does not necessarily mean it will use your donations the way you intend.

           Arizona's Family CBS 5 & 3 TV, 11/29/2022

"We see so many people, they get taken in by emotional appeals of sad photos of...injured animals, or homeless veterans, or children with cancer. And these images are extremely compelling. And, you know, to quell that emotional discomfort, a lot of us, we make a donation and we feel like we've done something good. But, in fact, the most predatory people, they're going to target those highly popular causes." 

"Just make sure that you trust the person running [the charity]...understand how many people are on the board of directors. Make sure that it's not a one person operation and that there are some checks and balances in place and some oversight. And, definitely ask, how is my money going to be spent? Because, you know, you do, all of us, right? We want most of our donation to be spent really funding the programs and we want charities to keep their overhead costs in check--reasonable, but not outrageous." 

CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, is interviewed by KOAA 5's Patrick Nelson about how to find the best charities while avoiding scams this Giving Tuesday and throughout the holiday giving season. Don't waste your donations!

           KOAA News5, 11/29/2022

"'Public charities are not supposed to be engaging in substantial lobbying activities, and they risk their tax-exempt status when they don't follow the rules,' Laurie Styron, executive director of CharityWatch, told the Washington Examiner." 

"'When charities do engage in small amounts of lobbying activities, they are required to report these to the public in their annual tax filings so that donors know what types of activities they are funding and so that taxpayers know what types of activities they are subsidizing,' Styron said." 

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, discusses reporting requirements and limits on lobbying for 501(c)(3) public charities, including Alianza Americas.

           Washington Examiner, 11/22/2022

“Sometimes, charities will market matching gift campaigns that involve a deadline that’s fast approaching.”


“’It encourages you to give without giving you time to research whether the charity will use your donation efficiently or not,’ said Laurie Styron, executive director of CharityWatch.”


 “’It’s much better to step back and think about the causes you care about … and target those charities,’ Styron said. ‘If it’s high pressure, it’s usually not a good charity,’ she said.”


 “Sometimes, individuals are solicited by someone who says they are raising money on behalf of a charity, but are collecting the money themselves.”


“In those cases, you’d need to know whether the person definitely is going to pass on the money raised to the charity.”


“’Even if it’s a legitimate middle person or donation processor, they might be taking significant administrative or processing fees out of your donation,’ Styron said.”


 “’Sometimes, a person or group will take the name of a highly popular charity name and slightly change it,’ Styron said.”


“’A lot of times, scammy charities will leverage a familiar-sounding name to try to scam you out of your money,’ she said. For instance, they might add ‘foundation’ at the end of a charity’s name or ‘American’ in front of the name to make it sound like a charity that is broadly trusted.”


-CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, provides giving tips for Giving Tuesday and the 2022 holiday season to help donors target the best charities to support. 

CNBC, 11/17/2022

"'A charity's board members have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the charity at all times,' Styron added. 'Doing so becomes more complicated when there are competing interests between nonprofit and for-profit legal entities, particularly when the two organizations share key staff who have to balance their fiduciary duties between the two. It has the potential to get tricky if there aren't adequate safeguards in place.'"

"'If the charity is granting or reimbursing funds to the for-profit entity, and the for-profit is then paying money to other companies or individuals, there is a danger that charitable dollars are indirectly subsidizing the expenses of the for-profit,' she added. 'Money is fungible.'"

"'Charities have pretty wide latitude to decide what programs they want to conduct without breaking any laws or hard rules,' Styron told The Daily Beast. 'But there is still a question of whether or not it is ethical for a charity to focus so much of its resources on programs that provide publicity for its founder. The answer really depends on how much public good is being provided and whether or not this publicity is what is driving the charity's decisions about what programs to conduct.'"

"'A lot of philanthropy is some combination of providing public good while garnering public goodwill for a charity's funders,' Styron said. 'But in this case, the person who appears to be benefiting from the public goodwill isn't providing significant funding to the organization.'"

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, commenting on the relationship between Tom Brady's charitable foundation and for-profit company, TB12, Inc.

           The Daily Beast, 11/17/2022

"'Any reasonable person who visits this site will immediately assume it's a nonprofit based on the presentation and all the nonprofit and social justice buzzwords that are incorporated throughout its content,' said Laurie Styron, executive director of CharityWatch, a nonprofit watchdog group. 'If it is a for-profit, or if it is an aspiring nonprofit in the process of applying for tax-exempt status, it should explicitly communicate this information on its website so that people can make an informed decision about whether or not they want to fund it.'" 

"It's a problem that the public has to guess, dig, or invest time in researching the legal status of an organization that is soliciting funding for social justice or other charitable causes,' said Styron. 'Just tell us.'" 

- With respect to Race2Dinner, CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, urges those raising money in the name of social justice causes to be transparent about their non-profit or for-profit status.

           The New York Post, 11/10/2022

"Still, the MPTF's boards of directors and governors — the former focused on its administration, the latter on fundraising — also have a fiduciary duty to 'act in the best interest of the nonprofit that they're overseeing,' says Laurie Styron, executive director of nonprofit watchdog CharityWatch." 

"A concerning aspect of the MPTF's predicament, notes Styron, is that it 'has made some pretty serious operations obligations for ongoing care of people,' and that retracting any services in the face of financial difficulties would be tricky." 

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, comments on money troubles at the Motion Picture Television Fund.

           The Hollywood Reporter, 11/08/2022

"But using charitable donations for personal benefit is still wrong, she said. 'A foundation is not a personal piggy bank for someone who's running it, no matter how hard-working they are.'" 

"Styron lamented that state agencies such as the Attorney General's office and Arizona Corporation Commission did not do more to investigate and hold RecFX Foundation accountable if the allegations were confirmed. 'For the state to basically shrug its shoulders is pretty obnoxious,' she said. 'This is really a shame.'" 

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, weighing in on Arizona charity CEO who lied about military service and conned veterans out of thousands of dollars, according to the charity's former supporters.

           Arizona Republic, 10/24/2022

"'You can't say you're raising money for one purpose and then spend it on something totally different,' Laurie Styron, executive director of CharityWatch, told The Athletic. 'Charities have an ethical obligation, and in some cases a legal obligation, to fulfill the intentions of its donors in the way funds are spent.'"

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, comments on the Brett Favre charity scandal.

            E! Entertainment News, 10/15/2022

"One of the reasons that crowdfunding is so incredibly appealing is that it typically centers on one individual or one family,' said Laurie Styron, with the watchdog organization CharityWatch. 'It gives us that very personal, emotional connection, and it makes us feel like when we give money, it really will make an impact and help the person.'"

"But Styron says who you're helping may not be who you think it is. 'You don't really know if the person you're donating to could be located 6,000 miles away on a computer farm somewhere. There are people at the ready in any disaster to exploit it as a fundraising opportunity to scam you,' Styron said."

"'If you insist on donating through a crowdfunding campaign - at a minimum - do a reverse image search,' Styron said. 'Make sure that the images you're seeing or the story that you're hearing hasn't been repeated in multiple places across a lot of platforms. That's usually one sign that it could be a highly sophisticated type of scam.'"

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, warns donors about the dangers of donating through crowdfunding websites in response to natural disasters.

           Newsy, 10/06/2022

"'Meaning, that if this charity decided that it wanted to help past grant recipients rectify some of these issues that they're having with their housing,' said Styron, ' I don't see anything in the financial reporting that would prevent them from doing that.'"

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, says that affordable housing nonprofit with many years' worth of assets on hand could choose to help past participants of its housing program if it wanted to.

            CBS KUTV News, 10/03/2022

"'Resist the urge to give impulsively,' says CharityWatch executive director, Laurie Styron. 'If you donate to a charity and don't know how it's going to be used that's not a great way to give. That's not a great way to ensure that your donation will actually make an impact,' she says."

"Many people like to help many charities, rather than donating to only one or two. Styron encourages donors to rethink this approach. 'When you donate very small amounts of money to a lot of different charities, less of your donation is available for programs because ... much of it gets eaten up in these administrative fees,' Styron told DC News Now."

"'One particular victim of a disaster can end up with $1 million or more, whereas people in the exact same situation, affected negatively by the exact same tragedy, sometimes have no help at all,' Styron warned. 'This can occur when the tragic story of one individual or family goes viral or is highly publicized by media, resulting in an outpouring of donations directed to only a few victims via a crowdfunding campaign or other medium. A better way to ensure that your donation  is used not only efficiently and effectively, but also equitably, is to identify a worthy charity to support that is equipped to provide boots-on-the-ground aid to all of the victims of a disaster.'"

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, talks to  D.C. News Now about Hurricane Ian giving, what to avoid, and how to make sure your donation makes a real impact.

           D.C. News Now, 09/29/2022

"'If the charity told donors it was raising money for breast cancer but then spends the resulting donations on an athletic facility, the people running the organization are not fulfilling their obligations to spend the nonprofit's donations the way its donors intended,' she said."

"'Charities are not personal piggy banks for their founders to tap into for pet projects. Celebrity athletes don't get a free pass, and if anything, should feel more of a personal obligation to set a good example by operating not only legally within the rules, but ethically so.'"

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, communicates to ESPN that celebrity athletes like Brett Favre should hold themselves to high ethical standards in their charitable endeavors. 

           ESPN, 09/28/2022

"'You can't say you're raising money for one purpose and then spend it on something totally different. Charities have an ethical obligation, and in some cases a legal obligation, to fulfill the intentions of [their] donors in the way funds are spent.'"

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, reacts to news that Brett Favre's charity, Favre 4 Hope, which has a stated mission to support disadvantaged children and cancer patients, made grants over three years to help fund the University of Southern Mississippi's volleyball facility.

            The Athletic, 09/28/2022

"The BLM Global Network Foundation is 'like a giant ghost ship full of treasure drifting in the night with no captain, no discernible crew, and no clear direction,' CharityWatch Executive Director Laurie Styron previously told the Washington Examiner in January [2022]."

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, commenting on governance and transparency issues at Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation.

            MSN, 09/02/2022

"'A charity isn't a cookie jar for its officers and directors to raid,' said Styron. 'The people running charities are not owners, they are stewards. That's the job. Charities are not vehicles for personal benefit.'"

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, commenting on a would-be fallen officers charity that reported a long-deceased relative as being on the board.

          WGCU PBS & NPR, 08/26/2022

"There's...a slew of private charity raters, such as BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and GuideStar. These groups confer a sheen of credibility on nonprofits through numerical ratings and gold stars. And yet a large number of problematic nonprofits enjoy high ratings on these sites."

"These ratings are routinely called out by CharityWatch, the only real aggressive watchdog. The organization helps journalists interpret IRS nonprofit disclosures while revealing how the documents themselves can be easily gamed to understate executive compensation and overstate impact. 'The whole system is propped up on false assumptions and flawed automated methods,' said Laurie Styron, CharityWatch's leader."

- CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron, contributing commentary to The New Republic's August 2022 article, "There's Never Been A Better Time to Be a Scammy Nonprofit".

           The New Republic, 08/12/2022

    Visit In The News to view more quotes and interviews by CharityWatch.