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Oregon AG Pinpoints "20 Worst Charities"

PHOTO: "Kids Don't Go with Strangers" is a campaign by the Law Enforcement Education Program, a group that topped this year's "20 Worst Charities" list by the Oregon Attorney General. It says LEEP spends less than 3 percent of donations on its stated mission. Image from LEEPusa.com.
PHOTO: "Kids Don't Go with Strangers" is a campaign by the Law Enforcement Education Program, a group that topped this year's "20 Worst Charities" list by the Oregon Attorney General. It says LEEP spends less than 3 percent of donations on its stated mission. Image from LEEPusa.com.
December 17, 2012

SALEM, Ore. - It's the Oregon Attorney General's list of who's been naughty - or at least, could be nicer - in the world of charitable solicitations. Groups on the "20 Worst Charities" list spend less than one in four of the donation dollars they receive on their charitable causes. For some of the groups, it isn't their first time on the annual list. For instance, according to Jeff Manning of Oregon Department of Justice, the group that tops this year's tally was number three on last year's list.

"That's the Law Enforcement Education Program, which spent a grand total of 2.7 percent of its total average expenditures on its actual charitable purpose."

About 18,000 groups solicit for money in Oregon, so it's no easy task keeping tabs on them or figuring out which ones are legitimate. Manning says the list does not mean an organization is running a scam - just that three-quarters or more of the donation dollars it receives go to salaries, fundraising and administrative costs, rather than to the cause for which it says it is collecting money.

Others on the list include the Foundation for American Veterans, Disabled Police Officers of America, and the American Medical Research Organization. If some groups' names seem vaguely familiar, Manning says that's intentional. Sounding like a well-known nonprofit makes it easier to persuade people to donate. He adds they're also good at tugging at heartstrings.

"They tend to pick some sort of cause - be it veterans, or children or first responders - angles that have a broad emotional appeal. And they sound legit; they do a great job sounding like they're doing a great thing."

The Oregon AG keeps an online database where anyone can check out how much a group raises and spends. Manning says your donation will go farther if it's made to an organization that spends at least 65 percent of its money on its charitable purpose. Other online resources for checking out charities include www.CharityNavigator.org and www.GuideStar.org, as well as the Better Business Bureau.

The attorney general's list is available at www.doj.state.or.us.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR