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  • Writer's pictureStaci-lee Sherwood

The truth about nonprofits - many are just ‘for’ profits hiding in plain site

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

By Staci-lee Sherwood

It might come as a surprise to many that nonprofits have little to no government oversight or regulation. Anyone can form a non-profit. In the US there are an estimated 1.5 million and worldwide about 10 million. That means the US is home to the bulk of these organizations. Fraud among them runs rampant but the public is wholly unaware because there is no real mechanism to track fraudulent groups or prevent a CEO of one group from forming another. Reports of misdeeds are rare because few media companies want to expose fraud at any level and least of all from a nonprofit. Fact checking statements is equally hard because transparency is often as bad as with the for profit corporations.

Fraud is when someone makes claims they know to be false, especially for financial gain. It’s easy to manipulate people when they know the public wants to believe what they hear and won’t investigate on their own. This makes for a perfect storm of lies and theft under the ruse of helping those in need. Only actions count and they often contradict what is being said when the hand is out asking for your money.

What does it say about a culture that is rife with corruption? There should be zero tolerance for those that take advantage of the most defenseless. When it comes to nonprofits there should be more, not less, regulations and oversight. We have witnessed what happens when they are left to their own devices. What kind of people exploit the most vulnerable among us like children, the disabled and animals? They are the worst kind of human and sadly they run rampant among nonprofits.

People kill for less money

With so many competing for donations competition can be cut throat. They also represent about 5.6% of the U.S. economy with 10.2% of companies in the US being a nonprofit. Assets run in the tens of billions for these organizations. In 2018, total private giving from individuals, foundations, and businesses totaled $427 billion according to Giving USA Foundation 2019 report, and rose to about $470 billion in 2020. This is more like a Wall Street industry rather than a mom & pop outfit. With this amount of money, totaling more than the GDP of many countries, questions need to be asked and regulations need to be implemented.

The public thinks, and hopes, that most of the donated money goes to some worthy cause, that these do-gooders are helping to save something or fight injustice. There is no law requiring a specified percentage of funds to be spent on programs but the standard 65%. Verifying how that is actually spent is another issue. Once you start digging into tax returns, backgrounds of board members and who the donors are the ugly side of human nature appears. Where there is money to be made creativity takes hold. This is not to say all nonprofits have something to hide but the claims of success are very often exaggerated and sometimes outright lies.

There are many state and federal agencies that have their own 501(c)(3) nonprofit. This should be shocking because it’s clearly unethical if not illegal. Why would a government agency even need their own nonprofit when their budgets are in the hundreds of millions to billions? You don’t ever read about that in the financial papers like the Wall Street Journal or Forbes magazine. You can click here to read about several federal agencies like the US Forest Service and the National Park Service who have had their own charity for years, click here

Nonprofits behaving badly

Here are three examples of nonprofits playing on the sympathy of people who want to help those down on their luck. Who doesn’t want to clothe and feed the homeless or help sick children? For many who run nonprofits when they say please help the needy they might mean please help me I’m in need of another house. It’s easy to get people to open their wallet when you claim to help hungry children. A better option would be to donate or volunteer at your local food bank or shelter. This way you can see how the money is being spent on a daily basis.

Many large nonprofits have come under fire while some former CEO’s landed in prison. United Way is perhaps the most notorious nonprofit for having so many in charge embezzle so much money. United Way of America had former CEO William Aramony land in federal prison for 7 years on multiple counts of felony charges like embezzlement. In the past 20 years there have been 5, that we know of, other chapters where those in charge defrauded the organization of millions. Click here to read more about them

Covenant House was suppose to be a safe haven for runaways. In the 1980s rumors started to spread about the founder. Law enforcement investigated and discovered that sexual misconduct by the founder, Father Bruce Ritter, had taken place and was ‘extensive’ according to a police report. It was also discovered he had diverted funds to other organizations. Click here to see who made the Hall of shame

In 2021 another scandal broke involving Feeding Our Future and other nonprofits allegedly created to help feed needy children. According to the New York Times article ‘In court filings, the F.B.I. said it had discovered a “massive fraud scheme” among groups that Feeding Our Future was supposed to oversee, saying they siphoned off tens of millions of dollars by charging taxpayers for nonexistent meals.’ Click here for article

Cancer is big business. It seems as if everyone is somehow involved in ‘finding or running for a cure’. We know that a big contributor to getting cancer, any form of cancer, is our contaminated food supply. We have thousands of man-made chemicals added to our food and water. Some of the most dangerous toxins are dumped into our water and released into the air. If those claiming to fight cancer were that concerned wouldn’t they be demanding an end to using pesticides on our food and dumping in our drinking water? That job is left to small activist groups not the mammoth nonprofits.

The American Cancer Society boasts a hefty $576 million revenue in 2020 according to their 990 tax return. Nearly 39% of expenses go toward salaries. With half a billion they could do a lot of good and really change our food supply back to something more healthy…..and less likely to give you cancer. If people started eating healthier and demanding cleaner air and water less money would be rolling in from the public looking for a cure.

