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Beware non-transparent charities and their unscrupulous phone solicitors...

I'm talking about the Breast Cancer Charities of America/I Go Pink, Breast Cancer Survivors Foundation and Women's Breast Cancer Relief Association.

A family member received a phone call a few weeks ago from the Breast Cancer Charities of America (at an area code 321, Florida) asking for a donation to breast cancer research. She asked for literature and after receiving it, she sent them $20. A few days after sending it, she began receiving harassing phone calls demanding to know where the payment was. She asked them to stop calling and they continued. Even after payment processed the calls continued. Even after blocking, calls continued from other numbers related to that organization.  
  
I loathe sleazy telemarketers and as soon as I found out what was going on, I went right to social media. And five minutes later, the Breast Cancer Charities of America/I Go Pink tweeted me back apologizing asking me to email them so they could help me. I haven't responded yet and I don't plan to. I already know what they're going to say. I've heard it all before and I don't buy it.  Besides, I don't think they really want to talk to me right now.



So how are these organizations linked?
A search in the Florida Secretary of State database 800HelpFla.com for 321-445-9141 (the number that called her) is connected to The Breast Cancer Charities of America, 2002 Timberloch Place #200, The Woodlands, TX  77380-1182 with a D/B/A as Breast Cancer Support Foundation and I Go Pink.  Calling these numbers results in the inability to talk to a live person. Callers are required to leave a message for callback. 
The "remit to" on the payment coupon received from The Breast Cancer Charities of America  (BCCA) right after that first solicitation call was Women's Breast Cancer Relief Association (WBCRA), PO Box 610, Butler WI  53007-0610, thus linking the two organizations.
A google search of Women's Breast Cancer Relief Association online shows a link to Breast Cancer Survivors Foundation, Inc.
A search for 908-241-2288 in the Florida Secretary of State database at 800HelpFla.com confirms the result of The Breast Cancer Survivor's Foundation with Aventura, Florida address and the D/B/A as WCBRA. Also, the 908-241-2288 is a working number but it is an answering service that appears to put callers on eternal hold.
When I Google The Breast Cancer Charities of America, the result is 8505 Technology Forest Place, #604, The Woodlands, TX  77381, (936) 231-8460. This is a working number and this address was the one where the BCCA headquarters was located in the ABC 13 report. However, interesting that three years later, the address/phone listed on the official state websites for charity registrations consists of an old address and non-working number.
281-296-5755, the number listed on the 800HelpFla.com and other state website charity registries for BCCA is not a working number.  800-338-1740, the number listed on the Breast Cancer Survivors Foundation website (http://breastcancersurvivor.org) is a working number but you can only leave a message for someone to call you back.
The address listed for Breast Cancer Survivors Foundation (aka Women's Breast Cancer Relief Association) website 18851 NE 29th Avenue Suite 700, Aventura FL 33180 (which is the official address listed on state charity registry websites) isn't a "real" address, it's a virtual one. For just $105 per month you too can have a virtual address too. Check it out at https://www.davincivirtual.com/loc/us/florida/aventura-virtual-offices/facility-974.
Some of the solicitors for The Breast Cancer Charities of America: Courtesy Call, Inc., Midwest Publishing DN, Outreach Calling, Residential Programs, Inc., Charity Screening Inc., Safety Services, Inc., Courtesy Health Watch, Organizational Development, Associated Community Services, The Campaign Center, and Menacola Marketing. 

That's a lot of reading there but the bottom line is the link between BCCA and WBCRA is established. Contact made by telephone solicitor for the 321 numbers are BCCA which sends payment coupon to donor with a "remit to" of WBCRA in Wisconsin. There you go.

Knowing that BCCA indeed was the big kahuna here, I decided to research it a bit. Among the ton of information I found that relayed some pretty negative shit about the organization. I found several news reports about their serious lack of transparency. Below are the links to a 2013 report by investigative reporter Brian Collister at ABC 13 Eyewitness News in Houston in which he dives right into the critics questioning of BCCA's business practices. Very eye-opening.

Brian Collister's investigative report of BCCA Part One
Brian Collister's investigative report of BCCA Part Two

The Better Business Bureau, Charity Watch and Charity Navigator either can't rank them or rank them as "fail" because BCCA refuses to cooperate with an in-depth on their financial practices so that the agencies may clear them for listing on their websites.  

The Michigan Attorney General's Office reported in 2012 that only 15% of BCCA's proceeds went into the mission of its program. It also reported that the agencies Breast Cancer Relief Foundation only put forth 15% as well while Breast Cancer Survivors Foundation gave only 10%. 

In the March 2015 report by Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General for the State of New York, titled Pennies for Charity: Where your Money Goes, a report detailing the telemarking by professional fundraisers, it was shown that only 45% of what was raised by Breast Cancer Charities of America went to the charity while only 15% of the funds raised for Beast Cancer Survivors Foundation was kept for the charity. 

