Autism Speaks and other charities

Friends of mine have a daughter who is autistic. They forwarded this e-mail:
I just got word that this band, Five for Fighting, is generously donating $0.40 to Autism Speaks for *each time* the video is viewed. The funding goes toward research studies to help find a cure. When you have a moment, please visit the link below to watch the video and pass it along to your friends and family. It is a great heart tugging video.
They are aiming for 10,000 hits, but hopefully we can help them to surpass this goal.
Link to the site.

Immediately, my Spidey sense started tingling my investigative librarian nature kicked in, probably prompted by this story in the local paper about how poorly some veterans’ charities are doing in delivering monies to actual veterans, as opposed to fundraising and overhead.

In any case, I couldn’t find any “40 cents” reference on the What Kind Of World Do You Want? website that hosts the video, but I did discover that Five for Fighting IS involved in hosting videos on the What Kind… site, where people can donate money by watching said videos to the end.

There are five entities, including Autism Speaks, that will benefit from this program, and I wanted to know if they were legit. Gordon found me some info on Autism Speaks from the Better Business Bureau and Guidestar. (Thanks, Gordon!)

Ultimately, though, I decided to take the plunge and join the American Institute of Philanthropy, the national charity watchdog cited by the newspaper article about the vets’ charities.

For the five entities on What Kind, here are the AIP results:

Augie’s Quest ( Not listed. This is a group dealing with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) named for a friend of John from Five for Fighting. It may be too new to be listed in the AIP’s December 2007 booklet.

Autism Speaks ( GRADE: B-. About 62-74% of monies go to services; a document Gordon provided said 75%, which would have pushed them into the solid B range.

Fisher House Foundation ( “Supporting America’s military in their time of need, we provide ‘a home away from home’ that enables family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful time — during hospitalization for an illness, disease or injury.” GRADE: A+.

Save the Children ( GRADE: A.

United Service Organization ( Yes, THAT USO. GRADE: C+.

As one of my friends writes, “‘Overhead’ costs are what bugs me a lot with many charities. It is nice to see $$ go to those in need, and not administrative costs.”


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