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Tampa Bay Times, CNN List of “Worst Charities” Cites Extreme Cases, Misses Key Points

June 12, 2013

(Arlington, VA.) – In response to the recent release of the “50 Worst Charities” by the Tampa Bay Times and CNN, the president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Andrew Watt, released the following statement: 

Fundraising is an honorable and inspirational profession that makes a huge difference in the lives of millions of people across the U.S. Without the work of fundraisers, charities would be unable to provide their critical programs that feed the hungry, heal the sick, shelter the homeless, protect our environment and countless other missions that we take for granted every day. The fundraising profession is populated by thousands of individuals who practice best standards and abide by ethical standards in all of their work.

The list developed by the Tampa Bay Times and CNN will help, to some extent, educate donors about wise giving and issues to be aware of when deciding to make a contribution. Donors always need to take their time when making a gift, especially if they are considering giving to new or unfamiliar charities. AFP has resources to assist donors with wise giving decisions and developing a personal giving plan.

But the list and accompanying article also miss several key points about fundraising and what ethical charities do and don’t do. The 50 organizations in the list are such extreme cases that they are not representative of what a typical charity looks like or how it operates. The examples and stories cited in the article are far removed from the reality of the vast majority of charities and do not reflect how they function every day as they work to advance their mission and serve our communities.

Legitimate charities will abide by the Association of Fundraising Professional’s (AFP) Code of Ethical Principles and Standards or other relevant professional codes. AFP’s code, established in 1963, is used by thousands of charities around the world and includes high and strict standards about appropriate use of funds, privacy, transparency and compensation of paid solicitors. Donors should ask charities and/or solicitors if they abide by AFP’s code of ethics or similar standards.

The use of professional solicitors is not an indication of whether or not a charity is legitimate or effective. Many legitimate charities hire solicitors to assist in their fundraising. In the extreme cases cited by CNN and the Tampa Bay Times, solicitors are paid on a percentage- or commission-basis, a practice which is prohibited and considered unethical by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and most of the charitable sector. Donors should ask a charity how their solicitors are paid and look for charities that pay a salary or flat fee for service.

More information about AFP’s Code of Ethical Principles and Standards, including a complete copy of the code and detailed explanation of each standard, can be found here

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