Neither Erica A. Johnson (formerly Erica Tullis), Executive Director of IGoPink/BCCA nor her father Greg Anderson, who heads the Cancer Recovery International Foundation Group of charities (that includes the BCCA and the highly criticized Children's Cancer Recovery Foundation run by Erica's father, in which it was found that some 80% of funds raised went to pay solicitors)  have ever responded to repeated requests to sit down with the media to explain where the funds go and how they are used. The only way the media could talk to them was to track them down in the parking lot outside their headquarters. Even then they "promised" to contact the media for an interview but it never happened. They absolutely refused to answer questions. Instead Erica and her father blamed the media.

A google search of the organizations I mentioned in this post results in hundreds of complaints of harassment. A number of them make me sick to my stomach. Harassing senior citizens? People who can't afford to donate? Widows and Widowers? Cancer Survivors? Seriously?!?!?

We wonder how they can operate but the charities have filed all the paperwork, complied with all the minimum regulations. These companies are allowed to operate because apparently they meet the minimum requirements to file as charitable foundations. They file reports with the IRS called a 990 but the average Joe can't make heads or tails of them. What do we know? We're not experts. Trust me, filing with the IRS doesn't make a charity one we should donate to, it just makes it a charitable organization. 

Not all charitable organizations are equal.

And as long as there are good people wanting to help, there will be people wanting to take advantage of it. We have to be careful.  What makes it hard to investigate charities is the sometimes confusing way in which they are structured. It makes it difficult for the average person to link them together and determine who does what and where specifically the funding goes. For example, BCCA states, "The organization's medical missions program distributes cancer treatment medicines, cancer diagnostic and treatment equipment as well as ancillary medical supplies to mission hospitals globally. Recent recipients include cancer treatment centers in Guatemala, Honduras, Grenada, Kenya, Ghana, Liberia, DR Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, The Philippines, and Viet Nam." 

I read the form 990 and it's difficult to discern exactly what goes where. How do we know the people who need the help are getting it?   

What makes it all worse is that some organizations that allegedly rate charities are scam artists. Check out this 2008 piece by Charity Watch  about how false seals of approval can mislead donors.The list gives its kudos to a number of charities but what people didn't know was that the charities listed paid the organization to list them. 

Now, while The Breast Cancer Charities of America/I Go Pink, Breast Cancer Survivors Foundation and Women's Breast Cancer Relief Association are not fraudulent charities as they do give money to their cause(s), there is a serious lack of transparency, a lot of unanswered questions and the appearance of impropriety going on, not to mention an extreme lack of professionalism and courtesy among the solicitors they hire. It is a fact that people are being mistreated by the solicitors, nothing is being done about it, a large portion of the donations to these organizations is not used for the charity, and there is a refusal on the part of the powers that be at these charities to clarify to the media and the American people exactly what is going on behind closed doors. 

When I donate, I want it to be to an organization that makes it extremely clear where the money goes. IMO, the more details, the better. Charitable organizations exist to help people and if a charity is truly legitimate, those in charge of them would be adamant about disseminating detailed info and chomping at the bit to be interviewed in an effort to spread the word about their organization because that kind of transparency leads to increased donations and the ability to do even more. In my opinion, any charitable organization that can't or won't provide details on their structure and what goes where and to whom and refuses to talk to the media to explain this is not a charity worth donating to.

We deserve to know where our money goes and how it is used. If you want to check out a charity, it's so easy to do online. Try these links for starters...

Charity Navigator's "Questions to Ask Charities Before Donating"
The Federal Trade Commission's "Before Giving To A Charity"
Bankrate's "How To Check Out Your Charity"

...or just Google key words investigating before donating to charity and read the ton of good information about how to verify a good charity and what people say about their experiences dealing with charities. There's a lot you can learn and you might just save yourself a nightmare. 

As to the harassing phone calls, which started this whole thing, according to the FTC, charities are not covered by the requirements of the national registry. However, if a third-party telemarketer is calling on behalf of a charity a consumer may ask not to receive any more calls from, or on behalf of, that specific charity. If a third-party telemarketer calls again on behalf of that charity, the telemarketer may be subject to a fine of up to $11,000. 

If you're dealing with harassing telemarketers, there's help. Be sure you're registered at the National Do Not Call Registry, block the numbers calling you but keep them on your phone as a record, and then, if you've been on the DNC registry for the required 31 days, report the harassment to the Federal Trade Commission!

File the complaint, it works!
 
In the meantime, next time the bastards call...there's always this!

                        
 



This post first appeared on Release The Clackum!, please read the originial post: here

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Beware non-transparent charities and their unscrupulous phone solicitors...

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