Faux cancer charity pitches Las Vegas with variation on a theme

Faux cancer charity pitches Las VegasThe cheery female voice–I didn’t get her name–recently cold-calling the New To Las Vegas world headquarters was seeking a donation for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Initiative. This is yet another cancer cause I hadn’t heard of–there are thousands of them out there. Unfortunately, in my long experience the ones calling out of the blue often are up to little good.

I asked where the organization was headquartered. “Washington, D.C.” she quickly replied. Okay, I said, how old is the organization?

There was a pause. A long pause. Then, “I can’t answer that type of question.” She hung up even before I got a chance to ask for her name. Gee, it’s not like I was inquiring how to deal with the Taliban.

Maybe she didn’t want to tell me that the Initiative was likely less than seven months old, judging from the registration date of its website (March 3, 2021) that I quickly looked up. Or maybe it was that she really didn’t exist as a person, but was just a computer-generated voice controlled by a real human somewhere using what is known as soundboard technology. Such callers are known to cut and run at the first suggestion of donor difficulty.

Whatever the reason, after a few more minutes of Internet research I realized a few more things: (1) Despite its call-to-action name, the Initiative wasn’t a charity, but simply a political action committee, or PAC, whose stated mission is to make political contributions; (2) United Women’s Health Alliance PAC, the parent organization controlling the Initiative and which also solicits under other names, during its entire life has spent nearly 80% of all the contributions received in fundraising expense, something would-be donors might be very unhappy to learn, (3) no money–not even one dime–ever has ever spent in political contributions. Talk about cheap!

Plus (4), this was the fourth call I’ve gotten in less than a year from UWHA PAC causes. Two came on the very same day in June on behalf of something called U.S. Breast Cancer and Women’s Health Initiative PAC. You can read about those calls by clicking here and the earlier one by clicking here. So I am adding the Ovarian Cancer Awareness Initiative as a candidate for my list of America’s Stupidest Charities. The criteria is simple: exempt organizations that call me asking for money despite a previous critical post by me about the organization. UWHA PAC and the Breast Cancer and Women’s Health Initiatives PAC already are candidates. You can view the entire list elsewhere on this page.

I call these outfits a faux charity because they sound like charities in making their pitches but really aren’t. Rather, it’s all simply a variation on a theme. The founder/treasurer of UWHA PAC, Audrey Stephanie Mastroianni, has a rather iffy past on the charitable front, as I have detailed before and will briefly summarize again below.

But first, the numbers, all drawn from UWHA PAC’s filings with the Federal Election Committee from its founding in August 2020 through June 30, 2021. They are grim indeed, at least if you’re not Mastroianni.

During that time UWHA PAC received about $825,000 in contributions (I am rounding the numbers.) But by my reckoning it spent $650,000 in fundraising expense. That’s a fundraising efficiency–the percent of donations remaining after subtracting the cost of generating them–of just 21%. Put another way, of every dollar given to UWHA PAC, 79 cents went straight out of door for fundraising, with no chance of effectuating change. How many donors would find this satisfactory?

The filings list absolutely no political contributions made during the period, which covered part of the hotly contested 2020 national elections.

With another $30,000 spent on overhead–including about $5,000 going directly to Mastroianni–UWHA PAC had in its bank account on June 30, 2021, all of $144,400.66. That’s just 17% of the money raised.

The reason I know something about Mastroianni is that she long has run a two-decade-old registered 501(c)(3) charity called United Breast Cancer Foundation, in Huntington, N.Y., apparently near where she lives on Long Island. In 2013, her charity was ranked No. 38 on the Tampa Bay Times‘s famous list of America’s Worst Charities. In 2018 I was solicited by her organization, too (click here for that account). Like UWHA PAC, most of its cash contributions listed on its most recent federal tax return, for 2019, went for fundraising.

Las week, I sent a request for comment to Ovarian Cancer Awareness Initiative/UWHA PAC/Mastroianni using an email address listed on the Ovarian Cancer Aware Initiative website. I haven’t heard back in the past, but will update this post if this time I get lucky.

And if I happen to get another cold-call from Ovarian Cancer Awareness Initative, I’ll ask a different question. Maybe something easy like, “Are you a faux charity?”

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