AOL?The New Spam/Scam Playpen
Prior to the worldwide ban on ivory—which effectively took care of the elephant poaching problem—three groups were legitimately working to save elephants with operatives in Africa chasing poachers—Kenya Wildlife, the African Wildlife Foundation and the New York Zoological Society's Wildlife Conservation International.
A slew of other animal activists started sending out desperate pleas on behalf of elephants, many accompanied by lurid photographs of the carnage and orphaned elephants standing over the corpses of their parents.
These con artists were making mailings to raise money to make mailings to raise money and so ad infinitum. Like Attorney General Riddle's charity for the common cold, Form 990 declared that the money was going toward creating awareness of the problem—"public education."
Public education was not needed. The media were filled with gruesome pictures and descriptions of the elephant slaughter. Park rangers, guns and ammunition to shoot the poachers were needed.
Let's say a donor gave $50 to one of these bogus charities to help save elephants. The next day she receives a request to save elephants from the African Wildlife Foundation or Wildlife Conservation International—the two legitimate organizations. She would say to herself, "I gave to elephants yesterday," and throw the mailing away.
These fraudulent organizations were just as guilty of poaching—and just as guilty of killing elephants—as the Somali ivory hunters.
They were deeply wounding the very cause they claimed to be helping.
The Nonprofit Shysters
You can take the elephant scam and run that business model across the entire nonprofit spectrum—animals, the environment, international relief, religion, politics, minorities, culture, health and handicapped, and social action causes.
In many cases, the lion's share of the money goes to fundraising agencies for administration, overhead and fees, as well as to their closely allied subsidiaries—printers, mailing houses, data processors and list companies.