News Release


For More Information:

William R. Steinhaus
Dutchess County Executive
(845) 486-2000

For Immediate Release

October 19, 1999

County Executive Steinhaus Joined by Consumer Affairs Director and County Legislator Noel to Protect Charitable Donors

Poughkeepsie, NY - County Executive William R. Steinhaus was joined today by Dutchess County Director of Consumer Affairs, Nelson Kranker, and County Legislator Sandra Noel to provide residents with tips for charitable giving as the holiday season is approaching.

"Although a great majority of charities manage themselves and their funds well and merit the confidence and support of donors, there are those select few who don't," said Steinhaus. "An example of those who don't recently surfaced in our county and was brought to my attention by Dutchess County Director of Consumer Affairs, Nelson Kranker, and Dutchess County Legislator, Sandra Noel."

"I feel it is my duty to protect my constituents," stated Legislator Noel. "This is why when I heard about this charity I immediately brought it to the County Executive's attention."

"A woman in Legislator Noel's district had been collecting money for the National Children's Cancer Society when she discovered that only 22% of the funds collected were being used for their programs and 78% were used to cover administrative and fund-raising costs. Compared to charities like the United Way which spends 83% of its funds on their programs, it is evident that helping people is not the main goal of the National Children's Cancer Society. Their main goal is paying salaries and helping people is a sideline objective. In an effort to protect our residents we feel it is important to educate the public about charitable giving."

According to Nelson Kranker, to meet the standards of the National Charities Information Bureau, a charity must spend a minimum of 60% of its revenue on program expenses. Program expenses are expenses which donors expect their money to be used for, such as the medical research. The Bureau has called attention to seven questionable charities, operating with 13 separate names. They are:

>Together, the organizations listed above reported annual cash revenues totaling $69.1 million in 1996, the last full year for which financial figures are available for all of them. The total amount all these organizations spent on program work was only 22% of the funds they raised from contributors. Excluding the American Institute for Cancer Research, the average of the program expenses of these organizations amounted to less than 6% of the total expenses.

"The National Charities Information Bureau and Dutchess County have compiled a list of important recommendations for residents to follow before making charitable contributions," Steinhaus stated. "Charitable contributions are an important aspect of a healthy community, we want to encourage charitable giving, but we want to protect our residents in the process."

The County recommends that residents ask charities for written information regarding the exact name of  the organization because sound-alike groups can be confusing. Ask for the organization's purpose, be it finding a cure for a disease or caring for people who suffer from a disease. Know how the group attempts to achieve its goals, whether they do their own research or make grants. Also, find out how much of your dollar is used for true charitable purposes.

"Too often people fall prey to the methods which charitable groups use to encourage donations," Steinhaus noted. "The tactics we need to be aware of are the high pressure calls and solicitations that emphasize emotional content but contain little or no substance, charities that won't send written material until after you donate because they claim there isn't time or it's too costly, and phone calls or letters telling you that you have won money or a prize from a charity." Other methods the County Executive warned about are callers other than friends or neighbors who want to pick up your contribution. It is always recommended that you use the U.S. mail when making contributions.

"Some very important 'don'ts' are don't give cash and don't give your credit card number to strangers. Always write a check made payable only to the full name of the charity," Steinhaus added. "Lastly, don't pay attention to dunning letters and don't respond to letters that say you have pledged money until you are 100% certain you did."

"It is unfortunate that there are charities that are less-than-honorable because Dutchess County resident have always been generous and I don't want to see this dampen residents confidence in charitable giving," Noel said. "Hopefully through this type of education we can encourage giving while at the same time protect our citizens."


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