Roadside donation bins with the "Kiducation" logo are everywhere. You may have left dropped off some clothing at one of them.
The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters took a closer look at this New Haven-based non-profit, and the more we dug, the more questions we came up with.
Kiducation, which operates officially as the Community Crusade for Children, accepts clothes, shoes and books, among other items. The roadside bins indicate donations go toward good causes, yet the forms the organization filed with the IRS that lay out what Kiducation does with its money raised some eyebrows.
Kiducation donation bins pop up in town after town, including Newington, Vernon and Ellington. We spotted bins mostly owned by out-of-state companies while working on another Troubleshooters investigation over the summer about to whom you're donating your used goods.
We asked Sanje Trifone of Newington if she ever puts clothing, shoes or books in roadside donation books.
"Yeah, we do. We usually donate to Big Brother Big Sister,” Trifone said.
We learned the Kiducation label belongs to a New Haven based non-profit organization called Community Crusade for Children, which says it gives clothes, and cash grants to a number of charities.
We asked Gerry Eigo, of Southington, if he has heard of Kiducation.
"Yes I have. I believe that's one of the boxes we drop it off in," Eigo said.
After discovering these bins are big money makers, we decided to follow that money trail – and the organization's IRS filing, known as a 990, raised red flags for our experts.
“We're the largest charity rating agency in the world," said Ken Berger, the CEO of New Jersey-based Charity Navigator. Berger examined the documents, which show Community Crusade for Children has revenues of about $5 million per year.
“You have an extremely unusual situation where the chairman of the board is being paid a six-figure salary, plus you have a CEO that's making a six-figure salary," Berger said.
The latest 990 on file, from 2012, says CEO Ron Tettlebach makes roughly $200,000 per year, and Chairman Eric Demander Junior is paid about $150,000 year, with both men putting in at least 40 hour weeks for the company.
Also listed are two family members, one of them Tettlebach's wife, making a combined $77,000.
“When you add all of that up, it's around $450,000 or so going to the families of these two individuals and to themselves," Berger said. "That's out of roughly 1.2 that is used for their day-to-day operations. That is, what? 40 percent or more? That's very unusual, very questionable, and puts up major red flags for us."
The executive compensation is on the high side compared to similar non-profits, according to consultant Total Compensation Solutions, which bases its comparison on its 2013-2014 survey of more than 600 non-profits.
Ken Berger said best practice is for a chairman to be an independent volunteer and in no way dependent on the organization for income.
These issues also got the attention of the Better Business Bureau of Connecticut.
“Well, according to their 990 paperwork that they've filed, clearly there are some items that do not meet the BBB's 20 standards for charity accountability," said Howard Schwartz, the executive communications director of the BBB.
What's more, according to Berger, both the chairman and CEO of Community Crusade for Children received loans from the non-profit, according to its 990.
“We've seen case after case, of these small boards, limited oversight, and these kind of conflicts," Berger said.
We reached out to the non-profit numerous times and they declined to speak on the record with the Troubleshooters. We did get to talk with some of the organizations on the receiving end of clothing donations from Community Crusade for Children, according to its 990. The Global Aid Network in Dallas says it has had “a great relationship with the non-profit for eight years.”
Bridge of Life Ministries in New Haven said it has worked with Community Crusade for Children for 16 years, receiving clothes and blankets for the homeless.
But the Grace United Methodist Church of Zanesville, Ohio, told the Troubleshooters it never received the 16,500 pounds of clothes Community Crusade for Children claims it gave the church on its 990 IRS form from 2012.
In fact, the church says it has never collected clothes from anyone beside its members.
We had a number of other questions about the donations and grants in the 990. But since the Community Crusade for Children will not speak with us on the record, we cannot address them.