What’s the difference between a real charity and a fraudulent one? Unfortunately, most of us just can’t tell from looking at them. There are charities out there which you may even have donated to, and which actually turned out to have been frauds for a very long time.
Cancer Fund of America is one of those examples. It was finally revealed after years in business that the charity was only really using a few cents out of every dollar to really help people. The rest went to paying for telemarketers to prey on older people, and to funding lavish lifestyles for the founder and his family. Cancer Fund of America has since been shut down, thankfully.
It was not endorsed by any celebrities, but that’s not always the case when a charity is found to be hiding a dirty secret. Sometimes, when it happens, it leaves a lot of people with very red faces. Some of them in particular may be people who should have known better.
Take this as a reminder that not everything is always as it seems. Sometimes it’s better to check a charity out online rather than to just give without thinking! After all, it’s much better that the money goes to a real charity which will ensure those who are really in need benefit from it. In the case of these 15 charities who were even supported by celebrities, they had some dirty secrets that they didn’t want anyone to find out. Luckily, we did…
15. Kid’s Wish Network – The Worst Charity In America
Kid’s Wish Network has been exposed as one of the worst charities in the world, and perhaps the worst in America. It spends less than 3 cents per dollar on actually helping the kids it supposedly raises money for. The rest goes to either the people operating the charity, or the for-profit companies that are hired to bring in donations. Over a 10-year period, over $110 million that was raised for them actually went to their corporate solicitors instead, while $4.8 million went to the charity’s founder over the same period. Celebrities who have publicly supported Kid’s Wish Network include Barack Obama, Julia Roberts, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Daniel Radcliffe, and Mark Hamill – to name just a select few. The actual list is huge. The sad thing is that the use of for-profit companies to raise donations is nowhere near an isolated case. In fact, it happens frequently, resulting in a huge loss of the donated money.
14. UNICEF – Misappropriation And Misdirection
UNICEF has already been embroiled in one scandal, with claims in the 1990s that they had misappropriated more than $1 million in funding. But there’s another dirty secret behind the charity too. They tend to use misdirection to make their own achievements seem larger than they are in actuality, which could mean that people are donating to them rather than putting the money somewhere more useful. They have made a lot of claims about the fall in child mortality rates, the increase of clean water, and the improved overall nutrition in a lot of countries where they operate. The truth of the matter is that economic upturn has been the main contributing factor for those improvements. UNICEF has the support of Ellen DeGeneres, Kevin Spacey, Claudia Schiffer, and Lewis Hamilton, amongst many others. While the work they do definitely has benefits for those in need of help, their use of misdirection isn’t helping when it comes to solving the actual causes behind the issues facing children worldwide.
13. Red Cross – Failing To Build Homes In Haiti
The American Red Cross came under serious fire after taking donations to rebuild homes in Haiti. Despite the fact that they had taken in $488 million in donations to help the country, a report in 2015 suggested that only 6 permanent homes had been built with the money. The organization denied that things were as bad as they looked, saying that a lot of money had been spent on emergency aid, but at the same time refused to provide transparent figures of how it had been spent. This was a very dodgy situation, and it’s not clear exactly what happened. The Red Cross has been a huge favourite for celebrity donations because it has such a high profile. Some of the big names to support them include Bill Gates, Adam Lambert, Nicole Kidman, Britney Spears, and even Nelson Mandela. With so many celebrity figureheads, it’s a shame they can’t be more open in their dealings.
12. Children’s Wish Foundation International – Pretending To Be Legitimate
Children’s Wish Foundation International is just one of a number of so-called charities who have modelled themselves after Make-A-Wish Foundation, which really is a legitimate charity with genuine goals. Using this well-known name, they gloss over the fact that they are actually a separate organization when asking for donations over the phone. While Children’s Wish may have paid $9.8 million in aid (although donated goods make up $3 million of this, so the value could have been fudged), that figure is dwarfed by how much they have raised. A combined $92.7 million has gone on solicitors, fundraisers, and bankroll for the founders of the charity. The telemarketers aren’t above using suspect methods to get their hands on donations, either. One report suggested an elderly woman in the first stages of dementia was conned into handing over many progressively larger donations over the period of just a few months before her family realized what was happening. They have posted photographs of children with many famous faces, including former presidents and huge musicians or sports stars.
