The recent cold caller to the New To Las Vegas world headquarters used the name Shawn (or maybe Sean). He said he was soliciting a donation for something called National Committee for Volunteer Firefighters.
In my view, he made it sound like a charity and pressed real hard for me to commit to a specific dollar pledge before mailing me written materials. Shawn was also not a real person, but a voice generated by a computer, most likely with an actual human monitoring the conversation and hitting keys to provide canned responses.
All this is a common m.o. for what I call a faux charity–a purported cause that spends almost all the money raised on fundraising and overhead and virtually nothing on the stated cause, while implying it operates with charitable motives. They are hoping that would-be donors won’t ask up front about financial efficiencies or won’t know how to find the answers for themselves.
In this case NCVF, ostensibly based in Boston, is a political action committee. That’s not a charity at all, of course, but a so-called 527 organization–named after a provision of federal tax law–that says it takes contributions to support candidates for public office who will support its goals. Here, this presumably would have something to do with volunteer firefighters. 527 outfits are lightly regulated, to say the least.
I just dug up NCVF’s public record financial filings with the Internal Revenue Service from its creation last December 18 through June 30, just a few weeks ago. Some $241,027 was listed as donated from across the country, and $220,627 listed as spent. By my reckoning, here is how much of that $220,627 was spent supporting volunteer firefighters:
Here’s how much of that $220,627 was spent in fundraising and overhead expense:
The difference, $20,400–only 8% of the amount donated–isn’t going to help very many political candidates and is hardly commensurate with the amount contributed. And I imagine many donors would not be happy to know that 92% of their gifts have no chance of benefiting even a single volunteer firefighter. Continue reading