Monday, June 15, 2009

Charity


I know, I was going to post more stuff about Ireland.  Next post, maybe even later today, but first I want to talk about charities.

I got a call from Washington State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police late last month.  Since I'm a nasty, suspicious person, I didn't want to give them any credit card information over the phone, so I asked that they mail me information.  I felt uncomfortable, because the caller clearly didn't sound like a volunteer.  He used pushy jargon, didn't seem particularly grateful when I said I'd contribute $25, and then asked if I would contribute more when I got my invoice in order to help cover overhead associated with mailed contributions.  I hung up feeling iffy about the whole thing and was glad that I'd have a chance to investigate further once I got the mailed materials.  I hearts teh internets.

The letter I received looks very shiny and promises to contribute to all kinds of things I normally eagerly support:  helping out police and families in distress, developing crisis management and stress support programs,  LEO Torch Run for Special Olympics, college scholarships for children of LEO's, etc.  Seven items were listed as examples.  I thought wow, this is great!  But, being horribly suspicious, I did a web search.

I won't call them a scam like some have.  But they do appear to be a commercial, money-making venture rather than what I would call a true charity.  Their last report to Washington State's secretary of state reveals that 20% of money actually reaches the LEO community.  I've also seen an older figure of 18%, so I guess they've improved.  (Yikes.)  The BBB hasn't received any requested information from them--which isn't necessarily bad, but raises my eyebrows and makes me want to dig deeper.  I'm glad I did. 

The Charity Navigator puts some perspective on overhead and percentage of charitable contributions that actually goes to charity.  My feeling is that 20% going to charity isn't good enough, not even for government work.  $20 of my $25 would have gone to the company for their overhead.  Well.  It seems obvious that if I want to give money to police programs, there have to be better and more efficient ways to do that.  In 2008, Washington State Lodge brought in $816,882 and spent $576,131 on fund raising.  They also spent almost $40,000 on conventions, conferences and meetings.  I totally feel their pain in the convention department, but having said that, with their additional accounting expenses and what-not, have very little left for, you know, charity, the reported purpose of their organization.

I can't support this kind of inefficiency, even if it's not deliberately set up to provide jobs off of people's goodwill rather than help people (or animals) in need.

Always, always check out charities before contributing.  I'm all about feeling good for helping out a good cause, but I want that good feeling to be real and justified, not a phantom thing because I went through the motions and poured money through a phone line.

It's a shame.  I would love to support LEOs and their families, especially when they're in crisis.  I'll just have to find another route, to honor the pledge I made.  It most certainly will not be through the Washington State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police today or next year or ever unless they shape up their organizational practices. 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Got sucked into that once. Then I read the fine print in the follow-up mail solicitation. It looked like I was donating more to the union than charitable endeavours.

I donate through my employer's community fund these days and tell the telephone solicitors so.

JimBob

Things that puzzle this other goddess.... said...

I'm a believer in Habitat for Humanity, giving trees and food banks pretty much all the way. I much prefer to give tangible "things" as opposed to money. Same with panhandlers. If they strike a cord, we'll go get them a meal and come back, but no money...especially not when ours is so tight.