Wise Giving Wednesday: FTC and Ten States Sue Cancer Charity

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calendar icon Mar 13, 2024

On March 11, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission and 10 states (CA, FL, MD, MA, NC, OK, OR, TX, VA, and WI) announced that they sued the Cancer Recovery Foundation (aka Women’s Cancer Fund) alleging that between 2017 and 2022 they collected $18 million mostly via telemarketing appeals and spent only $194,809 on their cause of providing support for cancer patients. The FTC notes this $194k amount works out to be a penny for every dollar donated. 

This is not the first time government authorities have taken action against organizations engaged in raising money for cancer causes. Back in 2016, two other cancer charities signed a settlement agreement with the FTC and all 50 states to dissolve two cancer charities that had been involved in bilking donors for more than $187 million. 

BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips to help avoid future potential phone appeal deception: 

  • Watch out for similar sounding names. Some charity names sound the same. Usually, it’s because they are addressing the same cause. Other times, it might be an attempt to deceive. To avoid being mistaken, visit the easy-to-read reports at Give.org to verify if the charity soliciting you is the one you have in mind. 
  • Resist excessive pressure to donate. If you receive a telephone call requesting a donation, don’t feel pressed to give personal information or to make an immediate donation. A credible organization will welcome a gift at any time. While it can sometimes be hard to say no when an appeal strikes an emotional chord, you can avoid being disappointed if it turns out the charity is not what you thought. 
  • Trust should be earned. There are many well-managed charities that carry out important work. Don’t assume that the organization calling you is the one you want to support, especially if you are unfamiliar with the organization. Visit Give.org to identify BBB Accredited Charities (i.e., meets all 20 BBB Charity Standards) that address the causes you care about. 
  • Cold calls often lead to high fundraising expenses. Telephone appeals made to individuals who have not previously supported the charity (cold calls), can involve high fundraising costs where less than 20% of the amount collected goes to the charity. More well-managed efforts will contact prior donors. 
  • Check with state government regulators. About 40 of the 50 states require charities to register before they solicit. Usually, these offices are a division of the state office of the attorney general or the secretary of state. Keep in mind that registration does not mean the state government agency recommends or endorses the charity. In Canada, check with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Heart of Giving Podcast

This week’s Heart of Giving Podcast features Katherina ‘Kat’ M. Rosqueta, Founding Executive Director, Center for High Impact Philanthropy, Faculty Co-Director of High Impact Philanthropy Academy, and Adjunct Faculty in the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice.

Recent Reports

We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit Give.org or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:

Finally, remember to let us know by going to give.org/charity-inquiry if you are interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.

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