"Think Before You Donate" Email's Claims about Charities- Fiction!

“Think Before You Donate” Email’s Claims about Charities – Fiction!

Summary of eRumor: 

A forwarded email encourages readers to “think before you donate” to non-profit groups. It makes a number of claims about the salaries of CEOs and the use of donor dollars.

The Truth:

This forwarded email makes outdated or false claims about which non-profit groups you should avoid.

The efficiency and effectiveness of charitable groups is an important consideration for donors. But any claim that a non-profit group dedicates 100 percent of its donations to its mission is false. Every group has to pay overhead costs for things like employee salaries and fundraising initiatives, but some groups do a better job of managing those costs.

This email typically begins recirculating each holiday season. In 2016, it began circulating under the healdine” Christmas is Coming — Donating Items or Money to Charities … Which ones?” But the “new” email was just the same list of outdated and inaccurate claims that you’ll find below. looked at each of the eRumor’s claims and used the most recent available tax information to determine whether they are true or false. Here’s our findings:

American Red Cross President and CEO Marsha J. Evans’ salary for the year was $651,957, plus expenses – Fiction!

This claim is untrue and outdated. Evans stepped down as the president and CEO of the American Red Cross in 2005. In 2013, American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern was paid a $517,000 salary in 2015, which was about .01 percent of the organization’s expenses.

Charity Navigator rated the American Red Cross’s overall performance at 83.33 out of 100.

March of Dimes is called the March of Dimes because only a dime for every $1 is given to the needy – Fiction!

This claim is false. In 2014, March of Dimes reported generating about $195.8 million in revenue, and about 66 percent of that amount went to program expenses directly supporting its mission, 22 percent went to fundraising, and just about 10 percent went to administrative expenses. The charity ran a $7.9 million deficit for the year.

Charity Navigator rated March of Dimes’ overall performance at 71.86 out of 100.

This claim wasn’t accurate in 2012, when the email first went viral, either. That year March of Dimes reported about $205 million in revenue. Administrative expenses totaled about $23 million, and the organization spent about $196 million on fundraising and programming (it ran a $12 million deficit in 2012).

March of Dimes dedicates much more than 10 percent of its revenue to the needy.

United Way President Brian Gallagher receives a $375,000 base salary, plus benefits – Fiction! 

Gallagher’s salary is actually was actually much higher in 2014 than reported in the email. He was paid $1.3 million, which accounted for about 1.4 percent of the nonprofit’s total expenses.

Still, Gallagher’s salary wasn’t out of line with the CEOs of similarly sized organizations. Charity Navigator rated the United Way’s overall performance at 92.99 out of 100.

UNICEF CEO Caryl Stern receives $1.2 million per year, plus expenses and use of a Rolls Royce – Fiction!

This claim is false. Stern earned a $476,000 base salary in 2013 and about $515,000 in 2015, accounting for 0.09 of the organization’s total expenses. UNICEF also said it does not provide a Rolls Royce, or any company car, for its staff.

Charity Navigator rated UNICEF’s overall performance at 85.64 out of 100 in 2015.

Goodwill CEO Mark Curran takes in $2.3 million per year – Fiction!

This claim is false. Mark Curran has never been the CEO of Goodwill Industries International. That position is held by Jim Gibbons, and he earned $585,604 in reportable compensation and $126,598 in “other compensations” from the organization in 2015, according to tax forms. 

Goodwill Industries says 83 cents of every dollar it receives go to programs and services for people in need.

Salvation Army Commissioner Todd Bassett earns $13,000 per year – Fiction!

This claim has persisted for years, and it’s false. Todd Bassett retired from active service in 2006. Before that, Bassett and his wife received $79,389 per year in salary and $53,468 in benefits, the organization reports.

In the most recent financial disclsoures, William A Roberts, the organization’s chief executive, earned $131, 243 in compensation and benefits. About 18 percent of the Salvation Army’s revenues are spent on administrative costs.

American Legion’s top commanders receive no compensation – Fiction!

This claim is false. A tax form reveals that its top officers received about $201,000, $152,000 and $162,000 in compensation in 2009.  The organization does not make more detailed information about program expenses available.

Veterans of Foreign Wars national commander receives no salary – Fiction!

VFW National Commander Richard Eubank received a $238,221 salary in 2009. Richard Freiburghouse, manager of the VFW Foundation, also earned $75,000 that year. The group spends about 8% of its revenues on administrative expenses.

Disabled American Veterans national commander receives no salary – Fiction!

Ronald Hope, a veteran of the Vietnam War, is listed as the national commander of DAV, and his salary information isn’t made clear in tax documents. But J. Marc Burgess is the national adjutant and chief executive of the organization, and his compensation is listed at about $319,000 per year.

Charity Navigator rated DAV’s overall performance at 91.25 out of 100.

The Military Order of Purple Hearts 
National Commander receives no salary – Unproven!

The Military Order of Purple Hearts does not include salary information for its national commander in its tax documents. The group paid Stephen Ruckman, its chief financial officer, about $150,000 in 2009. That year, the group also reported a $40,000 severance payment to its former executive director.

Vietnam Veterans Association national commander receives no salary- Fiction!

There is no known Vietnam Veterans Association; Vietnam Veterans of America appears to be the closest match. In 2009, the group paid President John Rowan $69,874 and CFO Joseph Sternberg $137,000, according to tax documents.

The group does not make more detailed financial information available online.

Make-A-Wish Foundation dedicates 100% of funds to programs – Fiction!

It’s not true that the Make-A-Wish Foundation has no overhead or administrative costs. The organization dedicates about 73.3% of revenues to programs. Meanwhile, administration accounts for 11.3% of its spending, and fundraising initiatives account for about 15.4%. David A. Williams, the president and CEO of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, earned $479,676 in 2013.

Charity Navigator rates the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s overall performance 81.31 out of 100.

St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital dedicates 100% of funds to programs for children – Fiction!

This claim is false. St. Jude’s spent less than 70% of its budget on programs for children in 2013. Administration accounted for 10% of the organization’s spending and fundraising accounted for 20%.

Charity Navigator rates St. Jude’s overall performance 86.63 out of 100.

Ronald McDonald House dedicates all donations to programs – Fiction!

The Ronald McDonald House operates very efficiently, but this claim is false. The organization dedicated about 89 percent of its budget to programming in 2013. Administration accounted for less than 1%, and fundraising accounted for about 9% of its operating budget.

Charity Navigator rates the Ronald McDonald House’s overall performance at 97.72 out of 100.

Lions Club International dedicates 100% of donations to the blind, deaf and measles vaccinations- Fiction! 

This claim is false. Lion’s Club International dedicates about 83% of its budget to programs for the blind, deaf and others. Administration accounts for about 8% and fundraising accounts for about 7% of its total budget.

It is true that the Lion’s Club International has launched a worldwide measles vaccination campaign.

Charity Navigator rates the Lion’s Club International’s overall performance 90.84 out of 100.