11. Prince’s Trust – The Employee Drug Death
While you would hope that charities vet their employees carefully, it’s not always possible to be absolutely sure. The Prince’s Trust, which operates in the UK, was brought into the wrong kind of spotlight after an employee died on a night out. Nick Bonnie was 30 years old when he collapsed after taking ecstasy. It’s believed the pill that he took was from a bad batch, which also left five of his friends in hospital. Bonnie had worked for the Prince’s Trust for eight years. Four of his friends were later charged with offences such as supplying the drugs and covering up the details of his death. There were also drugs such as MDMA and cocaine floating around the party, on what was described as a ‘lad’s weekend’. The Prince’s Trust has been supported by diverse celebrities such as Alice Cooper, Meryl Streep, Michael Jackson, and, of course, Prince Charles.
10. Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation – Using Corrupt Funding
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation was embroiled in a hefty scandal in 2016 when it emerged that it had received funding from 1MDB, the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund. The problem was that billions of dollars from the fund had been laundered in the US, and the Department of Justice got involved to investigate. At the centre of the scandal was a man named Jho Low, who had posed for photographs with DiCaprio and donated money on a number of occasions. These normally involved purchasing items which had been put up for sale to benefit the charity, allowing the money to pass into new hands while the businessman then had items he could sell on to recoup the damage. There were immediate calls for the LDF to return the funds, as well as for DiCaprio to return his fee for The Wolf of Wall Street, which had also been partly funded by the Malaysian businessman.
9. Greenpeace – Gambling With Donated Funds
When you donate money to a charity, you would hope that most, if not all, of that cash goes directly to help out the cause. You would not, for example, expect it to be turned into a trader’s experiment to start trying to make more cash. That’s what happened in 2014, when Greenpeace was forced to admit that it had lost $5.15 million after a trader gambled against the Euro with their funds. When the Euro did not continue to decrease in value as predicted, the charity was left with far less money than before. At around the same time as this happened, it also became known that their international program director was flying between Luxembourg and Amsterdam twice a month on the company dime. This is despite the fact that Greenpeace actively campaigns against the widespread growth of plane flights. The director apologized, but he had already been following the practice for at least 2 years and the damage was done. A huge number of celebrities have supported Greenpeace, including Madonna, Bono, and Richard Branson.
8. PETA – Killing Abandoned Animals
PETA has seen support from a huge number of celebrities, many of whom are vegetarian or vegan and therefore want to stand up for animals. Pamela Anderson has been one of their more vocal supporters, along with Moby, Bryan Adams, and Charlize Theron. The list is a very long one, and those who support them tend to feature heavily in ad campaigns. PETA have created a lot of controversy, however: they have compared animal rights issues to the Holocaust, slavery, and the victims of cannibalistic serial killers, all of which was poorly received. They regularly euthanize animals in their shelters, with allegations stating that they even kill healthy animals, and have funded domestic terrorist organizations such as the ALF. Detractors also claim that the organization’s history of violent and public activism actually puts people off the idea of becoming vegetarian or supporting animal rights because of the image it creates.
7. Project CURE – Always In Debt
Sometimes the devastating truth is that charities are locked into debts which they can’t escape. Project CURE is one of the biggest examples of this. They were bankrolled by a fundraising company to start up, but then stuck with a contract which left them with huge rates to cover. Every year since 1998, though the charity has managed to raise more than $65 million, it has ended up owing the fundraiser more than they raised. The latest figures show that it is some $3 million in debt. Although the charity may be a non-profit, the same certainly can’t be said for the fundraising company. Some of the latest celebrities to support Project CURE include baseball All-Star Carlos Gonzalez, who was nominated for the 2016 Roberto Clemente Humanitarian Award as a result of his efforts for them. Musicians Nathaniel Rateliffe and Brett Dennen also performed at charity concerts for them.
6. Save The Children – Covering Up Allegations Of Abuse
Shock rippled through the charity community when allegations came out in 2015 that Save the Children were up to no good. Several women had made complaints about the charity’s chief strategist, Brendan Cox, alleging abuse and harassment. He denied the claims, but ended up leaving the charity anyway – apparently because the women had threatened to go public. The chief executive, Justin Forsyth, ended up leaving later amongst rumours that his failure to act in the Cox situation had damaged his standing within the charity. The story goes that the management team had attempted to hush up the allegations and make them go away, to no avail. The two men were forced to resign in order to save themselves a public sacking. Tragically, Cox is the husband of former Labour MP Jo Cox who was murdered in cold blood a year later. Save the Children typically sees lots of support from celebrities. These have included such names as Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Sarandon, Stephen Colbert, and Simon Cowell.
