America's Worst Charities


Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting

in partnership with CNN

Poynter Institute

September 18, 2013

Why we did it

 The Times’ amazing expose of U.S. Navy Veterans Association made us wonder:

 How do you find other bad actors among 1.6 million nonprofits in America?

How we did it

We focused on fundraising costs over time.

We used state and IRS filings to identify charities that consistently kept less than 33 cents of every dollar donated.

Driving home the point

We got the telemarketers' scripts.

We analyzed IRS filings to determine how much cash really went to the cause.

Hint: It wasn't dying kids' wishes.

Putting flesh on the skeleton

Getting the data was just the start.

Working the phones is essential. 

But there’s nothing like walking in the front door.

What we learned

Government oversight is lax with little communication among the states.

Fundraising numbers were reported each year.

Nobody had looked at them over time.

Our Findings

 More than $1.35 billion donated to  the 50 worst charities over the past decade.

Nearly $1 billion was kept by the for-profit solicitors.

Almost none of it made it to people in need.

Tips for taking it local

Mine consumer complaint databases

FOIA regulators' investigative files

Check out the disciplinary database at

America's Worst Charities

By Kris Hundley

America's Worst Charities

Poynter Presentation, September 18, 2013

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