Should You Donate to Children’s Wish Foundation? (I Didn’t — Here’s Why)

My wife gets a phone call this afternoon. The script runs about how this lady had a terrible time getting into work this AM in Indiana, but she got there OK — but thousands of kids died that morning who were not OK.

…would ya like to make a pledge?

We give the standard response that most folks should give when you don’t know about the organization — send me something in the mail and I’ll consider the request.

Instead of honoring that, my wife is transfered to a closer.

“So, that’ll be a $15 monthly pledge, right?”
No… just send something in the mail.
“But you pledged to help? Don’t you want to help kids?”
Sure I do, just send something in the mail.
“I don’t understand — why did you talk to me if you didn’t want to keep your word and donate to the kids?”
Just send something in the m–
“But kids will DIE if you don’t keep your pledge!”

At which point, I snatched the phone away and barked at the caller. I do this for a living. If you’re looking for pledges, send something in the mail. Don’t badger the donor into making a donation they aren’t comfortable doing. Then the guy had the audacity to try to sell me on the pledge. Seriously?! That took about 15 seconds of my time.

Understandably, I was outraged. It’s called development, not hustling — and for a reason. So I decided to do a bit of research on the organization thinking this was a bit of a scam (just like the “Police Protective Fund” back in the day).

First, the organization Children’s Wish Foundation International does indeed exist. It gets a Charity Navigator Ration of zero, rakes in $11 million a year (how many trips to Disney World for a sick kid is that, really?) and pays it’s top two staff members salaries of $215K and $180K respectively — about 3.6% of what gets raked in (oh yes — they are husband and wife too). According to this short little blurb on Atlanta Unfiltered:

This couple (husband and wife) made this much as CEO & executive director of the Atlanta-based Children’s Wish Foundation International. The charity in 2007 spent 60 percent of its income on fund-raising and 20 percent on granting wishes.

The American Institute of Philanthropy has some concerns as well.

The website looks slick enough, but with a just a little bit of research, it’s no small wonder why their telemarketers weren’t very keen on passing along information. Yes yes… it’s the internet. Anyone can say something stupid and moronic about any organization online. Had the telemarketers been more concerned with developing this donor rather than playing stick-em-up with my wife, they might have squeezed a $10 donation out of me (in the mail).

Instead, I merely pass on my opinion and experience with Children’s Wish Foundation (which is not the Make-a-Wish Foundation) and allow others to come to their own conclusions, for good or ill.

Although it is disheartening that there are some exploitative charities out there, I also want to use this blog post as an opportunity to point you in the direction of some fundraising organizations that are doing incredible things for those in need. If you head to the GoFundMe website, you can find a list of some of the amazing charities out there that are doing brilliant work. Take a look and let me know your thoughts.

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A Georgia-based charity, Children’s Wish Foundation International, awaits an expected hearing later this spring on civil allegations that its top officials improperly spent tens of thousands of dollars on luxury trips to England, Switzerland and the Caribbean. The complaint, filed by Pennsylvania charity regulators, also accuses Children’s Wish of inflating the value of toys, books and other supplies donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities.

I’d stay away from this one, folks.

UPDATE x2 (October 2012): Because folks continue to lean on my experience with Children’s Wish Foundation International, I thought this might be interesting to pass along. Apparently in February 2011, Children’s Wish Foundation lost a court case against their own auditor:

CWF’s financial statements were not accurate. The records showed that CWF had received 17 pallets of a particular book when, in fact, it had received only seven pallets of books. The problem arose because the quantity of each gift in kind contributed by CWF was calculated by subtracting the number of pallets of the item remaining in CWF’s inventory from the beginning number of pallets shown on the spreadsheet. Mayer Hoffman assumed the beginning number of each gift in kind shown on the spreadsheet was the quantity of the item received by CWF. In fact, the beginning number of each gift in kind shown on the spreadsheet was the quantity of the item ordered. Compounding the problem was the fact that CWF sometimes received fewer pallets of an item than it had ordered and did not have a process in place to record these discrepancies. The mistaken use of the quantity of each gift in kind ordered versus received as the “starting point” for calculating the quantity of each gift in kind contributed resulted in an overstatement of the value of gift in kind contributions on CWF’s financial statements by approximately $1.31 million.

Now apparently, these guys have been doing some pretty effective SEO lately (search engine optimization), so the good articles are floating to the top of a Google search. But with just a tiny bit more digging… well, you get stuff like this.

And this. And this. And this. And this. And this (a U.S. Senate investigation?!?!).

Stay far… far away from this one, folks.

UPDATE x3 (November 2013): Folks, this has to be one of the most enduring posts I have written. So many people have e-mailed or contacted me (or commented) on the malignancy of this organization, I’m very glad to see the number of people who have felt similarly and just haven’t known where to turn.

To that end, Fox5 Atlanta did a story on Children’s Wish Foundation that absolutely nails it. I could not more highly recommend this story… Randy Travis over at Fox 5 does a fantastic job.

I find it almost shocking that the managers of this charity (1) rake in over $200,000 in salary and (2) that they were unwilling to even so much as go on camera to discuss their fundraising operations. Yes, there are some excellent charities out there that do indeed get scammed by fundraisers. There are some great fundraisers out there working for horrible charities, too.

But when they work together? Everyone loses. That’s wrong.

UPDATE x4 (October 2014): Guess who made the list of the 8 Most Corrupt Charities in the United States?

Children’s Wish Foundation International is one of several charities that mimic the name and the mission of the well-established Make-A-Wish Foundation in Arizona. Children’s Wish reported that it spent about $600,000 granting wishes to terminally ill children in 2010 and gave them donated goods valued at $3 million. It paid professional fundraisers nearly $6 million for their services that year.

$63 million to the fundraisers, $200,000 in salary, and only $10 million towards actually helping children… and still folks are getting roped in.

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