The Oregon Department of Justice has just released its annual list (pdf) of what it calls the 20 “worst charities” operating in the state. Most charities on the list are based out of state, but all of them seek donations from Oregonians. Two are based in Washington and one in Oregon. Operation Lookout National Center for Missing Youth and Caring for Our Children Foundation both operate in Everett and Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation is based in Milwaukie, Oregon. The Department of Justice uses the Better Business Bureau guidelines that say 65 percent of the money a charitable organization brings in should go to its programs.
In the last legislative session, the Department of Justice tried to take this one step further with a bill that would have allowed Oregon’s Attorney General to disqualify nonprofit organizations from tax deductible donations if they could not show that they were devoting at least 30 percent of their funds to programs. The bill did not pass, but if it had, all of the organizations on the “20 Worst Charities” list would have failed to meet the Attorney General’s qualification. The group at the top of the list — Shiloh International Ministries — devotes only 3.2 percent of its funds to charitable programs.
According to Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Grant, many of the 20 charities rely on private for-profit telemarketing firms to do their fundraising, and those companies take a large percentage of the funds they raise. The Department of Justice has also gone after those telemarketing firms and earlier this year, one of them was banned from soliciting donations in Oregon.
Have you looked at the list of Oregon’s 20 Worst Charities? How do you decide what organizations to donate your money to? Do you work with charities as paid staff or a volunteer? How much do you think charities should spend on their core programs?
- Elizabeth Grant: Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Charitable Activities section of the Oregon Department of Justice
- Karlene McCabe: Interim executive director of Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation
- Suzanne Perry: Senior editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy