Before you make a charitable donation, you want to make sure you know more about the organization than just the name it goes by. Many donors would be appalled if they knew the actual overhead ratios for most large charities. Some of them spend up to 80% and upwards of fundraising donations on advertising and overhead. It will help you to know some of the worst charities to donate to in Canada. But this list is not all—you owe yourself an important duty to scrutinize every charity organization before making a donation.
Some established large charities are businesses. So, much of the money from donations goes to the administration. You should not choose charities by name alone since the raised funds sometimes end up going to less-than-worthy groups.
Worst Charities to Donate to in Canada
The worst charities to donate to in Canada can be those with problematic charity controversies or even scandals. Percentage to cause can also tell whether a charity is a good one or not, such that charities with a low percentage to cause are the worst ones to donate to. A-rated charities generally spend at least 75% or more on their programs but the worst ones can retain as high as 80% if not 100%. That said, below are some of the worst charities to donate to in Canada.
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) has been actively seeking donations for its dog training programs. They even knock on people’s doors at their homes. Despite their large-scale operations, concerns have been raised regarding their financial efficiency. Notably, a significant portion of the funds raised for their ‘urgent’ guide dog campaign is allocated to fundraising costs rather than direct program support. For every dollar donated, 52 cents are reportedly spent on fundraising activities.
Furthermore, CNIB’s recent venture into providing guide dogs has sparked controversy. Critics argue that this expansion is more about generating additional revenue rather than enhancing services.
This move is perceived as detrimental to smaller, specialized organizations that have traditionally focused on guide dogs. This also potentially overshadows them due to CNIB’s more extensive advertising and larger organizational size.
There are growing voices suggesting that donations could be more impactful if directed towards smaller charities that demonstrate a higher degree of financial efficiency and transparency. Such charities, due to their size, maybe more accountable in their spending, ensuring that a greater portion of donations directly benefits their intended programs and services.
The WE Charity controversy can be understood through a series of events that raised concerns and drew public attention.
Firstly, there were reports that the Prime Minister’s mother, Margaret, and brother, Alexandre, received payments for speaking at WE Charity events.
Subsequently, there was an incident involving the then Finance Minister, who revealed that he had repaid an amount of $41,000 for expenses related to his trips with WE Charity. This repayment and the circumstances surrounding it led to calls from the Conservative party for his resignation.
Charity Intelligence Canada expressed concerns about WE Charity’s governance. They pointed out issues with the independence of the charity’s directors. For instance, one of the directors previously held a position at ME to WE, a private business owned by Marc and Craig Kielburger, who are closely associated with WE Charity. Another notable detail was that the chair of WE Charity, who is a faculty member at York University and a former staff of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, was once a high school teacher of Marc Kielburger.
Finally, a particularly strange and contentious point in the controversy was the allocation of a significant government contract, worth $900 million, to WE Charity.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), another organization, has stopped its phone-based fundraising for now. This decision came after people said that 80% of the money they raised was actually going to the companies that help them raise the funds, not to the charity itself.
MADD was established with a commendable goal: to combat drunk driving. However, over the years, some critics, including its founder Candy Lightner, have raised concerns about the organization’s approach. Lightner herself has remarked that MADD has become more prohibitionist than she intended, focusing heavily on alcohol itself rather than just drunk driving. This shift in focus led to a change in MADD’s motto from “Don’t Drive Drunk” to “Don’t Drink and Drive”—Activist Facts on MADD.
In the two decades following Lightner’s departure from MADD, the organization has significantly influenced the increase in penalties and punishments for drunk driving, despite a decrease in alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities. From 2009 to 2018, the fatality rate dropped from 0.36 to 0.33, yet the penalties have continued to escalate.
MADD has received mixed reviews from charity evaluators. Charity Navigator, for instance, has given MADD a 2 out of 4 stars rating, indicating some concerns. Similarly, Charity Watch assigned MADD a “C-” grade, suggesting that there are areas where the organization could improve.
How Not to Give to the Worst Charities
1. Find out if a charity is tax-exempt
Sometimes, we think a charity can give us a tax break for our donations, but that’s not always true.
You can ask the charity directly or look it up on the IRS website. This way, you’ll know if your donation can help reduce your taxes.
2. Make a direct donation to the charity
Imagine you get a call from someone asking for money for a charity you like. It’s tempting to just give them the money. However, sometimes, these callers are professional fundraisers, and they might keep a big chunk of your donation for themselves. They could keep as much as two-thirds of it. So, it’s better to hang up and give your money straight to the charity.
3. Know the fees before you donate online
When you donate money online, through crowdfunding sites or other platforms, there are often small fees taken out. This could be around 3% or more of your donation. These fees are for processing your payment.
Also, if you use a credit card, the charity might have to pay extra fees. These fees mean less of your money goes to the actual cause. Think about giving in other ways like cash, a check, or a direct bank transfer.
4. Protect your privacy
Let the charities know that you don’t want your personal details like your name and contact information shared, sold, or rented to other groups or companies. This happens quite often with some charities.
5. Look out for fake charities
Be careful about charities with similar names. Sometimes, less reputable charities have names that sound very similar to well-known, respected ones. For instance, there’s a not-so-well-rated charity called United Breast Cancer Foundation in Huntington, N.Y., and a much better-rated one called Breast Cancer Research Foundation in New York City. Some of these similarly named charities may be trying to trick donors into thinking they are giving to a different, more reputable organization. Others might have similar names simply because they are working on the same issues.
Donating to certain charities is similar to sorting your recycling every week. Both actions might make you feel good, but they’re not always effective. Sometimes, charity funds are used for purposes other than helping those in need, and a lot of recyclable materials still end up in landfills.