Benzene, asbestos, vinyl chloride, and arsenic are known human carcinogens, and been found to cause cancer in humans. You won’t see this group lobbying to have them removed from use in our food/medicine/water or anything else manufactured with them. California uses wastewater from oil drilling to irrigate much of their produce but you won’t see that mentioned on their website. In fact some of the most toxic chemicals come from processing crude oil into many things we use today unbeknownst to the public. You won’t see any cancer group demanding a change because the cancer industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and can go on forever.

There may be glory but not much money in actually decreasing the death rate. Instead of running for a cure maybe just run to your local farmers market for fruits and vegetables to ramp up your immune system and save the donation for a group that actually does something for the greater good. Click here to see how many of these toxic chemicals are in your makeup and food that you don’t know about

Here are a few examples of so called animal welfare / rights groups taking advantage. A good thing to remember is that scientists are not activists, they make a living on studying animals. Most of these nonprofits only get donations when a species or habitat is in peril. Unfortunately almost all species are at risk of going extinct except for humans and cockroaches. We need more money and help to save them, but only if it goes toward that. Below are people who have made false claims about working to save a species when they have done the opposite. In the world of animal and wildlife nonprofits it seems almost all the nonprofits are quasi ethical at best and downright frauds at worst.

In the wild horse advocacy there is barely a legitimate organization. Take the groups Return to Freedom (RTF) and American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), combined assets over $4 million. They’ve spent years claiming the use of PZP would stop roundups and keep the horses on range, epic failure on both counts. They would send out alerts for funds with the promise of lawsuits that never materialized. In 2017 RTF sided with the cattle ranchers in crafting an insidious plan that sold out the very species they claimed they were trying to save. AWHC has a fox hunter and fur shoe designer as President and financial backer, off choice for an animal welfare organization.

Another group, Veterans for Mustangs looks to exploit both animals and veterans suffering from PTSD. This brings it to a level of cringe worthy not usually seen. One of the oldest and most famous the ASPCA was founded a century ago on the hope they would stop carriage horse abuse. Here we are a century later with horses dying from abuse the ASPCA has long forgotten about.

One of the worst is the Humane Society US (HSUS), they have their hands in every pie. They make claims at helping sea turtles I know are not true because there is zero evidence of that. They have hundreds of millions at their disposal more than enough to buy land and all the wild horses left to save them but they have done nothing. They do own the patent to PZP which is the toxic drug all the other wild horse groups are now pushing…..

HSUS is the group that supported Michael Vick. They helped him get his NFL career back after years of abusing and killing countless dogs in his dog fighting ring. It’s an odd choice for a so called animal welfare group to make by siding with the abuser instead of the victims, the dead dogs. Wayne Pacelle was CEO at the time and before he resigned in disgrace for allegedly assaulting women, millions seemed to go missing during their dog & cat Katrina fund. Many have forgotten about that except the donors who still want answers.

Pacelle left and took his colleges Marty Irby and Scott Beckstead with him.. Together this trio formed not one but three more nonprofits. All three are almost identical in their projects, photos used and web design. They all have former HSUS staff. They’re another poster child of a questionable nonprofit with so much that looks like fraud. Click here to read about their Animal Wellness Action, Animal Wellness Foundation and Center for Humane Economy and many other groups

Defenders of Wildlife was once known for being instrumental in putting wolves back into Yellowstone they have gone off track. There is a long list of species they claim to be helping when the facts show otherwise. This has been documented comparing their website claim to what those in the field from other groups. Click here to see how their claims don’t stack up

Think before you donate

There are a few things one can do to prevent being a victim of shady groups. National and international groups are harder to find accurate information on and they have many options for hiding assets. Small local groups are easier to check on because you can physically check them out. The land of nonprofits is a virtual wild west where the shiny façade that hides its dark secrets is more common than people want to think. As a species we expect financial malfeasance and other crimes to occur in for profit corporations. Those that run and work for nonprofits are held to a higher moral standard but rarely deserve that prestige. Here are a few tips to help you decide where to donate your money or time:

· Google the 990 Tax Form with (year) and (name of organization)

· Look to see how much is spent of programs

· Check how successful lawsuits are

· Talk to staff, volunteers and supporters

· Do an internet background check on board members and donors. This is often overlooked by casual donors but can be very telling on the groups’ true agenda

· Think local, this is usually where you find less fraud and more help

Remember that if you’re giving money you hope is going to a cause you care about it’s wasted if the group is stealing it. Often time volunteering your time at a local charity has greater impact.

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McKenna Grace Fisher
McKenna Grace Fisher
Nov 05, 2022

~ I find it so irritating, pathetic and sad that people start out good and eventually allow money to rule their morals and ethics ~ Thank you for this piece sister ~ Vegan For Every Life ~ mgfⓋ

McKenna Grace Fisher
McKenna Grace Fisher
Nov 05, 2022
Replying to

~ Isn't that the damn truth ~

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