The worst charities in America  JUN 14 2013

The Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting spent a year investigating bad charities and this is what they found.

The worst charity in America operates from a metal warehouse behind a gas station in Holiday.

Every year, Kids Wish Network raises millions of dollars in donations in the name of dying children and their families.

Every year, it spends less than 3 cents on the dollar helping kids.

Most of the rest gets diverted to enrich the charity's operators and the for-profit companies Kids Wish hires to drum up donations.

In the past decade alone, Kids Wish has channeled nearly $110 million donated for sick children to its corporate solicitors. An additional $4.8 million has gone to pay the charity's founder and his own consulting firms.

No charity in the nation has siphoned more money away from the needy over a longer period of time.

But Kids Wish is not an isolated case, a yearlong investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

Using state and federal records, the Times and CIR identified nearly 6,000 charities that have chosen to pay for-profit companies to raise their donations.

Then reporters took an unprecedented look back to zero in on the 50 worst -- based on the money they diverted to boiler room operators and other solicitors over a decade.

These nonprofits adopt popular causes or mimic well-known charity names that fool donors. Then they rake in cash, year after year.

The nation's 50 worst charities have paid their solicitors nearly $1 billion over the past 10 years that could have gone to charitable works.

Despicable. And a reminder that before you give, you should check on a site like Charity Navigator or GiveWell for organizations where a sizable portion of your contribution is going to the actual cause. For instance, the aforementioned Kids Wish charity currently has a "donor advisory" notice on their Charity Navigator page. (via @ptak)

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