Make Sure Your Charitable Contributions Count!

I recently received an inquiry from my friend Darlene Newsome, the Chief Executive Officer of UMOM. She asked me if I knew of a “foster care organization” that was collecting funds outside of local businesses and claiming they would be used to help foster children.

My response was that not only did I know of this group, Foster Hope Foundation, but that it has become a personal goal of mine to expose their practices to all potential donors. A June 20th article by Mary Jo Pitzl in the Arizona Republic detailed that less than 20% of donations to the Foundation were spent on services to foster families. The Federal tax return of the organization was riddled with errors, and reflected that the vast majority of expenses reported were paid out in salaries. An advertisement on the web is offering wages of $15 to $25 per hour for people to sit at those tables and solicit donations. I myself was asked if I wanted to “donate to help foster kids?”

In my role as President and CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, that is what I do every day. Our team of dedicated personnel works hard to raise funding to truly help foster kids. Our services directly impact the lives of Arizona’s children in foster care. We are the largest provider of essential needs for boys and girls who have been victims of abuse and neglect. Cribs and beds to give children a safe place to sleep, clothing for children who enter foster care with only the clothing on their backs, birthday gifts to let these boys and girls know they are loved – that’s how we spend our donor dollars. Our 990, which is available for public inspection, shows that 93 cents of every dollar goes to direct services to the 14,000+ children in foster care in Arizona.

My blood boils when I hear of people dropping twenty dollar bills into boxes of an agency that is more concerned with personal gain than helping children in need.

A follow-up article in Nonprofit Quarterly was titled “Why State Regulators Must Regulate: Arizona ‘Foundation’ Goes Rogue.” In her article, Sarah Miller delved into the problem of exploitation of donor generosity, and pointed out the need for states to create systems that better guard the public against such unscrupulous activity.

Arizona Helping Hands is one of 40+ agencies that have been certified by the State of Arizona as Qualifying Foster Care charitable organizations. We have demonstrated that we meet the state defined requirements of serving more than 200 foster children and spending more than 50% of our budget on direct program services for children in foster care. We will serve 4,000+ in 2019, and virtually all of our expenses are used for direct services to Arizona’s foster population. Donations made to us enable donors to receive a dollar-for-dollar credit on their Arizona state tax return.

I caution all donors to never give cash to an organization unless you have direct knowledge of the impact of their services. Investigate before you give. You should be able to find financial information on the website of the nonprofit group you are interested in supporting. Do you want your donations used to pay for someone to sit at a table and solicit donations, or to help the children in foster care who really need our helping hands?

There are many amazing organizations like UMOM and Arizona Helping Hands who are diligently working to improve lives in our community. During this holiday season, please be generous with your giving, but please make sure that your charitable contributions count!

Dan Shufelt is the President & CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, the largest provider of basic needs to Arizona’s children in foster care. Learn more about the Organization at www.azhelpinghands.org and contact Dan at dshufelt@azhelpinghands.org

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