The Investigators

Nov 25, 2013 5:15 PM by Matthew Schwartz

Checking the Charities

Tucson--Not all charities are created equal. Or worthy of your money.

That's the word from Charity Navigator, a national charity watchdog group. The agency says about half of all charitable donations in the U.S. are made between Thanksgiving and New Years Day.

Sandra Minuitti, Vice President of Charity Navigator, says the agency rates charities from four stars for the best, to zero stars for the worst. She told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "We do have a number of zero-star charities on our website, and some of them spend less than 30% of their budget on their programs and services, and that's just pitiful."

Charity Navigator says 75% of all donations should go to programs and services, the rest to administrative and fund-raising costs. The Better Business Bureau's minimum is 65%. Charity Navigator's web site lists ten consistently low-rated charities that have zero stars, extremely poor ratings. None of them are in Tucson. They include:

-National Veterans Services Fund

-Childrens Charity Fund

-The Committee for Missing Children

-Firefighters Charitable Foundation

-Wishing Well Foundation USA

Charities were the subject of a recent blog which is another example of "Don't believe everything you read online." It criticized Goodwill. But Charity Navigator says the blog, written anonymously, is filled with inaccuracies, such as getting the name of Goodwill's CEO wrong. Liz Gulick is the Vice President of Programs and Marketing for Goodwill Industries of Southern Arizona.

Gulick told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "We feel like we operate with best practices and when things are false or falsely put on the internet, we just think of it as an opportunity to educate the public about what a responsible steward we are."

Goodwill's most recent audit shows it uses 89 cents of every dollar for programs and employment, a very good percentage. Goodwill isn't rated by Charity Navigator because the bulk of its contributions are government grants. However, Charity Navigator gives its highest rating, four stars, to a half-dozen charities in Tucson. They are:

-The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona

-Family Life Communications

-Habitat for Humanity

-Interfaith Community Services Foundation

-United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona

Before donating to a charity, Nick LaFleur of the Better Business Bureau told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "The best advice I could give is make sure you research the charity."

You can check out a charity's rating and how it spends your money by going to the web sites for Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau.

Remember if you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at, or call our tipline, (520) 955-4444.


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