Investigative

Look Before You Give: I-Team looks into charity donations

Look Before You Give: I-Team looks into

COACHELLA VALLEY, Calif. - With the holiday season here, charities are gearing up for their busiest time of the year.       

Experts with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) said most charities drum up 30 to 40 percent of their contributions during the fourth quarter of the year. 

Myra Levine is spreading cheer this holiday season, opening her heart with donations at Angel View in Cathedral City. 

"I want it to be local," Levine said. "And, I feel that Angel View would be local." 

The non-profit along with the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission (CVRM) are prepping for the holiday season with events including a fashion show, and at the mission, a food and toy drive, all while asking for donations. 
 

It's the busiest time of the year helping sustain the whole year. 

"Our programs are only covered by about 67 percent with what the state funds us," Angel View Executive Director Patti Park said. "So, it's important for us to fill in the gaps." 

While donations tend to stack up during the holidays, experts say you should do their homework before giving.
      
One way is by using third-party resources who keep an eye on organizations..

Art Taylor, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Give.org, said they follow the money. 

"We know that most people think that their gifts are going to be used immediately when they make the donation to the charity," Taylor said. "So, if an organization is holding onto more than three years of what it spends in a year, then we're going to have a problem with that particular group." 

The News Channel 3 I-Team asked many charities across the valley what happens to your donation when it goes to their programs, their fundraising and their administration.

According to Taylor, the industry standard for charities is at least 65 percent going to programs, and 35 percent going to fundraising and administration.    
      
For Angel View, 92 percent goes towards programs and eight percent to administration. With fundraising, Park said, coming from event proceeds.    

"We're one of the charities that has one of the highest percentages, as far as donations going directly into what people are donating for," Park said.


      
For CVRM, 72 percent goes to programs, 18 percent to fundraising and 10 percent to administration.    
     
Both organizations say donations to their charities help people here in Coachella Valley. 

"Paying for the building costs, paying for the programs that we have, for food, and for shelter, for utilities," CVRM Associate Director Sue Meyers said. 
   
On the national level, officials with the Salvation Army say 82 percent of proceeds from donations go into programs. 
      
Which is why non-profits hope to see the season of giving continue to grow, while experts like Taylor hope people will donate with the heart, and their head. 

"Your donations are needed every day, and in the holidays, they're needed even more so," Meyers said.  
          
Taylor warns the holidays are a time to be aware of any charity scams. Tips include: 

  • Watch out for charities with soundalike names
  • Non-profits who send you emails that you don't have a relationship with
  • Organizations that pressure you to make an immediate gift 

They also recommend investigating charities using 3rd-party resources like the ones below: 

If you want to make sure your donation is going exactly where you intend, most of the charities we talked with said donations earmarked for a specific project will be applied to that effort.


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