4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Good Cause for Suspicion

Greetings, Matt:

After giving by mail to a couple of good causes, I'm buried with every sort of charity asking for money. I know they have sold my name around, so I always ask them what percent goes to the charity and what percent to administration. Almost all say 10% to 20% goes to the charity and 80% to administration, except if you write "Restrict" on your check, then the entire amount has to go to the charity. My questions are, is that true, and who keeps an eye on that to make sure they do it?

Sponsored
Sponsored

-- Daniel in Clairemont

Well, no good deed goes unpunished, Daniel. Mail-in charitability just nets you more mail-in begging. I guess the only up side is that you're on the mailing list of Nice Guys. Pretty amazing, though, that a charity would confess that only a tenth of its revenue goes to good deeds. I hope you file those in the trash can. According to the charity watchers, that's a pitiful record. As a rule of thumb, they say, the cost of raising the money should be no more than 40% of donations.

So, you're cutting your annual check to Save the Snails and you want every last dollar to be used for snail-saving purposes... No luxury suites for the jet-set CEO, no black-tie fundraisers for the snoberazzi. What you want to make, then, is a restricted donation. You have to specify that it's restricted and tell them what they can spend it on. By law, your wishes should be followed. But of course there is no way you can be guaranteed that your particular dollars are spent according to your directions. You have to trust that you're dealing with an honest organization that doesn't flout the law. A background check is probably in order before you give, especially if it's a smaller or local charity that's not well known.

Two groups offer free evaluations of the larger charities, mostly national: the Better Business Bureau's Giving Alliance (www.give.org) and the Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org). For smaller charities, try www.lookup.bbb.org to find the URL for your local Better Biz Bureau. Of course, if you're not happy with somebody else's rating, you can examine the IRS Form 990 for a particular nonprofit. This is the information form every nonprofit has to file with the feds, breaking down their income and outgo. Try www.guidestar.org for details about 990s.

Most ratings rank charities by how lean and mean they are. But some nonprofits point out that effectiveness is perhaps more important and harder to rate looking just at income and expenses. And charities don't run on air; they do need unrestricted donations to pay the rent. It's not unheard of for charities to turn down restricted donations, usually large ones with lots of strings attached. One generous soul recently took a charity to court, claiming his donation was misused. Nobody needs that kind of aggravation. And charities, especially those like the Red Cross, also need unrestricted donations to help amass enough cash to be prepared to act immediately when the next emergency comes up. So, do your homework, then hope for the best.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Peutz Valley – the fire did not kill our spirit

Alpine Planning Group, SDGE power cuts, no high school yet, Farlin Rd. after Viejas fire, coyote woman on Deercreek Canyon, Alpine Beer Co.

Greetings, Matt:

After giving by mail to a couple of good causes, I'm buried with every sort of charity asking for money. I know they have sold my name around, so I always ask them what percent goes to the charity and what percent to administration. Almost all say 10% to 20% goes to the charity and 80% to administration, except if you write "Restrict" on your check, then the entire amount has to go to the charity. My questions are, is that true, and who keeps an eye on that to make sure they do it?

Sponsored
Sponsored

-- Daniel in Clairemont

Well, no good deed goes unpunished, Daniel. Mail-in charitability just nets you more mail-in begging. I guess the only up side is that you're on the mailing list of Nice Guys. Pretty amazing, though, that a charity would confess that only a tenth of its revenue goes to good deeds. I hope you file those in the trash can. According to the charity watchers, that's a pitiful record. As a rule of thumb, they say, the cost of raising the money should be no more than 40% of donations.

So, you're cutting your annual check to Save the Snails and you want every last dollar to be used for snail-saving purposes... No luxury suites for the jet-set CEO, no black-tie fundraisers for the snoberazzi. What you want to make, then, is a restricted donation. You have to specify that it's restricted and tell them what they can spend it on. By law, your wishes should be followed. But of course there is no way you can be guaranteed that your particular dollars are spent according to your directions. You have to trust that you're dealing with an honest organization that doesn't flout the law. A background check is probably in order before you give, especially if it's a smaller or local charity that's not well known.

Two groups offer free evaluations of the larger charities, mostly national: the Better Business Bureau's Giving Alliance (www.give.org) and the Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org). For smaller charities, try www.lookup.bbb.org to find the URL for your local Better Biz Bureau. Of course, if you're not happy with somebody else's rating, you can examine the IRS Form 990 for a particular nonprofit. This is the information form every nonprofit has to file with the feds, breaking down their income and outgo. Try www.guidestar.org for details about 990s.

Most ratings rank charities by how lean and mean they are. But some nonprofits point out that effectiveness is perhaps more important and harder to rate looking just at income and expenses. And charities don't run on air; they do need unrestricted donations to pay the rent. It's not unheard of for charities to turn down restricted donations, usually large ones with lots of strings attached. One generous soul recently took a charity to court, claiming his donation was misused. Nobody needs that kind of aggravation. And charities, especially those like the Red Cross, also need unrestricted donations to help amass enough cash to be prepared to act immediately when the next emergency comes up. So, do your homework, then hope for the best.

Comments
Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Pear Blossoms Blooming, "Green Comet," Groundhog Day in San Diego

Later sunsets, earlier sunrises
Next Article

The Sushi Stand packs rolls like confections

New Liberty Public Market vendor wraps its rolls in a pretty box
Comments
Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close