Updated on December 07, 2017
The devastating wildfires raging in Southern California have forced evacuations of more than 50,000 people and have shutdown major highways. As multiple fires sweep across Ventura and Los Angeles counties, where states of emergency have been declared by the California Governor, hundreds of buildings and homes have burned.
The wildfires that ravaged Northern California killed at least 31 people. More than 191,000 acres and 3,500 structures were burned, making the fires among the most destructive in California's history. The largest fires were in Northern California's Mendocino, Napa, and Sonoma counties.
WonderWork CEO Resigns; Independent Bankruptcy Trustee to Take Over Management of the Charity
About 11 months after WonderWork filed for bankruptcy in the wake of an arbitrator’s decision that it pay HelpMeSee a $16 million award (see Donor Alert posted on 2/2/2017), WonderWork’s co-founder and CEO, Brian Mullaney, has resigned from the charity amid “allegations of fraud and misdeeds,” according to a November 9, 2017 report by The Wall Street Journal. The news of Mullaney’s resignation came on the same day that a judge tasked a U.S. bankruptcy trustee with finding an independent trustee to take over management of WonderWork.
Veterans Charity Shut Down: 'Did Virtually Nothing for Veterans'
"For years VietNow has scammed donations from people who thought their money would be used to support necessary services for our military veterans. Instead, VietNow pocketed donations and did virtually nothing for veterans. Today’s settlement finally will put an end to VietNow’s egregious fraud," said the Attorney General of Illinois in a November 6th, 2017 press release. The Illinois AG’s release announced a settlement led by Illinois, California, Michigan and Ohio, and joined by 20 other states, to dissolve VietNow National Headquarters (VietNow).
Hurricane Maria Relief
Updated on September 25, 2017
On the heels of Hurricane Irma's path of destruction through the eastern Caribbean, these same islands faced a new threat: Hurricane Maria. Maria made landfall as a Category 5 storm on the island of Dominica where 27 deaths have been confirmed. The hurricane then continued on to directly hit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico as a Category 4. The full extent of the devastation in Puerto Rico is still being assessed, but most buildings are damaged or destroyed, and millions are without power or communications.
Rohingya Refugee Crisis
In the past few months, more than half a million Rohingya refugees have fled over the border of Myanmar into Bangladesh. This exodus is due to the extreme violence inflicted by the military in Myanmar. The Bangladesh government has responded to the Rohingya refugee crisis by working with both national and international development agencies, but this effort is not going to be enough going forward. The refugee camps cannot adequately support the number of people they are housing. Aid agencies say they are in desperate need of food, shelter and medical assistance.
Mexico Earthquake Relief
Updated on September 20, 2017
Less than two weeks after a devastating 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico’s southern Pacific coast, a second earthquake ripped through central Mexico on September 19th, collapsing buildings and killing over 300 people nationwide. The 7.1 magnitude quake was felt most strongly in and around the country’s capital of Mexico City.
The earlier 8.1 magnitude earthquake, the most powerful to hit Mexico in 85 years, has left at least 96 people dead. Thousands of homes in Chiapas and Oaxaca were damaged or completely destroyed. Relief efforts are underway for the 2.5 million people affected by the first quake.
Hurricane Irma Relief
Updated on September 11, 2017
Hurricane Irma will go down in history as the most potent Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever recorded. It left at least 26 people dead and thousands homeless across the Caribbean. The U.S. Virgin Islands suffered catastrophic damage. As a Category 4 storm, Irma also made landfall in the Florida Keys. It dumped rain across the entirety of Florida causing massive destruction and leaving millions without power.
Hurricane Harvey Relief
Updated on September 8, 2017
Hurricane Harvey is the state of Texas's worst storm in more than 50 years. The death toll related to the storm is relatively low at 70 people. However, Harvey and its record-setting rains caused severe damage in many parts of Texas and Louisiana. The recovery and rebuilding efforts in Harvey's aftermath are expected to take years.
