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charities hoax email

There is an email about charities that began circulating in 2005 and is now making its annual holiday rounds on social media that tries to steer potential donors away from the Red Cross, March of Dimes, United Way, UNICEF, and Goodwill. The hoax email has a subject line that reads "Think before you donate." The hoax tries to direct potential donors to give their money to charities like the Salvation Army, various veterans groups, and a few other organizations. One of the lies that stands out in this hoax is:

GOODWILL  CEO and owner Mark Curran profits $2.3 million a year. Goodwill is a very catchy name for his business. You donate to his business and then he sells the items for PROFIT.  He pays nothing for his products and pays his workers minimum wage! Nice Guy.  $0.00 goes to help anyone! Stop giving to this man.

According to Snopes.com, which has tracked down the many claims made in the "Think before you donate" hoax email:

Goodwill Industries International is not a business that takes in donated items and resells them for a profit. It is a not-for-profit organization that provides job training, employment placement services and other community-based programs for people who have disabilities, lack education or job experience, or face employment challenges. Goodwill raises money for their programs through a chain of thrift stores which also operate as non-profits. 

The CEO of Goodwill Industries International is not Mark Curran, nor does he make $2.3 million a year.
The current President and CEO of Goodwill is Jim Gibbons.

Goodwill was founded in 1902 in Boston by Methodist minister Edgar J. Helms. Goodwill is now a $4 billion-a-year nonprofit network of more than 2,900 community-based retail stores that employ more than a quarter of a million people.

According to Snopes.com, many people consider the "efficiency" of an organization when deciding which charities to donate to. Efficiency is measured by the percentage of money taken in by a charity that goes to "funding its mission rather than being eaten up by costs such as fundraising activities, salaries, and other administrative overhead."

Unfortunately, the five veterans-related charitable organizations mentioned [in the "Think before you donate" hoax email] don't receive very high marks for efficiency (as determined by Charity Navigator, the BBB, or [IRS] Form 990 information): 

  • American Legion: 55%
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars: 84%
  • Disabled American Veterans: 77%
  • Military Order of Purple Heart Service Foundation: 35%
  • Vietnam Veterans of America: 25%

Unsolicited emails and anonymous postings on social media about charities are about as trustworthy as those that let you in on secrets about which stocks to buy or how to burn off fat without dieting or exercising. If you are curious about the efficiency of a charity, I recommend you consult an independent source like Charity Navigator, the BBB, GuideStar, or Forbes.

Charity Navigator rates Goodwill by geographical area. The San Francisco area is rated 90.54 on financial performance. Americares is rated 90.41. The Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, Veterans Support Foundation, and National Veterans Services Fund are each rated 0.00 on financial performance.

further reading

Frauds, Hoaxes, and Conspiracies

Last updated 12-Dec-2014

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