Fact Check: 'Think Before You Donate' Warning Does NOT Convey Accurate Information

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: 'Think Before You Donate' Warning Does NOT Convey Accurate Information Out Of Date

Does this warning about several well-known charity organizations have accurate up-to-date information? No, that's not true: This photo of a chart has been circulating on Facebook since at least 2012, but the information appears to have originated from an email dating back to 2005. Much of this information is not only outdated, but was false from the outset, especially claims regarding the portion of donations used for charity programs.This 5-year-old post has resurfaced and is circulating on Facebook again in November of 2020.

The warning about five charities appears in a post (archived here) which was shared on Facebook on October 29, 2015, with the caption "Wow!!!" It opened:

Think Before You Donate

Something to think about before you make contributions:
As you open your pockets to do a good thing and make yourself feel good, please keep the following in mind:

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Dec 1 15:51:43 2020 UTC)

The chart in the photo singles out five charity organizations for criticism: the American Red Cross, March of Dimes, United Way, UNICEF, and Goodwill. This inaccurate chart is an abbreviated edition of a chart derived from a long email, originally written out in paragraph format. The text of the email that was circulating in 2010 is archived in an article from Snopes.com, "Think Before You Donate!" (the 2005 Snopes article has been updated several times over the years). The text of the email directly mirrors the text included in the boxes of the chart. Below is an excerpt of the email text containing the false and outdated claims about the five charities criticized at the top of the "Think before you donate" chart.

The American Red Cross President and CEO Marsha J. Evans' salary for the year was $651,957 plus expenses MARCH OF DIMES It is called the March of Dimes because only a dime for every 1 dollar is given to the needy. The United Way President Brian Gallagher receives a $375,000 base salary along with numerous expense benefits. UNICEF CEO Caryl M. Stern receives $1,200,000 per year (100k per month) plus all expenses including a ROLLS ROYCE. Less than 5 cents of your donated dollar goes to the cause. 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.

Below is a screenshot of a chart that was posted on Facebook in 2012. This other example goes on to offer alternative suggestions for charitable donating:

Instead, give it to any of the following
Go "green" and put your money where it will do some good:

The 10 "green" charities listed are, the Salvation Army, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled American Veterans, the Military Order of Purple Hearts, the Vietnam Veterans Association, Make a Wish, St. Jude Research Hospital, Ronald McDonald Houses and Lions Club International.

CharityGoGreen.jpg

There are numerous websites that specialize in nothing but evaluating nonprofits and providing that information to the public. With every year that passes, this old trope will continue to be false and out of date, and the annual fact-check corrections offered to address it will also become dated and need revising. A quick review of the five claims in the original post as they stand in December of 2020:

Outdated Information: "The American Red Cross President and CEO Marsha J. Evans' salary for the year was $651,957 plus expenses"

No. Marsha J. Evans resigned in 2005. CBS News reported, "American Red Cross President Quits" on December 13, 2005. The current CEO of the American Red Cross is Gail McGovern and she is paid $709,164 according to Charitywatch. They report that 90% of the Red Cross budget is spent on programs compared to overhead.

False Claim: "MARCH OF DIMES It is called the March of Dimes because only a dime for every 1 dollar is given to the needy."

No. Currently 75% of the March of Dimes budget goes to programs, according to Charity Navigator. The origin of the name "March of Dimes" goes back to November 22, 1937, when comedian Eddie Cantor coined the phrase to name a fund drive for FDR's newly created National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis to fight polio.

Outdated Information: "The United Way President Brian Gallagher receives a $375,000 base salary along with numerous expense benefits."

No. United Way president Brian Gallagher's base salary is actually more, $777,692. According to Charity Navigator, 96% of the budget of United Way Worldwide goes toward programs.

False Claims: "UNICEF CEO Caryl M. Stern receives $1,200,000 per year (100k per month) plus all expenses including a ROLLS ROYCE. Less than 5 cents of your donated dollar goes to the cause."

No. The president/CEO of UNICEF, Caryl M. Stern, receives a salary of $652,425 per year. According to Charity Watch, 84% of the budget is spent on programs. A statement from UNICEF addresses the claim of the Rolls Royce:

Some versions of the "Rolls Royce" email confuse UNICEF USA's president & CEO with UNICEF's executive director. There is no Rolls Royce or company car provided for any staff member at UNICEF or UNICEF USA, including the president & CEO of UNICEF USA or UNICEF's executive director.

False Claims: "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."

No. The CEO of Goodwill Industries International has never been a person by the name of Mark Curran. According to CharityWatch, 88% of the budget of Goodwill Industries International, an IRS-approved 501(c)3 non-profit, is spent on programs. The most recent record CharityWatch lists for the compensation of the CEO was for James Gibbons, at $717,227. James Gibbons resigned from his position at Goodwill in 2018. Goodwill has published its own rebuttal to this old false rumor from the email:

Because Goodwill is widely known as a retail entity, there is a lot of misinformation and misrepresentations about our brand. In particular, there is a rumor that has been circulating for more than 15 years that insinuates we have an owner by the name of "Mark Curran." As a nonprofit, Goodwill does not have an owner and no one by that name has ever been affiliated with the Goodwill network. Steve Preston is the president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International.

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


 

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