South Asia Flood Relief
An estimated 41 million people throughout Bangladesh, India, and Nepal have been affected by unusually severe monsoon rains that have swept through the region this summer. The flooding – the worst South Asia has experienced in over a decade – has submerged vast areas of land and destroyed homes, schools, health centers, crops and livestock. Millions are displaced, and the death toll has reached over 1,400, with many people still missing.
Yemen's Cholera Crisis: Donor Alert
Over the past two and a half years, war has occupied the country of Yemen. Malnutrition and poor sanitation have made Yemen susceptible to many diseases that are no longer considered threats to populations in other parts of the world. Cholera has killed more than 2,000 people and has infected more than a half million people in the past few months of 2017.
Donor Alert: 'ACLJ' Is Two Charities Dominated by One Family
Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (CASE), which according to its mission “is specifically dedicated to the ideal that religious freedom and freedom of speech are inalienable, God given rights,” raised over $51 million in total cash contributions in 2015. More than 70% of that $51 million came via direct mail and telemarketing services provided by professional fundraisers. Perhaps you have been solicited through the mail or over the phone to give to CASE. That name, however, may not be ringing a bell since CASE goes by “American Center for Law and Justice” or “ACLJ” to raise funds (not to be confused with the “ACLU,” American Civil Liberties Union, a distinctly different organization).
It is not at all strange for a charity to use a “doing business as” name that differs from its official name, as CASE does by using ACLJ. What is odd – and quite confusing – in CASE’s case is that there is another charity that has the official name American Center for Law and Justice.
Syrian Humanitarian Relief
The extremely violent conflicts that began in Syria in March 2011 have claimed the lives of at least 470,000 people. As many as 13.5 million people in the region are in need of emergency assistance. As of early 2017, the violence has displaced 6.3 million people within Syria. According to the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees, 5 million Syrians are registered as refugees seeking assistance in neighboring countries—including Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey—and the total number of people fleeing Syria may be much higher than that. Distribution of aid within Syria is difficult, and the large number of refugees into neighboring countries has overwhelmed social service providers.
(Image: © UNICEF/NYHQ2015-0153/Tiku)
Heavily Advertised Charity Comes Under Fire From CharityWatch and Minnesota Attorney General
Before you respond to the Kars4Kids infectious jingle, read CharityWatch's article, Costly and Continuous Kars4Kids Ads Disguise Charity's Real Purpose, check out our rating for Kars4Kids, and watch the CBS News segment featuring CharityWatch president, Daniel Borochoff.
Feed the Children Facing Official Inquiry & Lawsuit from Former CEO
Updated on April 19, 2017
The Oklahoma City based Feed the Children (FTC), which has long received poor ratings from CharityWatch and was named “The Most Outrageous Charity in America” by us in 2009, is now facing new turmoil, according to a March 2017 report by The Oklahoman. Based on complaints by FTC’s former CEO and President, J.C. Watts, the Oklahoma State Attorney General’s Office initiated an official inquiry into FTC in the fall of 2016, focusing on the “management and operation” of the charity. The Oklahoma County District Attorney will act as a special prosecutor and will determine whether there is any wrongdoing at FTC.
Famine Relief Efforts in South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia
Famine was declared in two areas of South Sudan in February 2017. This is the first famine to be declared in the world in over 6 years. Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia are also at risk for famine. A famine is declared by the United Nations when extreme criteria are met. These criteria include: at least 20% of households face extreme food shortages; acute malnutrition rates exceed 33%; and a death rate that is more than two persons per every 100,000 each day. Tens of millions of people are in need of food, but unfortunately are at the mercy of overwhelmed aid systems, continuing wars and widespread conflict.
In Yemen, over 7 million people need emergency food aid. Northeastern Nigeria faces severe acute malnutrition as at least 5 million people face the risk of famine. Somalia is currently in its second year of drought causing crops to fail. In South Sudan, the country's government and the United Nations have warned that over 100,000 people are facing starvation with an additional one million more at risk for famine. Currently, more than 40% of South Sudan's population (4.9 million people) has been described as severly food insecure, according to IPC, an international multi-agency initiative. Funding for aid is urgently needed in all of these countries.
