June 13th, 2013
11:35 AM ET

Tonight on AC360: The 50 worst charities

Editor's note: Watch Drew Griffin's report on several cancer charities that have raised millions of dollars. He investigates how that money is being used. Tune in to AC360° at 8 and 10 p.m. ET.

For more than a year, my colleague, producer David Fitzpatrick, and I have been crisscrossing the country exposing corrupt charities. We’ve found there is no shortage of greedy scam artists who will ask for your heartfelt donations, only to squander your money or keep it as their own.

We’ve had doors slammed in our face by so-called veterans’ charities. They raise money in the name of our country’s military heroes; yet in some cases, hardly any money reaches veterans in need.

We’ve exposed the gifts in kind trick, where well-intentioned people give donations to a charity group, and then the organization sends leftover junk, hand-me-downs or giveaways to the needy. They pretend it’s somehow proof of their “charitable work.”

In one case, thousands of bags of coconut M&M’s were sent to a non-profit for homeless veterans. The same “charitable group” sent these homeless vets shiny surplus Navy dress shoes. We’ve even found left over football pants being “donated” as a gift in kind to a veterans service organization. (Was that in case some homeless vets wanted to field a sports team?)

We’ve seen money raised in the names of war vets, war pets, animals in general, and now even cancer patients. And we’ve shown you, in detail, just how it all appears to be one big scam – a way to enrich the lives of the charity operators or outside companies hired to help the charities raise funds.

Tonight, we begin another chapter in this investigation. We partnered with the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting, who compiled a list of America's 50 worst charities – based on how much money they waste on fundraising and phone solicitations.

Our reporting partners looked at tax returns from the charities themselves and analyzed them line by line. They examined how money, donated by generous Americans, was squandered by non-profit charities. The information all comes from the charities who report the same information directly to the IRS.

And yet again I am disappointed by what we can’t report to you. The federal government has not acted. Understaffed and overworked regulators cannot keep a close eye on the many charitable organizations that seem to be profiting from their non-profit status.

It is even more surprising in the wake of the scandal surrounding the Tea Party applications. Non-profit investigators at the IRS scrutinized applications for Tea Party groups seeking non-profit status, but have apparently not been able to stop the charities we’ve exposed.

As I say, we’ve done the work, along with the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting, and there is now a comprehensive list of malevolent groups.

Not surprisingly, for this report and all the other reports we’ve been airing, the IRS repeatedly declined to comment.

If you’ve ever contributed to a charity, or intend to in the future, don’t miss tonight’s report at 8 and 10 p.m. ET on CNN.

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. William Cinnamon

    You should also be investigating the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which always finds time to ask for money and prayers for itself, but never for those involved in major disasters. They run a scroll across the bottom of their screen asking for support constantly, but no mention of prayers or money to be sent to charities or victims of the Boston bombings or the West, Texas explosions, or the tornado victims. The Crouch family lives in luxury in Santa Ana, CA.

    This is not Christianity!

    June 18, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  2. john wright

    YMCA one off biggest scams out there.

    June 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  3. Andrew

    I just don't know what to say. This is just wrong and it makes me so angry that they are just a bunch of fakes.

    June 15, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  4. Lee

    I would love to see someone actually build a spreadsheet of all charities in the USA.. Input the data from the IRS forms and do follow up work. I would bet less than 2% of all money, goods and equipment donated actually is helping a person in need. Remember when there was a big push to donate a car or boat? Who in the end got the free car? Or did some scam charity pocket the proceeds in the name of some disability.

    Another latest charity scam is claiming to be a non-profit to help the disabled. They find people to donate for free expensive durable medical equipment and turn around and sell them to the poor and disabled for thousands of dollars.e pockets. Or list the equipment on craigslist. What services are they providing if they get the equipment for free anyway? They should be giving away the equipment not making money off of it.

    June 15, 2013 at 2:32 am |
  5. Judy McKenna

    Not 12 hours after watching this revealing broadcast, the #1 worst charity, Kids Wish Network, contacted me for a donation. I emphatically told them NO!! What a disgrace for these people to be living high on the hog on monies given them in good faith.

    June 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  6. Deborah

    Thank you, Anderson, for reporting these fraud "organizations". There are so many scams out there that people who just want to help others will send money to but do not know more about are not really legitimate organizations! It is the same with religious organizations as well!

    June 14, 2013 at 12:40 am |
  7. Kathy Bowers

    Please make sure that people understand that the kid wish network is NOT affiliated with Make A Wish foundation!

    June 13, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
  8. Valerie Cady Hudgens

    And we wonder why we can't find a cure for cancer! Wow, this is incomprehensible! The greed of some people is hard to even process!

    June 13, 2013 at 8:38 pm |