AOL?The New Spam/Scam Playpen
Fundraising agencies can get around this by charging a fee for each piece of mail that goes out—anywhere from 2¢ to 10¢ or more. Instead of collecting money at the back end (a percentage of the money raised), they are taking their cut up front. As a result, the agency has no incentive to "mail smart," but rather to mail a lot, because that's how it makes its money (along with payments to its closely allied printers, lettershops, etc.
4. The Annual Report. This includes the vision statement, activities of the past year and the complete financials as prepared by accountants.
Rounding up these four sets of documents for each charity is time consuming and horrendously difficult. I don't believe the charity watchdogs—BBB, Charity Navigator, GuideStar—really understand these complex, smoke-and-mirrors business models or go to the trouble of detailed analysis.
It's a given that the young techies at AOL won't have a clue about which charities are worthy and which are not—or how to do a proper research and analysis.
This free pass on e-postage for nonprofits will mean open season for scammers and spammers among AOL's 30 million unsuspecting members.
The resulting financial carnage will cause deep, long-term damage to the work of legitimate charities and the causes they espouse.
Takeaway Points to Consider
- You and your organization are besieged with requests for money from legitimate-sounding charities. Their copy and illustrations are heart-rending. How can you say no?
- My suggestion: Give to the well-known groups that are regularly covered by the media and whose reporting is transparent.
- Never give to someone over the phone. Ask for material in the mail so you can make a decision. If the rep says that nothing is available by mail, hang up.
- If you receive a solicitation from a cause that interests you, write, phone or e-mail and ask for the following: (1) IRS Form 990; (2) contract with the fundraising agency; (3) annual report. The fourth element—the direct mail package—is in your hands. Save it, and when these other documents arrive, spend time comparing what they all say.