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How much of charitable donations reach those in need?

By Paul Nelson | Posted - Mar 31st, 2014 @ 7:53am

SALT LAKE CITY — When you give money to charities, do you know how much really goes to the people who need it? State officials say a lot of Utahns don’t know where the money is going when they sign a check.

Not all charitable organizations give to the needy at the same level. In some cases, most of the money raised goes to the fundraisers. MarketWatch recently compiled a list of several well-known charities that give most of the money they raise to the fundraiser.

Utah Department of Commerce Executive Director Francine Giani said Utahns typically give more to charity than people in any other state, which is something she wants to encourage. But, she said Utahns sometimes give to organizations without looking into how much money will go to the cause.

“We’ve had charities, in the past, that had zero percent going to the charitable purpose,” she said.

If that’s true, why are they allowed to register as a charity? Giani said her office is not allowed to set requirements for these organizations.

“As an agency, we can’t. When someone comes and registers as a charity, we can’t say to them, ‘Ninety percent needs to go to the charitable purpose,’ or, ‘Fifty percent needs to go to the charitable purpose,’” she said.

How to find out
People can log on to the Department of Commerce's website to look up charities and how much of the money raised goes to people in need.

Link: on sumerinfo/lists.html?list=CH

Plus, some organizations don’t give money to the poor per se. Some charities raise money to pay for medical expenses or training for people who need it.

She said people can ask how much will be given to the cause, but most people don’t.

“That’s why I say it’s critical that consumers, when they give, they need to do their homework in advance,” she said.

Many charities will sell their donor lists to other organizations, she added. So, people could be solicited by other groups they never gave any money to.

“The other thing we tell consumers to do is to make sure that you know the charities that you give to," Giani said. "There are a lot of sound-alike charities that might sound like a group you gave to before.”

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