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Don’t get ripped off when donating this holiday season

Photo Credit: NJ Division of Consumer Affairs

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Of each donated dollar the N.J. Police Officers Foundation spent its last fiscal year, only 11 cents went toward helping other charities or the Italian-American community, its stated goals.

GRAPHIC courtesy NJ Division of Consumer Affairs

Compare that with the Christian Appalachian Project, which put 91 cents of each $1 toward physical, spiritual, and emotional support for poor Appalachians.

Five cents of each dollar went toward fundraising, and four cents toward management and general expenses.

On the other hand, while the NJPOF spent only two cents per dollar on management-related expense, a whopping 87 cents went toward fundraising activities.

The message, according to the state Division of Consumer Affairs: ‘Tis the Season to Investigate Before You Donate.

The Division frequently produces lists outlining how non-profit organizations use donated money. A partial list can be found below. For the full list, go to: DCACharityList

“At this time of year, people are making decisions about donating to the causes they find most meaningful and important,” said Thomas R. Calcagni, director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, who urged consumers to “decide not just with their hearts but with their heads.

“Before giving to a charity, find out how much of your donation dollar will be spent on charitable programs, as opposed to fundraising or management costs,” Calgani said. “Take a close look at the charity’s stated mission, and the specific ways it works to fulfill that mission.”

The list of New Jersey’s Top 10 Most Inquired-About Charities is drawn from consumer calls to the Division’s Charities Registration Hotline (973-504-6215).

It provides information on the 10 charities most often asked about by consumers who called the Hotline from September through November 2011.  A high number of inquiries may mean a charity solicited donations or held a campaign drive during the months in question.

The New Jersey Police Officers Foundation, based in Lyndhurst, and the Christian Appalachian Project, based in Lexington, Kentucky, are at the extreme ends of the list.

According to the federal Better Business Bureau: A charity should dedicate at least 65 percent of its expenses toward program activities, and no more than 35 percent toward fundraising.

Clicking on each charity’s name pulls up a full pie chart and additional info:

New Jersey Police Officers Association of Lyndhurst

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/2010: $931,126
Charitable program expenses: 10.8 percent
Fundraising expenses: 87 percent
Management and general expenses: 2.1 percent

PAL of New Jersey of Freehold

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/2009: $996,676
Charitable program expenses: 39.6 percent
Fundraising expenses: 50 percent
Management and general expenses: 10.4 percent

Paralyzed Veterans of America of Washington, D.C.

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/21/2010: $110,781,205
Charitable program expenses: 60 percent
Fundraising expenses: 31.8 percent
Management and general expenses: 8.3 percent


Wounded Warrior Project of Jacksonville, Florida

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 9/30/2010: $34,843,801
Charitable program expenses: 64.1 percent
Fundraising expenses: 28.3 percent
Management and general expenses: 7.7 percent

Help Hospitalized Veterans of Winchester, California

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 7/31/2010: $37,837,593
Charitable program expenses: 64.5 percent
Fundraising expenses: 27.5 percent
Management and general expenses: 8 percent

Breast Cancer Society of America of Mesa, Arizona

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/2010: $47,985,521
Charitable program expenses: 69.8 percent
Fundraising Expenses: 29.5 percent
Management and general expenses: 0.7 percent

Smile Train of New York, New York

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 6/30/2010: $86,267,187
Charitable program expenses: 78 percent
Fundraising expenses: 21 percent
Management and general expenses: 0.9 percent

United Service Organizations of Arlington, Virginia

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/2010: $174,716,310
Charitable program expenses: 79.3 percent
Fundraising expenses: 13.5 percent
Management and general expenses: 7.2 percent

Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/2010
Charitable program expenses: 85.5 percent
Fundraising expenses: 10 percent
Management and general expenses: 4.5 percent


Christian Appalachian Project, of Lexington, Kentucky

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 8/31/10: $132,680,466
Charitable program expenses: 90.6 percent
Fundraising expenses: 5.1 percent
Management and general expenses: 4.3 percent.

TIPS from the State Division of Consumer Affairs before donating:

Find out whether the charity is registered in New Jersey, or is exempt from having to register. (Certain religious and educational organizations, and charities whose annual income includes less than $10,000 in public contributions and fundraising, are exempt from having to register with the State).

Find out how much the charity spent during recent fiscal years on program costs, management costs, and fundraising.

Learn about the charity’s stated mission.

You can get information about a charity several ways. Ask straight out (credible organizations are happy to oblige, visit the charity’s website; visit the state Division of Consumer Affairs’ Charities Registration page ( www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov ) or call the Division’s Charities Hotline at (973) 504-6215 (during regular business hours).

Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website, www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov , or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey ) or (973) 504-6200.






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