Last year when Change.org’s petition to stop Goodwill Industries from exploiting its workers with disabilities entered the spotlight, the public was confused as to why an 80-year-old law which allowed the practice still governed an organization claiming to do charitable work. However, Goodwill is not the only so-called charity that is unethical and hypocritical behind closed doors.
Following the news of Goodwill breaking, ten-year CEO Jim Gibbons resigned to “pursue new opportunities.” Gibbons, who also has a disability, made $730,000 a year while some workers with disabilities made pennies. This exploitation had been going on for years. NBC first reported on it back in 2013, saying some workers’ wages were less than a dollar an hour at the nearly $6 billion organization.
Before this news entered the mainstream, the fact that Goodwill was a multi-billion-dollar organization was also little-known. Goodwill is not alone, though.
The Salvation Army makes almost $4 billion in revenue. The organization, which is Christian, has been known to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals rather than offering them aid. They’ve historically rallied around the world against LGBTQ rights, and have shut down their services in areas with anti-discrimination laws, despite saying they do not discriminate and advertising services for LGBTQ people. LGBTQ youth make up 40% of the U.S.’s homeless youth population, according to True Colors United.
In 2017, a homeless woman began a viral Twitter thread, beginning, “As a homeless person staying at a salvation army shelter … Please don’t donate to the salvation army.” She went on to outline condescending treatment by RAs, women being kicked out for standing up for themselves, women with mental illness symptoms being thrown out and residents being kept in unclean conditions. The woman, who was also transgender, said other women and the staff picked on transgender women.
In 2018, an American Cancer Society Executive Dr. Otis W. Brawley resigned over concerns of the $861 million organization’s fundraising partnerships from corporations with questionable health practices.
According to a CNN article from 2013, the Kids Wish Network, which raises millions of dollars in donations to help grant wishes to dying children and their families spends less than three cents for every dollar actually helping those in need. The report of America’s 50 worst charities CNN references was originally published by the Tampa Bay Times and Center for Investigative reporting. Both website’s pages detailing the study no longer exist.
In 2016, the Cancer Fund of America, which was high up on the list of worst charities, agreed to close itself down due to its abhorrent financial practices, with which way more money went to lavish vacations for higher-ups in the organization than to sick people who needed help.
The reality is that so many popular charities in the U.S. run like large companies on the inside with a philanthropic-looking exterior. Last year, Americans gave an estimated $427.71 billion to charity.
Deciding what charities are ethical and worth donating to can prove to be a minefield, but certain resources — like charitynavigator.org — can help givers make intelligent, informed decisions. Charity Navigator allows users to type in the name of any American charity and get numerical ratings on its practices. Its system uses data to evaluate the charity’s financial health and accountability & transparency.
The Kids Wish Network, for example, received a zero-rating on Charity Navigator. The site cannot rate some organizations with religious affiliations — such as the Salvation Army — because they are exempt from releasing data under the Internal Revenue Code from filing the Form 990
Fair360, formerly DiversityInc has alliances — through both donations and advertising — to dozens of diversity-related charities and organizations. Conexión, one of the organizations Fair360, formerly DiversityInc works with, has 4/4 stars on Charity Navigator for its work in assisting Latinx American families.
Some other philanthropic organizations Fair360, formerly DiversityInc works with are not rated on Charity Navigator, either because they do not make enough money to be considered or because there is not enough data available on them.
However, the best ways to holistically evaluate the ethics of a charity include seeing if financial information is made transparent, identifying leadership and board members, identifying main supporters (and possible conflicts of interest) and doing research on the results of the charity’s work.