Give . . . but wisely

Give . . . but wisely

By Dennis Horton

By Dennis Horton

Manager Public Affairs

Better Business Bureau – Regional Office

As concerns grew regarding how the funds donated to a host of charities for September 11th victims would be used and dispersed, it became very apparent that many people, businesses, and other organizations tend to give with their hearts but not their heads.

Millions of dollars are donated each year to worthwhile organizations and charities, but an equal number of dollars are given to questionable organizations and scam artists. Is that a new phenomenon? No, Better Business Bureau records indicate that “telemarketing fraud” dates back to at least 1932 when Jack Karchmer, a charity racketeer, used the telephone and high-pressure tactics to rip off unsuspecting donors. Even a year earlier, minutes from the BBB’s Board of Directors meetings indicate that considerable time was being spent reviewing and evaluating charities.

Today, under the Better Business Bureau’s Charitable Solutions Program, the Bureau continues to evaluate charities based on 23 guidelines for giving which include public accountability, use of funds, solicitations and informational materials, fund raising practices and governance. These are national standards and are currently being revised; deliberations have been under way for two years. Changes will address accountability concerns such as donor privacy, charity website disclosures and the importance of spending funds in accordance with donor expectations.

Additionally, the new standards will cover the need for performance reviews—how effective is the charity at doing what it says it will do. Charities meeting the standards will be required to have an effectiveness measurer in place. You can review and comment on these proposed standards until May 22, 2002, at which time the final version will be determined and become effective. The standards can be located at It is important that every donor be aware of how his or her money will be spent.

Other things you should know: All charities are required to register with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, who has basic information on each charity in the state. While staff at the A.G.’s Office reviews this information, they are not able to evaluate it based on pre-determined criteria. That is where the Better Business Bureau provides an extra measure of security by evaluating the information provided based on the standards.

There are several charities currently soliciting funds that wouldn’t meet current or revised standards and frankly are not worthy of a person’s donation because a disproportionate share of the money collected goes to the promoters and not for the actual cause intended. Because this happens more often than most suspect, both the Attorney General and the BBB recommends that you “check out” a charity the same way you would a business. Do not assume a charity is worthwhile just because you recognize the name of someone soliciting on their behalf or it reaches your heart. Remember, one of the BBB slogans is to “give with your head as well as your heart.”

There are charities that voluntarily register with the BBB, so remember, before you buy or donate, call the Better Business Bureau and “Check It Out.” You can save yourself time, money, and frustration. Call the BBB at 815-963-2222 or visit our web site at For membership information, call 815-490-9283.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!