On Memorial Day, I got a call from Darlene Lewis asking for money. It’s not the first time she has contacted me.
Darlene Lewis is a poor excuse for a human being. I can state this without any fear whatsoever of a libel suit from her.
Why? Because she isn’t a human being at all. Darlene Lewis is an interactive computer, and computers can’t sue.
She plies her telemarketing trade on behalf of something called Breast Cancer Research and Support Fund, a trade name used by another something called Community Charity Advancement. Sound familiar? That could be because in February I nominated Community Charity/BCRSF for my fledgling list of America’s Stupidest Charities.
The criteria for a nomination is simple. Representatives for a dubious charity call the New To Seattle world headquarters seeking a contribution even though this very same charity had been criticized in this very same space.
In the case of Community Charity/BCRSF, multiple times going back a year (see here and especially here, which references Darlene Lewis). Repeat nominations for the list are accepted. So hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off again we go.
For 2012, the latest numbers I can find, Community Charity/BCRSF, which is based in Pompano Beach, Fla., collected $3.58 million in cash. Its fundraiser, Las Vegas-based Courtesy Call (the overseer of Darlene Lewis), pocketed $3.03 million. That works out to a cash fundraising efficiency ratio–the amount of donations going to the charity after the cost of related fundraising–of 15%. That’s so dreadfully below the 65% minimum that charity watchdogs say is acceptable.
There are a couple of other ways to express what went down here. Some 85 cents of every dollar raised went immediately to Courtesy Call, which most definitely isn’t a charity. Or, the telemarketer ended up with nearly six times as much as the cause. Or, in effect the donor paid a commission of 567% (the math here is the 85 cents going to Courtesy Call divided by the 15 cents going to the charity). When is the last time you knowingly paid a 567% commission on anything?
Moreover, as I read the filings, none of the remaining $550,000 funded charitable cash grants or assistance. The sum largely was spent on overhead and outside contracted management, or was banked.
Other waving red flags: The charity has only been around for six years, changing the name in which it solicits. From the religiously evocative Seven Sisters of Healing, it morphed into the more secular-sounding-but-bland Community Charity Advancement and now the heart-tugging Breast Cancer Research and Support Fund.
On top of this, the charity refused to be evaluated by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance. This is a clear sign that things are not on the up-and-up.
In the race for inclusion among America’s Stupidest Charities, Community Charity/BCRSF has two other competitors. The first is National Vietnam Veterans Foundation d/b/a American Veterans Support Foundation, which called again a mere 11 days after a write-up was posted here. Only 11 cents of each donated dollar went to what I would consider charity, again, mainly due to fundraising fees.
The second is Cancer Support Services. It’s affiliated with the Cancer Fund of America, which last year was ranked No. 2 by my worthy journalistic competitor, Florida’s Tampa Bay Times, on its list of “America’s Worst Charities.” In its most recent filings, the combined organization raised $14 million in cash but spent just $21,000–1/5 of 1%–of that on true charity, with most of the rest going to the fundraisers. It wasn’t much better when I wrote up the organization two years ago.
But only Community Charity/BCRSF has the distinction now of being nominated twice.
As always, I invite comment below from those mentioned in this post. Even from Darlene Lewis, who undoubtedly has a chip on her shoulder.
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