Scuzzy charity working Seattle calls for the fourth time

scuzzy charityI’m running out of words.

For the third time I’m nominating Breast Cancer Research and Support Fund, a trade name of Community Charity Advancement, for my list of America’s Stupidest Charities. Why? The Pompano Beach, Fla.-based organization keeps calling the New To Seattle world headquarters asking for money even though I have written it up multiple times using words like “dubious,” “sketchy” and even “skanky.”

These are not exactly terms of endearment.

They are, however, my opinions about a nonprofit that allowed paid fundraisers to keep almost all the cash raised, spent maybe 1% of that cash on good works, falsely claimed affiliations with reputable medical facilities and has all kinds of red flags in its filings and on its website.

The call that came in the other day was even from the very same fundraiser who has called me before–sort of. The cheery voice on the line identified herself as Darlene Lewis. I say sort of because Lewis was really a computer-powered voice-activated gizmo likely controlled by a human “supervisor” listening in.

Lewis and I have some history together. So I knew what her m.o. would be. She/it pushed for a verbal commitment that I would send in money if I was sent a pledge card. I said I would be happy to review any literature received but that I could not commit before then. She/it wished me a good day and hung up. I knew the reason. Without a verbal pledge, BCRSF/CCA couldn’t send me threatening follow-ups claiming breach of contract in the event I didn’t pay money.

I detailed the financials of BCRSF/CCA in yet another post just last month.

In its latest federal tax return and audited financial statement, for calendar year 2013, BCRSF/CCA reported receiving $3.9 million in cash gifts. Of this sum, $3.2 million went to its paid telemarketer, Courtesy Call Inc., of Las Vegas. That’s 82% of the money raised, leaving just $700,000. Of that, $650,000 was spent for management and overhead. A small amount was banked.

That left less than $50,000 for good works–barely 1% of cash donations. How many donors to a charity want 99% of their cash gifts to go to something other than charity?

In her call to me this week, Darlene Lewis acknowledged she/it was working for Courtesy Call but didn’t want to say she was based in the infamous American gambling center of Las Vegas. Where are you located, I asked. “Southern Nevada,” Lewis replied. Maybe she/it was hoping I’d think the Hoover Dam or some place like that.

As I have pointed out here before, there is no evidence that any of the cash donations to BCRSF/CCA–a relatively new charity that evocatively and equally misleadingly once called itself Seven Sisters of Healing–went to cancer research. There is also little evidence much of the cash raised went to cancer support, either.

The BCRSF/CCA website lists the well-regarded Seattle Cancer Care Alliance as one of its “program partners.” In a written statement to me, the Alliance denied it ever has had any dealings with BCRSF/CCA.

Courtesy Call Inc. is a major telemarketing fundraiser for many nonprofits of, shall we say, less than sterling reputations. In Washington State alone, the Secretary of State’s Office says Courtesy Call has worked for 25 organizations. According to its own filings, for 2013, the firm raised $9.5 million from donors just in Washington State and kept for itself $8.4 million–88%.

In my opinion the Courtesy Call client list hereabouts is largely a rogue’s gallery.

Its members include the Breast Cancer Survivors Foundation, which provides mammograms but gave 92% of the cash donations received to fundraisers like Courtesy Call. Yep, I got called–twice within 20 minutes. Then there’s the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, doing business as American Veterans Support Foundation. Over six years, this nonprofit raised $24 million in cash, gave $21 million of it to fundraisers and, of what was left, spent all of $240,000–1% of the cash that was raised–in what I would call good works. I got a call, too.

Also on the client list is the National Police and Trooper Association, an arm of a police union, International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO. The nonprofit raises money mainly to help police negotiate collective bargaining agreements. That’s not charity, but persons who are called are not routinely told that. Moreover, 94% of the $8 million raised went to fundraisers. In a post I declared the organization–which also called me–was “among the scuzziest” outfits raising money in Seattle.

I sent an email to Courtesy Call Inc. asking for comment and will update this if I hear back. I’m still waiting for BCRSF/CCA to reply to my last query.

Now, rumors abound that a task force of state attorney general offices around the country that has been investigating nonprofit fundraising practices for more than two years is about to bring down the hammer in the form of lawsuits and negotiated settlements. It will be interesting to see if any of the nonprofits or fundraisers that have called me get hit. If not, my question will be this: Why not?

