What's that charity doing with your money?

Doing the right thing and helping others usually makes people feel good. But how do you know the money that the money you're giving to charity is going to programs and not just salaries?

Viewer Jim let me know that he got mail from a charity called Adopt-a-platoon. He asked whether it's legitimate and effective. Let's check it out, as you should any charity.

Arizona does not require charities to register with the state, so you're pretty much on your own.

I start by looking at the charities website and for transparency.

Are the director's names listed and are the 990 financial tax forms available?

With Adopt-a-platoon, it's yes in both cases.

Then, I go to an online site to help me look at those 990 tax forms and see how much money goes to the folks you want to help versus charity expenses. And see how much money goes to the folks you want to help versus charity expenses.

CharityNavigator.org gives Adopt-a-platoon a 69 rating out of 100 and one star out of four. That's for the year 2014, the most recent that was listed.

At a different site, Charitywatch.org, they didn't give a rating. This site says that's because of a "continued presence of apparent reporting errors" that the charity "appears to be incorrectly reporting millions of dollars of fundraising expenses as program grants" and that they can't get answers from adopt-a-platoon.

So, I called the charity itself. They say they did report everything correctly and have their information independently audited. And they say they are being transparent and accountable with these charity sites and giving them the information they require.

As I said, the 990 tax form is where you'll find financial information.

To see how donations are spent, follow this advice: 

Go to page 10. It's called the statement of functional expenses, find Line 25 (total functional expenses). Divide column B (program services) by column A (total expenses), then multiply by 100. The resulting figure is the percentage that organization is spending directly on their programs and services. 

Also, check out the "statement of program service accomplishments" for more on program expenses.

Good Luck!

Need my help? 

"Like" the Let Joe Know Facebook page and tell me about the issue there.

You can also call the Assistance League of Phoenix volunteers at 1-855-323-1515. You can email or find me on Twitter.

Check out the latest scams we're seeing. Sign up for our monthly email newsletter by clicking here.

AND WE NEED YOUR HELP!  If you want to be a volunteer and help other consumers, let me know.

Print this article Back to Top

What is Let Joe Know?

Let Joe Know protects YOU the consumer. We expose scams and hold businesses accountable for their contracts and agreements. Most important, we share consumer red flags before they hit your wallet!

ABC15's Let Joe Know reports air every weekday during ABC15 News at 6pm and online at abc15.com/LetJoeKnow.

Want to help Let Joe Know? Become a volunteer! Call 1-855-323-1515 and leave your name, number to start helping us help others.

SO YOU WANT TO KNOW: COMMON QUESTIONS, EASY ANSWERS

How do I erase info from electronics?
Where does my charity money really go?
Is that a real check I got in the mail?
Do I need flood insurance; how can I get it? 
What should I do before hiring a contractor? 
What are the best ways to prevent ID theft?
Do I have 3-days to get out of my contract?
Debt collectors harass me! What are my rights?