As we approach the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday period, you will no doubt receive increasing solicitations from all sorts of charities asking for your help, especially in the current economic climate.
According to the American Institute of Philanthropy, U.S. military members, postal workers, and other federal employees are among the most generous givers in the U.S. That makes us even more proud of you. Not only do you give so much in your service to our nation, for which you receive paltry pay, you also give up some of that pay to help others not as fortunate.
We want to remind you, however, that all charities are not created equal. To maintain the IRS designation as a "charitable organization," a charity must donate far less of its income to its charitable purposes than most of us would believe. In some instances, a mere 5% is satisfactory to the IRS.
But we don't think it's satisfactory to you. We believe that if you knew how little of your money would actually make it to the purpose for which you donated it, you'd find another charity.
We've previously reported on this topic, and you can find links to those pages at the bottom of this one, including a link to ratings of various veterans' charities.
Thanksgiving Meal for Wounded Soldiers
This article was prompted by a solicitation we received today, urging us to donate a Thanksgiving meal for a wounded soldier and his family (with a "Thanksgiving Thank You and Get Well Card), through the Coalition to Support America's Heroes. Because this is exactly the type of cause you would want to support, we are urging you to do your homework first. Take a look at this CNN video about CSAH and its notorious founder, Roger Chapin:
If you also received this solicitation, you may have noticed a "seal" lending an air of legitimacy to the solicitation. Read AIP's explanation of this seal:
"Ubiquitous on charity web sites is a ribbon-style seal that in large type reads 'BEST IN AMERICA,' features five stars across the top edge, and indicates that the charity awarded the seal is 'certified by Independent Charities of America' (ICA). Many donors may view such a seal as a reflection of how efficiently a particular charity will use their donations, and assume that it represents an independent endorsement of a charity from an outside organization.
While ICA may refer to its member charities as 'Best in America,' some donors may be disappointed to learn that ICA is funded by the very charities that use its seal, and that ICA generally does not screen charities for financial efficiency."
The letter is signed by a retired Brigadier General, also lending it an air of legitimacy, and we'd venture a bet that he is not aware of CSAH's dismal record. When he's made aware of it, he likely will withdraw his support of the group, just as General Tommy Franks did.
If you didn't take the time to watch the video, CNN reported that CSAH uses about 25% of the monies donated for the causes it support. And the AIP report indicates that Roger Chapin, its CEO, and his wife were paid approximately $1.5 million over a 3-year period for their services.
So please, before you donate your hard-earned money, take the time to check out the charity to make sure they will use your money the way you want it used.
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