The No Good, Very Bad Charities

You Donated Money... Now What?

NorthWest Wing | Amir Dif | April 12, 2016

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Think for a minute about a time you gave money to charity. You felt good about yourself, I’m assuming? “My money is going to a good cause,” you may have thought. Don’t worry, I’ve had that thought too.

Alright. Now, think last time you were promised something, only to receive something else.

According to data about many of the charities on this list, there’s a chance that the time you gave money and the time you were lied to were the same event. It wasn’t just you that was taken advantage of, though. It was also the people the charity promised to help that were let down, too. To stop this madness, here are two major charities you have probably donated to—and the lowdown on what your money was most likely used for

Autism Speaks

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Full disclosure: I have a livid hatred for this organization after reading up on them. After looking at their financial statements, I found that over $18 million was spent on salaries throughout the organization, far more than other charities spent. In 2012, it was shown that 70.9% of their money went towards program expenses, meaning, actual charity. Pretty bad, when compared to the 91.5% spent by the Autistics Self-Advocacy Network.

Look, I get it: people need to get paid. But at what point does an organization cross the line from necessity to self-imposed luxuries?

Not only does Autism Speaks use less of its funds towards actual work than other charities, a lot of their money is spent on work that many have deemed to be ill-advised and thoughtless to the autistic community. For a very long time, Autism Speaks has been funding research investigating the link between vaccinations and autism. Even the chief executive of the charity, Alison Singer found this to be complete nonsense, so in 2009, she resigned. (Shortly after her resignation, she founded the Autism Science Foundation, which is helping to fund actual science about autism).

But don’t just take it from me. Emmashopebook.com is a blog run entirely by Emma, a girl living and thriving with autism. I encourage you all to read it. It’s quite beautiful. Her mother, a guest writer on her blog, brutally denounced Autism Speaks. She writes that, “We believed they were doing good, only to find we were wrong”.

Autism Speaks also does not have a single board member who is autistic. No organization that claims to represent a community without having leadership from that community deserves your money.

Let’s continue.

Wounded Warrior Project

Source: woundedwarriorproject.org
Source: woundedwarriorproject.org

This past March, the CEO and COO of the Wounded Warrior Project were fired for their spending habits. Over the past four years, the charity has brought in and spent over $800 million. “Charity Navigator”, a charity watchdog group, reports that WWP spent a mere 60% of its budget on charitable services, while other charities like the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation spent a remarkable 98%. The Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust, or, The DAV according to CBS News, spends 96% of its money on veterans. With WWP spending 40% of its money on overhead costs, other charities such as the Semper Fi Fund only spent 8% on overhead.

So what is WWP’s excuse? Where does all of their money go?

In 2010, WWP spent over $1.7 million on meetings and events. In 2014, the charity spent over $26 million on them. The extravagance and opulence of WWP is unmatched, and although I’m all for a nice hotel venue, that’s not what people are thinking about when they donate. In anonymous interviews, over 48 employees corroborated that they regularly bought first and business class seats to fly around the country, even for minor meetings, staying in “$500-per-night hotel rooms”.

This number spent on meetings almost exactly matches the amount spent by the charity on combat stress recovery, their top program.

Colorado Springs Resort attended by WWP | Source: CBS News
Colorado Springs Resort attended by WWP | Source: CBS News

For the charity’s 2014 annual conference, the then CEO, Steve Nardizzi, found it suitable to rent out a luxury resort in Colorado Springs. At this meeting, the New York Times reports that Nardizzi rappelled down the side of a 10-foot bell tower and into the arms of a cheering crowd, in an act of showmanship and “team building”. This single meeting is reported to have cost over $3 million. I wonder how much cooperation and team atmosphere $3 million buys you.

Sure, the charities mentioned have done great work for the communities they serve. For example, WWP has pledged $500 million to fund lifetime supplemental health care for severely wounded veterans. Autism Speaks has done a great job in raising awareness about autism and the services those with autism need (even if their diction choices are less than great).

With that said, the responsibility falls on you, as the donor, to know that in certain instances, your money can be put to better work. I encourage you to personally investigate the charity’s you’ve donated to, and try to find one that will put your money to work how you want it to.