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View Full Version : BR&BC for NGOs/non-profits?



Chris P
09-15-2013, 03:22 PM
This isn't for a story, but a discussion with another AW member prompted me to go looking for a resource for potential donors to determine if an NGO or charity is legitimate.

I'm picturing something like the Bewares, Recommendations and Background Checks forum we have here.

Any ideas?

jclarkdawe
09-15-2013, 04:40 PM
I don't know of any single site, and won't trust any that exist.

You need to check with the applicable national authority. For instance, the US Internal Revenue Service has a list of all tax deductible charities for the United States. Each state in the United States lists all licensed non-profits in their state. Still doesn't mean you can't be scammed, but is fairly reliable.

The United Nations, I believe, maintains some level of list for charities and NGOs affiliated with the UN.

There must be millions of these things. Each local office tends to be its own thing. For instance, the Concord, NH Red Cross is an independent office, affiliated with the NH Red Cross, which is affiliated with the US Red Cross, which is affiliated with the International Red Cross. Repeat over and over again. Each layer has it's own individual non-profit status.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

wendymarlowe
09-15-2013, 06:07 PM
http://www.charitynavigator.org has a good database of charities, including some of the more persistent scammier ones.

Yorkist
09-15-2013, 08:19 PM
The problem is that the IRS does not confirm whether or not the nonprofit is a scam. All they care about is whether they're reporting the numbers accurately.

Guidestar.org is the only place to check that I know of, but they are using the nonprofits' stated financials, which also do not prove scammery in any way.

veinglory
09-15-2013, 09:12 PM
There is already Charity Navigator and Charity watch who do a pretty good job.

King Neptune
09-15-2013, 09:19 PM
You might call your state's attorney general's office and ask. I would think that there is some kind of registry in each state; although some non-profits don't realize that registering with the feds doesn't cover everything.

Chris P
09-15-2013, 10:22 PM
Thanks everyone! I was aware of Charity Navigator but hadn't encountered Charity Watch. State registries are helpful, but things get complicated once you go overseas. There are two NGOs within 100 yards of me here, one of which I'm assigned to. Both are on Charity Navigator, but there is no ranking because they are not required to complete certain US government forms. For those organizations that are ranked, the info is helpful. At least you can figure out what percentage of expenses go to overhead and such.

Yorkist
09-15-2013, 10:32 PM
Chris, yeah, that info is helpful, but it doesn't tell you everything. Two reasons:

1) Some organizations have higher overhead within the nature of their operations than others do. An obvious example is the Red Cross. The expensive part of their business is getting to where shit is going down, not the actual supplies and such. That takes a lot of logistical expertise.

You can compare NGO's with similar missions, operations, and locations, though.

2) I am using an example the first scam nonprofit I found, as a project for my government and nonprofit accounting class. It was an animal rescue that I can't name because I could get sued. On paper they were excellent. 87% of their expenses went to operations.

In reality, they were using their nonprofit status to build additions to their home, a swimming pool, etc. and their nonprofit was only there to support a for-profit business, which looked like part of the nonprofit but wasn't.

They were also breeding dogs. Huge no-no in animal rescue.

girlyswot
09-15-2013, 10:40 PM
In the UK, there is the Charity Commission: http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/

asnys
09-16-2013, 01:52 AM
Thanks everyone! I was aware of Charity Navigator but hadn't encountered Charity Watch. State registries are helpful, but things get complicated once you go overseas. There are two NGOs within 100 yards of me here, one of which I'm assigned to. Both are on Charity Navigator, but there is no ranking because they are not required to complete certain US government forms. For those organizations that are ranked, the info is helpful. At least you can figure out what percentage of expenses go to overhead and such.

Are you in the Peace Corps?

I was in Uganda as part of the Peace Corps for a while. I found other PCVs to be the best resource.

jclarkdawe
09-16-2013, 07:19 AM
Problem is that a lot of foreign governments have little or no control over NGOs and nonprofits in their country. A few years ago I dealt with a Russian nonprofit that on some levels was legitimate, and at other levels, grossly illegal in the US. But the Russians did what they said they were going to do, the cost was cheaper then we expected, and not knowing where all the bribes went is just to be expected. Do I think the Russians were the virgins they wanted us to believe? Not likely, but it worked out.

I don't know what to tell you. Unless an organization has some level of history, and some level of sharing information, it's hard to tell who's legit and what's a scam. And a lot of foreign NGOs and nonprofits are a mix of the two.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

King Neptune
09-16-2013, 03:58 PM
Problem is that a lot of foreign governments have little or no control over NGOs and nonprofits in their country. A few years ago I dealt with a Russian nonprofit that on some levels was legitimate, and at other levels, grossly illegal in the US. But the Russians did what they said they were going to do, the cost was cheaper then we expected, and not knowing where all the bribes went is just to be expected. Do I think the Russians were the virgins they wanted us to believe? Not likely, but it worked out.

I don't know what to tell you. Unless an organization has some level of history, and some level of sharing information, it's hard to tell who's legit and what's a scam. And a lot of foreign NGOs and nonprofits are a mix of the two.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

The same happens with U.S. non-profits, but they aren't "grossly illegal", but many fail to notice all of the regulations, or perhaps they choose to ignore some of the regulations.

Yorkist
09-16-2013, 10:21 PM
By the way, you can be a shady nonprofit, or a poorly run one, and still be totally legally above-board. There are fraudulent ones (fitting the financial definition of fraud) and then there are also grossly wasteful ones who either aren't really performing their mission or are completely disorganized.

Chris P
09-17-2013, 01:18 PM
Are you in the Peace Corps?

I was in Uganda as part of the Peace Corps for a while. I found other PCVs to be the best resource.

Yep, I'm in Uganda with the Peace Corps. When were you here?

We (me, Yorkist, and a few others) are brainstorming ideas to warn potential donors to scams. Yeah, it's a huge undertaking and we're narrowing down our focus to make it even humanly possible, let alone manageable. We're pretty sure a BR&BC type forum somewhere is probably not the answer, since it will take a lot of time to get people with experiences to contribute their input, as well as let potential donors know the resource exists. It's still in the "what is the problem and what is the best way to address it stage."

asnys
09-17-2013, 02:45 PM
Yep, I'm in Uganda with the Peace Corps. When were you here?

We (me, Yorkist, and a few others) are brainstorming ideas to warn potential donors to scams. Yeah, it's a huge undertaking and we're narrowing down our focus to make it even humanly possible, let alone manageable. We're pretty sure a BR&BC type forum somewhere is probably not the answer, since it will take a lot of time to get people with experiences to contribute their input, as well as let potential donors know the resource exists. It's still in the "what is the problem and what is the best way to address it stage."

Let me PM you.