Baltimore-Based Charity Named 4th Worst in America

How much are you really donating? The American Breast Cancer Foundation in Baltimore spent 5.3 percent of its donations on direct cash aid, according to a Tampa Bay Times report.

Have you donated to one of these "charities"?

A report by the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting revealed what the sources called America's 50 worst charitable organizations -- those that take the money for the "charity founders themselves and the for-profit companies they pay to run boiler rooms that dial for dollars."

Included in the list, which is ranked by money spent on soliciting costs, are two Maryland-based charities.

The American Breast Cancer Foundation in Baltimore ranks No. 4 and the American Association of the Deaf and Blind in Silver Spring, MD, ranks No. 32.

After spending a year reviewing thousands of charities and their finances in the past decade, reporters found that many use deception and lies to persuade donors to give.

"Then they spend as much as 90 cents of every dollar raised to generate more donations. Regulators have proven powerless to stop the cycle of waste and deceit," the Tampa paper says.

ABCF founder Phyllis Wolf, who resigned in June 2010 due to negative publicity, "signed contracts with more than a half dozen professional fundraisers and paid them nearly 75 cents of every dollar raised," the newspaper reports.

Similarly, Silver Spring's AADB kept about 75 percent of its proceeds for years, while spending .1 percent of its donations on direct cash aid.

However, both charities have made changes recently to how they raise money. ABCF now uses "community events" to fundraise, boosting the amount given for breast cancer screenings from $20,000 in 2009 to $100,000 in 2011, according to the reports.

In 2010, the new director for AADB dropped its use of professional fundraisers, now mostly relying on fees for its conferences.

Still, the Times and CIR found that the lack of regulation and small fines allow the worst charities to thrive.

For example, despite being banned in California, the Police Protective Fund continues to run its operations in seven other states, with a request from a retired police officer in Maryland for regulators to investigate the organization.

* The American Breast Cancer Foundation is not to be confused with American Cancer Society or Breast Cancer Research Foundation, nor is the American Association of the Deaf and Blind with the National Family Association for Deaf-Blind.

The Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting recommend the following tips to help you make an informed decision with calls with charities:

Key questions to ask the caller:

  • What is the full name of the charity?
  • Do you work for a paid fundraiser?
  • How much of my donation actually goes to charity?
  • Will any local programs directly benefit? If so, how?
  • What is the website address of the charity?

Key facts to know:

  • The best charities spend no more than 35 cents of every dollar raised on fundraising costs.
  • America’s worst charities spend more than 80 cents of every dollar on fundraising.
  • Charities that use telemarketing firms and fundraisers are far more likely to receive only a fraction of the money raised.

View the full special report and list of the rest of America's worst charities.

How do you feel about America's worst charities? Have you donated to any of them? Discuss in the comments below.

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