I am always skeptical of donating money to charities through a phone bank, because the costs of those fundraising programs are so high. The phone bank takes a significant cut, from what I've heard between 40% and 90%. They also want a decision "now, now, now", diminishing your opportunity to figure out if they're a legitimate charity or a sound-alike charity - a charity that has picked a name that sounds a lot like a bona fide charity, but which has neither the integrity nor the track record of the charity from which their name is derived.
While on the phone I tried looking up "The Breast Cancer Society" in Charity Navigator. No dice. So I told the woman on the phone to call back later after I had a chance to investigate "The Breast Cancer Society" and figure out why it wasn't on Charity Navigator.
The answer to that last question is pretty simple. It's too new. The Breast Cancer Society doesn't have the necessary history of Form 990 filings with the IRS to support an entry in Charity Navigator. But wait a second... There's the Cancer Fund of America, run by the same people, which has a poor overall rating. The BBB has this to say:
Cancer Fund of America solicits donations across the U. S., including locally, through telemarketers, direct mail and online. The BBB found that more than 99 percent of all cash donations to the organization pay professional fundraising costs, salaries for charity officials, consultant fees and other expenses related to the charity’s operations.The charity responded to the BBB that, having raised $17 million in cash donations and $5.8 million in non-cash donations in 2007, it should get credit for the "$3.3 million in non-cash donations the charity gave to individuals and other organizations in 2007."
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Cancer Fund of America and a related support group, Cancer Fund of America Support Services, Inc., reported they raised slightly more than $17 million in 2007, the most recent year in which public information is available. Of that total, Cancer Fund of America reported it donated $54,000 in cash to unrelated groups or individuals – or about 3/10 of 1 percent. Of that $54,000, however, $50,000 went to a court directed cancer charity as part of a settlement with the Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs. The state alleged the charity gave out deceptive and misleading solicitations to consumers.
The salaries and benefit packages for charity president James T. Reynolds, Sr., two sons and a son-in-law totaled more than $537,000 for the same period.
However, several of the organizations listed in the charity’s federal report appear to have little direct connection with cancer causes.The article provides further detail on the organization's management, expenses, and activities. In terms of related organizations:
A spokesperson for Angelic Ministries, an organization that works with the poor in the Knoxville region, said it receives “oodles” of items from Cancer Fund of America. Cancer Fund of America reported it gave about $317,000 in donated items to the ministry in 2007, and the spokesperson said much of that was over-the-counter pain and cold medications. She said about half the drug items were expired, but usually only by a few months, and the drugs remained effective.
Cancer Fund of America also reported giving nearly $230,000 in donated items to Trinity Rescue Mission of Jacksonville, Fla. A spokesperson there said that organization deals largely with the homeless and not specifically with cancer patients. She said she had no record of ever receiving any donations from Cancer Fund of America, although she said the items could have come through another organization. Reynolds failed to respond when asked specifically about the rescue mission donation.
Also, Federal records show Cancer Fund of America Support Services, Inc. received slightly less than $8.2 million in cash donations in 2007. That organization’s only outgoing grant was for $750,000 – to Cancer Fund of America. The report says its fundraising expenses totaled about $6.1 million. James T. Reynolds Jr., a son of James T. Reynolds Sr., is listed as president of the support group.Perhaps that's the organization whose script was crossed with The Breast Cancer Society's, as that would explain why I was asked if the children could count on me.
Rose Perkins, who formerly worked with her husband, Reynolds Sr., at Cancer Fund of America, left that organization several years ago and currently heads Children’s Cancer Fund of America of Powell, Tenn. Records show that Children’s Cancer Fund of America received about $5.4 million in cash donations and $2.2 million in non-cash donations in 2007. She reported direct cash to patients at about $382,000, or about 7 cents of every $1.00 raised. Fundraising expenses were reported at nearly $6.3 million, with $3.4 million going to Associated Community Services.
Recent news accounts say that James T. Reynolds Jr. recently became head of yet another cancer organization, this one in Mesa, Ariz., and called The Breast Cancer Society. That charity has not operated long enough to file a federal report with the IRS.Charity Navigator highlights this family of charities on its list of "10 Non-Profits That Make Ebenezer Proud"
Cancer Fund of America Support Services & Children's Cancer Fund of AmericaAre you surprised that, after I instructed them that I would investigate them before making a donation, I have not heard back?
Both of these organizations are affiliated with the 0-star Cancer Fund of America. All three are run by one family - James Reynolds Sr., James Reynolds Jr. (son of James Reynolds Sr.), Joshua Loveless (son-in-law to James Reynolds Sr.), Claudette Perkins (sister-in-law to James Reynolds Sr. and sister to Rose Perkins) and Michael Reynolds (son of James Reynolds Sr.). According to their most recently filed Forms 990, both the Cancer Fund of America Support Services and the Children's Cancer Fund of America spent at least 85% of their budgets on fundraising and just 11% on programs and services.