Donor Alert: $16 Million Award Against WonderWork May Force It to Cease Operations
Two charities, HelpMeSee and WonderWork, remain embattled in a lengthy legal dispute over a services agreement that has resulted in a $16 million arbitration award against WonderWork that includes compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees, and arbitration costs.
While the dispute may be ongoing, what may not be ongoing for much longer is WonderWork, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on December 29, 2016. This protects the charity, at least temporarily, from paying creditors, including HelpMeSee. “Enforcement of the Arbitration Award would, for all intents and purposes, put [WonderWork] out of business,” WonderWork’s CEO, Brian Mullaney, stated in court filings.
Ghost Ship Fire Victims and Donors Ask: Where's The Money?
The San Francisco based nonprofit Gray Area Foundation for the Arts has raised over $900,000 through a YouCaring crowdfunding campaign to benefit the victims of the December 2, 2016 Oakland warehouse fire. In a report by NBC Bay Area that aired January 26th, Gray Area's founder admitted that the group has yet to disburse even a single dollar of those funds raised. Watch CharityWatch's President, Daniel Borochoff, question Gray Area's decision to undertake the administration of the donations.
Many charities across the US giving up your money to the marketers they hire
Watch CharityWatch President, Daniel Borochoff, talking on Fox News about what portion of your donation given in response to a telemarketing call goes to benefit a charity and what portion goes to a marketing company. Learn that even some highly regarded charities overspend on expensive telemarketing.
Vietnam Veterans Charity Shuttered; Millions in Donations 'Squandered'
National Vietnam Veterans Foundation (NVVF) is to permanently close and its former President & Founder will pay damages, return his severance, and be banned nationwide from handling charitable assets as a result of settlements reached with the New York Office of the Attorney General (OAG), according to a November 10th, 2016 OAG press release.
The OAG's investigation found that NVVF spent the majority of its millions in contributions on paying professional fundraisers and insider expenses. The former President & Founder, John Thomas Burch, Jr., admitted that NVVF had paid 90% of its donations to its fundraisers. In 2014, out of about $8.6 million in contributions raised on NVVF’s behalf, over $7.7 million went to pay professional, for-profit fundraisers. Burch also admitted to deceptively marketing how money solicited for NVVF would be spent towards helping veterans.
NVVF had been consistently F-rated by CharityWatch. Watch CharityWatch analyst, Stephanie Kalivas, contribute to CNYCentral's report on NVVF: Veterans charity is under scrutiny: Know how to protect your charity donations.
CharityWatch gives Clinton Foundation an 'A' rating
Listen to CharityWatch President, Daniel Borochoff, discuss the Clinton Foundation on NPR's On Point.
Watch Daniel Borochoff discuss the Clinton Foundation and why it receives an "A" rating from CharityWatch in this CNN interview.
Also read Mr. Borochoff's comments in this CNN article: What is the Clinton Foundation and why is it controversial?
[Note: Feed the Children (FTC) has a long history of being rated an "F" by CharityWatch, as referenced in the CNN interview, but its grade has improved to a "D" based on its fiscal year 2014 operations. It is correct, as referenced, that FTC spent 42% of its cash budget on programs in fiscal 2014, according to CharityWatch's analysis. FTC also received a "D" grade based on its fiscal year 2015 operations, spending 46% of its cash budget on programs. ]
Why Doesn't CharityWatch Rate the Trump Foundation?
The Donald J. Trump Foundation is not eligible to be rated by CharityWatch because it is structured as a private foundation. CharityWatch primarily rates public charities, as well as some social welfare and veterans organizations that broadly solicit the public for donations.
How Does CharityWatch Rate the Veterans Charities on Trump's Fundraiser List?
After much prodding from the media, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released a list of the veterans groups that received donations in connection with a fundraiser Trump held in late January 2016. While many groups were excellent choices, others were questionable or even outright poor choices based on CharityWatch's ratings.