5. American Breast Cancer Foundation – Paying Themselves
The American Breast Cancer Foundation was founded by Phyllis Wolf in Baltimore. She resigned in 2010, but during the 8 years that she was in charge, she was paying $18 million in telemarketing fees to one company. That company was Non Profit Promotions, which just happens to be run by – drum roll please – her son, Joseph Wolf. The charity has apparently stopped using telemarketers since Phyllis stepped down, although it’s not clear whether they are currently operating above board or simply finding another way to siphon funding. Amongst those who have appeared in support of the charity is Olympic speed skater Jessica Smith-Kooreman, and pro football twins Jason and Devin McCourty. All three have appeared in videos for the charity, promoting them on social media. You can view their current financials on their website, though they appear to have conveniently used scans of documents which are cut off to one side and don’t quite show the full story.
4. United States Deputy Sheriffs’ Association – Bankrolling Solicitors
The United States Deputy Sheriffs’ Association is still going today, despite the death of its founder, Stephen Van Dyke, in 2010. Their apparent mission was to donate equipment to sheriff’s departments in rural areas and to help provide training for officers. It has been disciplined by at least 3 states for the poor spending practices, which see a huge percentage of the profits going to solicitors instead of helping with their mission. Their spending history shows $17.9 million paid to the solicitors, $7.8 million paid directly to the charity and its owners as running costs, and just $196,872 spent on providing actual aid. After new president Thomas Palma took over, he moved the charity’s headquarters, but has since already been fined for misrepresentation. Amongst their list of friends and supporters to the charity is singer and actor Pat Boone, with his name and image posted right on the front page of their website.
3. Defeat Diabetes Foundation – Shipping Costs Only
The Defeat Diabetes Foundation claims to have had the support of Robin Williams, who met up with self-proclaimed Mr Diabetes on one of his sponsored walks. Mr Diabetes is Andy Mandell, who runs the charity along with his brother Jerald. They also hired their younger sister to be the charity’s secretary. They wanted to raise awareness and help those suffering with diabetes. The reality is that they are hardly doing anything at all. Over 10 years, they raised $13.8 million in donations – $8.3 million of which went directly to their for-profit fundraisers. On average, just $1,000 a year actually went to help diabetes payments. One of their most shocking statistics comes from 2011. The only action they took that year was to give away 300 blood sugar metres which had been donated to them for free. They spent just $761 to send the metres out – and gave no other money all year.
2. Oxfam – Fraud, Assaults, And Exploitation
Oxfam is one of the favourite charities for many celebrities. Supporters include Elton John, Anne Hathaway, John Legend, Lady Gaga, and a very long list of who’s who in Hollywood. However, the charity has been dogged with accusations of fraud, abuse, and exploitation amongst its workforce. The allegations have only grown stronger in recent years. There have been a number of people struck down and killed by their delivery vehicles, and while the bulk of complaints come from overseas, there were 23 allegations of abuse in the charity’s British shops. 94% of cases resulted in disciplinary action, so it’s clear that these are not all just made up stories – the assaults really are happening. The company says that the increase in reports in recent years is simply because they have been encouraging more people to come forward about them. Alarmingly, this suggests that it may be an endemic problem which has been going on for a long time.
1. Make Poverty History – Wristbands Made With Slave Labour
Make Poverty History created a huge upswing of support with their wristbands, stamped with the name of the charity and worn to show support. Hundreds of thousands of silicon wristbands were sold in the UK alone, at a price of £1 with 70p going direct to charities. However, it soon transpired that the wristbands were being made in China – and not in ideal conditions. The Tat Shing Rubber Manufacturing Company was accused of taking financial deposits from employees which amounted to forced labour, a seven-day work week, no holiday pay, long hours, poor health and safety, and pay that was below the minimum wage in the local area. There was an angry reaction to the revelation, even from some of the charities which had got involved with the project, who said that they had been mislead. Celebrity supporters included George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Jamie Foxx, and Ewan McGregor, among others.
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