Donor beware: Your money might not go where you think

Donor beware: Your money might not go where you think

I got another call from Operation Smile today, well, actually from Strategic Fundraising, Inc. on behalf of Operation Smile. They had started calling me a couple years ago, probably part of Operation Smile’s lapsed-donor campaign, and they won me back.

I didn’t remember getting a paid solicitation on my cell phone before and the call took me a little off guard. I know some doctors and nurses, though, that go on mission trips to perform cleft-palates surgeries, and it really does do so much good relatively easily – a great ROI in children, if you will. So I agreed to give a small amount.

I got briefly worried immediately after I hung up that I had just given my credit card to someone who claimed to be working with Operation Smile, but how did I know that was true? But nothing bad happened, and that was a couple years ago.

Since then they’ve called every once in a while, and I’ve always given the same small amount. But this morning, I thought I should do a live, whistle-blower search before committing again, and I found this very helpful article.

Strategic Fundraising said, after a minute or so to find the statistic, that 79% of the funds they collect goes to the charity – that’s much higher than the article says, and, of couse, the guy might have been wrong or, worse, dishonest. But the article still alleviated my concerns because it presents what seems to be a reasonable picture of how the system works.

There are costs to raising money – we all know this – so we expect it to be free. Sure, if I sent a check directly to Operation Smile, they would get 100% of it, but realistically, I need someone to prompt me to do that on occasion – a middleman. It also seems that this area is pretty well monitored if not strictly regulated, especially by Virginia, where Operation Smile is located.

Further, I had no reason to distrust the caller – all of their calls had been consistent in the past without so much as a yellow flag. So, since he answered my question well and, seemingly, honestly, I raised my small donation by a little bit more, and I’ll continue to take Strategic Fundraising’s calls. The system seems to be working.

Yet, if you read the comments to this article, you hear from a lot of angry people who seemed to have skipped some sections. It seems like the corruption isn’t with most professional fundraisers or charities, but with the bitterness inspired by a small number of criminals some of these people probably encountered at some point in the past. They couldn’t see past that (and that’s understandable if you’ve been a victim of a crime), and it was like they were reading an entirely different article.

Michael is responsible for client SEO work, reporting, FB ads, and web hosting. Prior to joining NSI Partners, Michael received his Bachelor of Science in Business Management Information Systems from Liberty University, and worked at the school’s Network Operations Center. Michael resides in Lynchburg, VA, with his wife, Megan. His hobbies include gaming, watching Atlanta Falcons football, and reading.

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