The underside of nonprofits


By Gianna McGann
April 4, 2023

People packing goods into boxes at donation center. Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels.
People packing goods into boxes at donation center. Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels.

As with all things in life, good and bad. The same holds true even for nonprofit charities trying to help those in need.

Many nonprofits work for good, but some are also described as corrupt organizations. The corrupt organizations can be explained in two different ways. This first way, Dr. Nune Grigoryan, Cabrini assistant professor of communication and interim director of the Center on Immigration, explained, is that “It has the title of a nonprofit but uses its status to have a profit or to gain any kind of revenue that doesn’t go to services that they provide.”

The second way that is “more typical of developing countries” as Dr. Grigoryan stated is “Nonprofits that are created by governments and they are usually known as GONGOs in that region. What happens is the government funds an organization that also applies for other funds but what happens is if it fits the information and services back to the government which is also corrupt.” This includes collecting information under the preface of a nonprofit. GONGO stands for government-organized non-governmental organization.

Awareness of scamming

Volunteers packing food items into cardboard boxes. Photo by Cottonbro studio from Pexels.

Consumers and donors need to figure out how to keep themselves safe. Some ways people can do this are by going onto the organization’s website to learn about them or asking others if they may have heard anything positive or negative about the particular nonprofit or cause to which they are donating. Falling for scams like these can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or several different factors. Certain people who may be vulnerable might be considered targets for scamming by corrupt nonprofit organizations.

An organization that has a history of targeting its employees with disabilities is Goodwill. Emily Lichius, freshman writing major, said, “They hire people with disabilities as employees but then they will pay them under the minimum wage.” There is a 2013 petition on that says some of the stores pay these employees “as low as 22, 38, and 41 cents per hour.” The organization still engages in this practice. This has given employers the responsibility to pay people with disabilities as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act. It describes that it’s legal to pay workers with disabilities below minimum wage, but that law is being challenged.

Specific examples of corrupt nonprofits

These nonprofits prey on the emotions of people who like to help others in need and see good in all things. Other corrupt organizations scam willing donors in various ways. Three such nonprofits are the Kids Wish Network, the Cancer Fund of America, Help the Vets, and the National Veterans Service Fund. Some of these organizations were even on a 2019 Money, Inc. list of the worst charities.

Person holding a donation box. Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels.

According to the Kids Wish Network website, their mission is to fund special experiences for ill children. However, only a small portion of that money, 2.5 cents on every donated dollar, goes to their programs.

The Cancer Fund of America is another unfortunate case of a corrupt nonprofit organization. The organization also gives only a small percentage of its earnings to those with potentially life-threatening cancer. According to a 2015 CNN article about four different cancer charities, only three percent of the donations actually go toward the people affected. This may seem like a very small number but it still goes a long way. The other 97% heads back into the pockets of the nonprofits and their members.

Veterans are also often targets of these scams. A 2018 USA Today article said Help the Vets only used 5% of its fundraising money on services to veterans. Meanwhile, the same Money, Inc article said of the National Veterans Service Fund, “The only donation the IRS has ever been able to trace to the organization is an insignificant sum towards a health clinic dealing in birth defects.”

Protecting the older generation

These “corrupt” nonprofit organizations use a variety of different ways to reach unaware individuals, especially the elderly. John Morrison, senior writing and political science double major, said, “Usually these people target older individuals as well as those who are susceptible to having their heartstrings pulled without looking into where their money is actually going.”

If there is ever an organization that might seem suspicious or “crooked,” people could search online to check the charity’s ratings.

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Gianna McGann

Hello, my name is Gianna McGann. I am a sophomore majoring in digital communications and social media, and minoring in theater. My position this year on the Loquitur is reporter. A fun fact about myself is that I am on the Autism Spectrum. I have a condition called Asperger's Syndrome. My career goals are to figure out some way to combine my major and minor in a job field that I enjoy, whether it's an acting job or something relating to social media platforms. I don't have a particular kind of content that I want to report on. I am interested in learning about all the different categories, whether it's lifestyles, sports, or news.

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