Meanwhile, if past practice continues–meaning BCRSF/CCA keeps calling me–I’m going to have to buy a new thesaurus. I’ll need more colorful words of description.

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Scuzzy charity working Seattle calls for the fourth time — 34 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this information.. I was just diagnosed with breast cancer and agreed by phone to send them money. When I received their pledge form I decided to look them up. I am so glad I did. From now on I will stick to the American Cancer Society. Unless there is something I should know about them also. Cancer research is so vital these days, I want to make sure my money goes to a reputable charity.

  2. Thanks for the information and for preventing my $20 pledge from going out the door to this shady operation. I will find another reputable charity.

  3. According to the Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report provided by the state of Washington

    http://www.sos.wa.gov/charities/search_detail.aspx?charity_id=29173

    The BCRSF took in about 10 million in donations, and gave out about 6.4 million in “Program Services,” which I take to mean charitable work.

    This would mean that only about 40% of its donations were used for internal costs and administration, implying about 60% of donations make their way to hospitals and research centers and other charitable works.

    In my mind, I can’t quite rectify that this is an “illegitimate” charity, and I believe I will go ahead and make a donation.

    It certainly is difficult to do this type of research, however, so I believe further examination would still be prudent.

    • My reading of BCRSF’s numbers is a little different. According to the 2014 tax return of BCRSF’s parent, Community Charity Advancement, the charity received $4.6 million in cash donations from folks like you. Of that sum, $4 million went to outside paid telemarketers, and another $200,000 went to management and certain overhead, leaving only $400,000 to be spent on good works. Assuming it was all spent, that suggests a charitable commitment ratio on the cash given of only 9%. The reason the Washington State website says 60% is that CCA said it received and distributed what it said was another $6 million in donated goods, or gift-in-kind. This was not the result of solicitations of the public. It is rather unlikely that these donated goods were really worth anything near that amount. You are welcome, of course, to donate to BCRSF/CCF, but be aware that based on past financial statements, something like 87% will go to the outside fundraiser, and only 9% will make it to charity.

  4. Thank you William, I was just getting ready to write a check to this so called charity. I really appreciate the time you spent researching and posting this article. I’m a survivor of breast cancer and can’t believe people take advantage of giving people that just want to help.

  5. I have to join this list! I have actually been just diagnosed with breast cancer, so I fell for it. They said it would help pay for women who couldn’t afford their treatments. When I got the donation envelope I decided to research it, and I’m glad I did. I will be sending them a copy of your post instead of my donation. I agree with your comment about a thesaurus. Scum bag doesn’t seem to cover it.

  6. Appreciate your research. Sitting with a pledge form in front of me right now. Going to print out your article and send it in tomorrow. Much obliged for saving me a Lincoln to give to a reputable charity.

  7. Thank you William for exposing the true reality and misdirection of charitable gifts to this organization. I want to support those with breast cancer but with more than 1% of my gift!

  8. Once again, your post has saved another American from being scammed. Thank you. Mailing in my envelope with a copy of your article. Maddening!!!!
    Orlando, FL

  9. I received a phone call on 2/29/16 and was asked to make a donation of $15.00. I couldn’t write down the name of the caller nor the charity since I didn’t have a pen nor a piece of paper handy. I only said that I would donate when she mentioned breast cancer. (My twin sister is a 14 year survivor of breast cancer.) When I received the paperwork in the mail last week, I decided to check it out on the internet. Thank you for your comments on the Breast Cancer Research & Support Fund. IT won’t be getting a donation from me. (The thank you for your 2/29/16 pledge of $15.00 pledge letter by Kerry Sharon [a female], President, stated in the letter “…As aperson who lost his mother to a prolonged fight with cancer,…” A BIG FAT GLARING MISTAKE!! P.S. I was also switched to some other person during the phone call.

  10. Thanks for the post, the pledge card just arrived, decided to do a little due diligence and saw your scathing review that no money goes to victims or education, back in the circular file.
    Thanks from VT

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  12. Thanks for the info. I was a bit leery to begin with when someone comes a calling for a donation, let alone having dealt with someone at the beginning of the call only to be transferred to another.

    Appreciate it. (Columbus, OH)

  13. Thank you for this eye-opener. I have a pledge form in front of me right now. I am so glad I found you Before I sent them any money.

  14. Pingback: Whispers in the wind about the State AG investigation of charity fundraising | Nonprofit update

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