How a Donor Finds Out Where Their Charity Money Goes

You may have seen the chart floating around social media the days after both hurricanes, Harvey and Irma. 

As the gulf coast and the Caribbean look to recover from this relentless hurricane season, many charities have relied on your donations for help.

But with that comes some misleading or confusing information about who you should trust with your money and what it goes toward. 

So, where do you go?

"At the end of the day, you wanna know where the money's going but you really want to know what has my money done. And getting to a place where you can talk about a charity's effectiveness is where we're all trying to go," Michael Thatcher, the CEO of Charity Navigator, said.

In a collaboration with Guidestar, Charity Navigator's Thatcher plans to consolidate both the companies' data to give donors as much information as possible ahead of Giving Tuesday in November.

Thatcher said the efforts should help dispell misleading information like one chart recently circulating social media. 

Among other falsehoods, the chart claims the American Red Cross' president and CEO is Marsha Evans with a salary of $650,000 a year. 

Gail McGovern actually leads the Red Cross and according to the charity's 990, she makes about $517,000. Her salary falls under administrative costs, which makes 4 percent of the Red Cross' expenses.

The chart also references March of Dimes, saying it only gives 10 percent of its donations. But Thatcher said that is also false. 

NBC Connecticut Responds asked Thatcher if there is a consolidated way to see how much of a donor's dollar will go to those in need. 

"The easiest way is we'll do this on the ratings pages and you look at it, you look up an organization on charitynavigator.org, you see a breakdown of the financials and the accountability and transparency and if you look at the program expense you can see how much of every dollar or what percentage point are going to the program expense," he said.

About 75 percent of March of Dimes' costs fall under the "program expense", which means that is how much it spends on the services it delivers. 

"The best way to actually engage with a charity is to call them up and interact with them," Thatcher said.

In a statement, the Red Cross spokesperson said:

"This is considered in the middle range for executives of large non-profits like the Red Cross, an organization with an overall budget of $2.7 billion a year."

A March of Dimes spokesperson told NBC Connecticut they give more than $120 million towards various mission investments per year. 

The bottom line: do your independent research on a charity and if you feel confused or conflicted, then give the people you know and trust instead of an organization.

For more on Charity Navigator, check out the website

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