MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- If you get a call from a charity, asking for donations, FOX6's Contact 6 says you may want to think twice before opening your wallet! A FOX6 viewer alerted Contact 6 to a charity she had never heard of, so Contact 6 did some digging, and found out where some of the donations you make are really going!
Oncologist Chris Chitambar's team is studying the exhausting effects of chemotherapy on women.
"We're trying to understand ways in which it makes one fatigued - women - because a lot of women who receive chemotherapy experience fatigue - extreme fatigue - that lingers well beyond completion of treatment," Chitambar said from his lab at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Chitambar's team could receive federal money for the study, kick-started by local donations, most coming from a beautiful home in Milwaukee.
For $20, you can tour the Wisconsin Breast Cancer Showhouse. The organization has raised close to $5 million since it started in 1988. 70-cents of every dollar goes to the Medical College for breast cancer research.
Many people Contact 6 talked to in the Milwaukee area agreed that 70-cents per dollar is a fair amount for a charity, with the other 30-cents going toward fundraising and administrative costs.
But a viewer tipped Contact 6 off to an Arizona charity soliciting cash donations in Wisconsin. Turns out it's paying a lot of that money to the people hired to raise that money!
It's called the Breast Cancer Society, Inc. Its website says it provides money, medicine and other supporting products for breast cancer victims.
A look at the non-profit's 2011 tax returns reveals a fundraising concern. Part of the $52 million in cash and products it collected includes $13.5 million raised by professional fundraisers - companies paid to solicit donations for the Breast Cancer Society.
Of that $13.5 million, the organization reports it paid those professional fundraisers more than $8 million. That means those fundraisers - which are paid to make calls to 36 states, including Wisconsin, for donations - were paid more than 61% of what they collected!
"I want it to go for the research, the medical help, the assistance," a FOX6 viewer said. "Not to a call center."
The Breast Cancer Society wouldn't talk on the phone or in person, but insisted through email that it spends more than $36 million on medical supplies in "impoverished areas of the world."
When asked how many people are being helped here in Wisconsin - they stopped emailing.
The CEO's father runs a separate charity called the Cancer Fund of America. It claims it took in more than $25 million in cash and product in 2011 including a little more than $6 million through fundraising but paid those fundraisers more than $5 million. That means those professional fundraisers were paid more than 83% of what they collected!
Perhaps that's just one of the reasons the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting recently labeled Cancer Fund of America the #2 "Worst Charity in America."
"It is very costly to raise funds, whether you do it yourself or whether you have someone professionally to help you," said Cancer Fund of America CEO James Reynolds Sr. during a phone call. "If you have enough volunteers around the nation then you can get them to do it free of charge. But it`s becoming harder and harder."
Meantime, Dr. Chitambar is dedicated to helping people in Wisconsin thanks to Wisconsin dollars and donors.
"You just want to be sure that the money you're putting in, that you're donating, is going to [an organization] in which little of it is spent in overhead costs and actually goes to the project," Dr. Chitambar said.
Want to know where your dollar is really going?
Contact 6 advises asking questions about who will be helped and how much of your donation is going to the charity versus how much is going to the fundraiser.
Also -- do research on the organization before you donate. Check out Charity Navigator Guidestar - they monitor non-profits, can give you good information and help you determine where your donation will do the most good!