Although there is the occasional investigative report in the news, not everyone realizes that with many charitable appeals, only a tiny fraction of the funds raised even gets past the professional fund raiser/telemarketer and goes on to the organization that does all the wonderful things that you've been pitched.
The U.S. Supreme Court held that states can't enforce laws putting limits on percentages kept by professional fundraisers, nor can they mandate disclosures, but when members of the public have questions or want to confirm that their hard-earned funds go to the wonderful cause talked up by the caller, they deserve straight answers. The FTC even says so. The FTC's Telephone Sales Rule also requires that the appeals are honest.
In many cases, not only does the organization only see a small minority of the total funds raised, but the money that they do actually get doesn't seem to do all the things they say it does, as the small remaining percentage of funds left over from fundraising costs is largely eaten up by administrative expenses.
A recent example of a telephone appeal that I recently received here in my home in central Oklahoma is Dogs Against Drugs/Dogs Against Crime, or DAD/DAC for short. The caller raved about the drug abuse and crime prevention efforts in Oklahoma, as well as providing K9s to smaller police departments in Oklahoma. This organization, it turns out, has an Indiana address and its Secretary lives in Utah, and those are the only two places where I see the only examples of events being conducted on their web site - and those are from 2010. They used the services of now-defunct professional fundraiser Non Profit Services of Nashville, TN to solicit contributions.
Visiting the web site, the prospective donor sees an impressive-looking Board of Directors, including President and National Director Darron Sparks of the Anderson, IN Police Department, Vice President Lt. Benny Diggs of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Treasurer Kevin Banker of SAIC and the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center, and Secretary Wendell Nope of the Utah Police Academy. While at first glance this roster and their professional associations lends credibility to the organization. However, the officers were copied on most of the messages in my email exchange with Jenny Sparks, but not a single one ever responded to my messages or otherwise saw to it that my questions were answered or my concerns were addressed.
Here is a breakdown of the claims made and the facts that I have been able to find:
|The Claim||The Facts|
|From the telephone appeal: K9 Officers Puppy Patrol Program is an anti-drug program with K9 officers from across the state who volunteer to take their K9 partners into the local schools. They do demonstrations, and talk about the dangers of illegal drugs, gang violance, stranger-danger and anti-bullying. They focus on getting the officers involved in kids' lives as early as possible, before the drug dealers and gang-bangers can have a chance to try and derail their lives.||After several weeks of back-and-forth correspondence, Dogs Against Drugs / Dogs Against Crime has not identified any police department in Oklahoma that has received program materials.|
From the telephone appeal: This is a wonderful program because in addition, they also do things like donate drug dogs to smaller police departments in Oklahoma that can't afford their own. Just to train a police dog can be over $12,000.
From the web site: DAD/DAC provides grants to officers for purchasing highly-trained special purpose dogs and related training equipment and supplies and to provide training for the officer and/or dog.
The organization is not based in Oklahoma.
Only 15 cents on the dollar even gets past the telemarketing company.
A cursory Google search seems to indicate that trained drug dogs cost between $5000 and $8000. "Expensive" dogs imported from Europe are $8,500.
DAD/DAC's 2009 IRS Form 990 (most recent tax return as of this writing) shows total donations of $1,029,493, but reveals only $3,500 paid out in grants, $11,304 in K9 training and equipment, and $1,975 in "dog expenses."
Additional program expenses include $6,158 in office expenses, $7,362 travel, and $40,692 in salaries and wages, of which $12,000 is paid to DAD/DAC secretary, Wendell Nope.
Total program expenses are listed as $94,835. Total management and general expenses are listed as $40,712, including another $28,692 in salaries and wages.
Professional fundraising costs are listed as $890,022.
After several weeks of back-and-forth correspondence, Dogs Against Drugs / Dogs Against Crime has not identified any police department in Oklahoma that has received a K9.
UPDATE - DECEMBER 2011 - Although Anderson, Indiana police chief Darron Sparks was quoted in a newspaper article stating that all my questions were answered, and that a police dog was donated to an Oklahoma police department "many years ago," I have still not received an answer to my simple question which I have asked many times:
Please identify the police departments in Oklahoma who have
received K9s or supplies through your organization in the past
The article also indicates that telemarketer/fund raiser Non Profit Services has folded, and therefore so has DAD/DAC.
Dogs Against Drugs / Dogs Against Crime in the News Media
© 2011 Robert H. Braver, Norman, Oklahoma. Comments & feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.