Answers to Go with Susan Smith
Q. My mailbox is full of appeals from charities at this time of year. I got a donation request signed by someone named Marlo Thomas? Who is she?
A. The charity in question is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Actress Marlo Thomas is most-often remembered for a 1960s television series “That Girl.” She is the daughter of entertainer Danny Thomas who founded St. Jude. She serves as the national outreach director for the hospital.
Let’s look up the charity on the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance website. The ALSAC St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is listed as “accredited.” When I clicked on the entry, I saw that St. Jude met all of the BBB’s 20 standards for accountability in the general areas of effectiveness, finance, governance and fundraising.
Under finance, I saw the organization spends 72% of funds on programs, 17% on fundraising, and 11% on administration. If those numbers sound good to you, put the check in the mail.
One thing to remember is sometimes the BBB will list more than one organization with a similar name. Addresses are provided, so check the donation request you received to be sure the address matches.
For those who would like to check more than one internet source, I’d suggest the American Institute of Philanthropy’s Charity Watch website. There you can identify charities with a specific service target: hunger, veterans, cancer, etc. Click on an area that interests you, and you’ll see ratings of selected charities in that field.
These sources help you know whether or not a given charity spends most of its money serving people in need. You can then avoid those who spend an inordinate amount on administration and fundraising.