CharityWatch Hall of Shame UPDATE
We have inducted the newest member into the CharityWatch Hall of Shame, Kim Williams, formerly of the Healing Arts Initiative in New York. Read about the horrendous actions that landed her in the Hall of Shame.
Can You Spot Nonprofit Accounting Tricks?
Barron’s is urging donors “to be as rigorous in vetting nonprofits for accounting chicanery as you are with public companies trading on the stock exchanges.” Since nonprofits have the room to use "some fast accounting moves," it's up to donors "to ferret out such bad accounting practices.” CharityWatch helps donors see through nonprofit “accounting tricks.”
(Illustration credit: Brad Yeo for Barron's)
Charity Uses Kids' Pictures Without Permission
Charity that purports to rescue missing children does very little of it. Of its total spending 66% went to its professional fundraisers, 1% went to investigations, and none went to provide cash or other assistance to victims or their families. See CharityWatch president, Daniel Borochoff, point out red flags at Crisis Relief Network's family of charities on NBC News.
Fake Pledge Reminders Lead to Suit Against Veterans Charity Fundraisers
“Donors need accurate information to make informed decisions. It’s too bad this company resorted to sending fake pledge reminders and other deception,” said the Attorney General of Minnesota (OAG) in a May 2016 press release. The OAG’s release announced its filing of a lawsuit that accuses for-profit fundraiser, Associated Community Services, Inc. (ACS), of sending false “pledge reminders” to donors and making other deceptive statements in its fundraising solicitation campaigns on behalf of Foundation for American Veterans.
Michigan AG Alleges Firefighters Charity Is a Scam
Firefighters Support Services (FSS) is “another example of a sympathetic cause – firefighters and those losing their homes from fire – being exploited by scammers,” according to the Michigan Attorney General (OAG). The OAG has filed a Notice of Intended Action and Cease and Desist Order against FSS, accusing the charity of using misleading, deceptive, or false statements in its solicitations. FSS raised almost $4.2 million in funds from December 2013 - January 2016 based on telemarketing scripts that told call recipients that donations would be used to help firefighters get better equipment and help “families that have been burned out of their homes by providing them with food, shelter, and clothing” or “financial support,” according to the OAG.
Top Executives Fired at WWP: CNBC
Watch CharityWatch President, Daniel Borochoff, discuss Wounded Warrior Project in the wake of the firing of its two top executives on CNBC's Power Lunch.
Making Sense of WWP's Program Spending: Which Ratio Should You Believe?
Ever since the popular veterans charity Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) was accused of wasting donations on lavish spending in reports by CBS News and The New York Times in early 2016, WWP’s program percentage (i.e., the portion of WWP’s expenses used for its veterans programs) has drawn particular attention from many. Even Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, is questioning the level of WWP’s program spending. CharityWatch’s “C” rating of WWP is based in part on our calculation that WWP spends 54% of its cash budget on programs. Some of the other program ratios we have seen being bandied about range from about 60% to the 80.6% that WWP has vehemently defended.
Wounded Warrior Project: CBS News Investigation
Watch CharityWatch president, Daniel Borochoff, in Part 3 of a CBS News investigation that questions how much money Wounded Warrior Project is actually spending on veterans.
Police Charity Scheme Is a Rip-Off
See CharityWatch's president, Daniel Borochoff question the worthiness of a Wisconsin police charity on NBC Milwaukee news.
Giving Pitfalls and Traps
Listen to CharityWatch's president discuss on Iowa Public Radio pitfalls and traps that donors may unwittingly succumb to.
F Rated Planet Aid the Subject of a New Investigation
"Alleged cult leader plays shell game with US foreign aid" is the title of the Center for Investigative Reporting's (CIR) in-depth investigation into Planet Aid, broadcast in March 2016. For years CharityWatch has warned donors about Planet Aid's financial reporting and has consistently assigned the charity low ratings for its low program spending and high fundraising costs. The CIR investigation asserts that "money from USDA grants, over $130 million, up to 70% was allegedly taken from the projects it was meant for and stripped from employees salaries," and attempts to answer the question, "for what?" Planet Aid's ties to an alleged overseas cult and millions in clothing sales to fund projects in Africa with few visible results are just some of the concerns raised by CIR as it traverses continents to follow the charity's cash.
