Legal name of Cancer Support Fund
This story has been updated with comments from the charity’s founder and president.
The cold caller on the telephone yesterday said he worked for AC Services of Southfield, Mich., was soliciting on behalf of Cancer Support Fund and wanted me to pledge money. He said Cancer Support Fund was based in Seattle. I’ve only been New To Seattle for two years, but I never had heard of Cancer Support Fund. That in itself wasn’t surprising. Across the country there are thousands of charities in this country containing “cancer” in their name.
But I knew something about AC Services, or Associated Community Services as its name is more fully rendered. So do some other journalists and the attorneys general of Michigan and Iowa. In fact, if you regularly visit this space, you might, too. To refresh your memory, just click here, here or here.
As it turned out, Associated Community Services is one of several paid charity telemarketers for Cancer Support Fund that collectively kept for themselves almost all the money raised from direct mail and calls like the one I got. By my review of the charity’s own publicly filed financial documents for last year, a full $88.10 of every $100 raised in cash was spent on fundraising.
How much of those cash donations was spent directly on, say, cash grants? Of each $100 dollars, a mere 14 cents–not dollars, cents–or one-seventh of 1%. That’s really zero percent. And it’s a little hard to square with this language on the charity’s web homepage: “The Official Cancer Relief Nonprofit Organization … Because we care, we share.”
And also as it turned out, Cancer Support Fund, which is only two years old and whose legal name is American Association for Cancer Support (AACS), is not based anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, let alone Seattle, like my cold caller said. Rather, it’s located in far-away Knoxville, Tenn. I wrung this little correction out of my cold caller’s supervisor, who came on the line to field my increasing barrage of questions.
However, you wouldn’t know any of these dismal numbers just by looking at the website of the Washington State Secretary of State’s Office, which is supposed to keep us knowledgeably informed in these matters. The folks in Olympia calculated AACS’s charitable commitment ratio at a lot higher 61%. That ain’t so hot, either–the watchdog Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance faults anything under 65%.
Why the discrepancy? I’m counting where the cash donations went (essentially, nowhere). But AACS was able to include in its financials receipt and distribution of a large amount of donated goods, or gift-in-kind. GIK costs almost nothing to procure, is prone to wild exaggeration in true value, and thus can make a charity seem a lot more financially efficient than it really is. In the case of AACS, there’s also a question of whether the purported GIK was off-point to the charity’s stated mission of, well, cancer support.
Sit back and let me explain. Continue reading
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