FTC, D.C. and all 50 States Take Action Against F Rated Cancer Charities
Four charities which have consistently earned F ratings from CharityWatch, Cancer Fund of America (CFA), Cancer Support Services (CSS) (an affiliate of CFA), Children’s Cancer Fund of America (CCFOA), and Breast Cancer Society (BCS), have been charged with bilking $187 million from donors in four years. Charges are being pressed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 58 law enforcement partners from every state and the District of Columbia, in one of the largest legal actions to date against charity fraud.
Update: By order of a settlement announced March 30, 2016, CFA and CSS will be permanently dissolved. CCFOA and BCS settled in May 2015 and are in the process of being dissolved. Additionally, the individual defendants named in the May 2015 action have been banned from charity work for life under the respective settlement orders. The March 2016 settlement concludes the largest joint enforcement action ever undertaken by the FTC and state charity regulators.
The CharityWatch Hall of Shame now features defendant James Reynolds, Sr. and 24 of his family members for their web of deceitful charities. Our article Long Running Family Charity Scheme Exposed goes into more detail.
Many Congressionally Chartered Veterans Charities receive D's and F's from CharityWatch
Where do your donations go? Watch video that features CharityWatch's take on how some veterans charities are failing.
Dark Cloud Over Red Cross Blood Services Has Finally Been Lifted
After about 22 years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has lifted its Consent Decree pertaining to the safety of the blood services operations of the American Red Cross, the nation’s largest supplier of blood products. A consent decree, in general, is a legal arrangement in which the government agrees to drop charges against an accused party who, without admitting guilt, agrees to refrain from certain activities.
Newsviews: Charity Donations
In these two videos CharityWatch president, Daniel Borochoff, offers advice on what donors should consider before giving money to charity.
Financial Sense Podcast featuring Daniel Borochoff on Wise Giving
Listen to a 30 minute podcast about how you can accomplish more with your charitable donations and also how to avoid getting ripped off.
Donors Should Research Veterans Charities Before Giving
Follow this link for a video and article featuring advice from CharityWatch president Daniel Borochoff. Donors should do their homework before donating to veterans charities to find out which ones are spending money efficiently on programs to benefit donors, and which ones have programs that don't duplicate benefits already provided by the Veterans Administration.
New York Attorney General Sues Children's Leukemia Charity For Deceiving Donors
From 2009 to 2013 National Children’s Leukemia Foundation (NCLF) raised nearly $10 million in charitable donations from generous donors throughout the United States. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office has filed a lawsuit against NCLF, alleging that the group has used the vast majority of the donations they've raised for non-charitable purposes.
New Charity Failing to Help Kids with Cancer
CharityWatch president and NBC 7 San Diego investigate WishWarriors' alleged failure to provide any financial assistance to the kids they claim to help.
CharityWatch offers these tips when donating to a new charity:
- You need to be able to trust the people running it.
- Research the organizers online.
- Ask for the qualifications of the organizers and management. They should have relevant past experience.
Veterans Support Organization consistently rated F
CharityWatch criticizes Veterans Support Organization (VSO) for doing very little to help veterans.
Click here to watch CharityWatch president, Daniel Borochoff, and NBC West Palm Beach, FL investigators ask the founder of VSO tough questions about how it solicits and spends donations intended to help veterans.
Senator Calls for IRS Review of Veterans Charity
“[Wounded Wheels] talk a lot about helping veterans, but to date it doesn’t appear they’ve done anything to help a veteran,” Daniel Borochoff, president of the watchdog group CharityWatch, said last week after reviewing Wounded Wheels’ financial records. “It seems like a cool idea, but they really need to show some kind of benefit to veterans to justify this as a nonprofit.” – The Virginian-Pilot, 7/8/2015
Click here to read the whole story and see the letter written by Senator Mark Warner.
CharityWatch Takes a Tough Stand on Charities with High Assets
Navy Seal Foundation, aren't doing any favors for those who need help now. Charitable dollars are limited, having remained at about 2% of GDP for over four decades, while the needs of society are not. Charities that hoard the funds they raise and keep assets greater than three years worth of their budgets are making those donated funds unavailable to other groups with urgent needs.
CharityWatch President, Daniel Borochoff, spoke with the Virginia Pilot about downgrading charities that keep high assets. Click here to read the article.
Thrift Store Donations for Veterans Charity Investigated
Veterans benefit very little when clothes and household items are donated to Vietnam Veterans of America. Watch CharityWatch president talk with Portland, OR KATU TV investigators about CharityWatch's analysis of this F rated charity.
See our article Donors Intentions Violated at For-Profit Thrift Stores for more on the topic.
F rated Veterans Charity Busted: $24.6 Million Settlement with Attorney General
CharityWatch was the first to warn the public of a $8.4 million debt in 2008 and other serious problems with Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF) in Millions in Future Donations to Vets Charity Will Pay Debt Owed to Vendors. The charity continued to dig itself into a huge debt to its professional fundraisers, reaching $16.5 million in 2012.
Only a tiny portion of DVNF's cash donations ever went to helping disabled veterans. CharityWatch applauds the New York AG Office for finally putting a stop to many of this group's bad practices.
Million Dollar Pay at Nonprofit Hospitals Is it acceptable for the head of a nonprofit to earn a seven-figure salary? Upon what criteria should a salary be based? A recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine reveals that a CEO at a nonprofit hospital earns, on average, about $600,000 a year and the median salary of a CEO at a large nonprofit urban hospital is over $1.66 million. Read more.
See the Top 25 Compensation Packages of charity officers, directors, trustees, and key employees. From the CharityWatch Rating Guide.
For details about one charity executive's unusual compensation package, read Eye-Popping Pay.
Update: Greg Mortenson, Central Asia Institute
In April 2012, Montana Attorney General announced a settlement agreement requiring Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, to pay more than $1 million in restitution for financial wrongdoing at the charity he founded, Central Asia Institute. The very same three person board, which includes Greg Mortenson and is responsible for the mismanagement of CAI, is empowered with selecting its replacement board, according to the settlement reached with the Montana Attorney General. Read the CharityWatch article that sparked the investigation, and listen to Daniel Borochoff discuss the settlement agreement on NPR. For Borochoff's comments on how the nonprofit sector could be affected by shortcomings in the AG's settlement, read this AP article.
UPDATE: Click here to read about CharityWatch's continued concern about Central Asia Intitute and its "?" rating.
Lack of Disclosure Makes Giving to Televangelists a Risky Business
Large religious TV networks that repeatedly ask you for charitable donations are allowed to hide how they spend your dollars. If you want to know if your donation is used to fund TV broadcasting or charitable aid, a tax-exempt religious broadcaster does not have to tell you.
Know Your Options When Giving to the Red Cross
In the wake of any humanitarian disaster that hits the U.S., the American Red Cross (Red Cross) usually takes the lead in providing immediate and long-term disaster relief services. The Red Cross, though, has not been immune from criticism related to how it allocates the spending of donations contributed in response to disasters. Thanks to an October 23, 2013 agreement with New York's Attorney General, the Red Cross will give online donors clear options with respect to how their contributions will be used and provide transparency about such uses.
Leadership Booted at Dishonored Veterans Charity
Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV), which earns an F rating from CharityWatch, has been sued by California's Attorney General. The AG shares CharityWatch's long held position that HHV's accounting gimmicks inflate the reported amount of contributions spent on program services to help veterans. As part of the settlement, officers and directors named in the suit must resign and pay restitution. CharityWatch has been critical of HHV for years, and puts the settlement agreement in context with our article Leadership Booted at Dishonored Veterans Charity. For more CharityWatch reporting on HHV, check out these past articles: