With Charity For All: Why Charities Are Failing and a Better Way to Give
Each year, the average American household donates almost $2700 to charity. Yet, most donors know little about the American charitable sector and the nonprofit organizations they support. In With Charity For All, former NPR CEO Ken Stern exposes a field that few know: 1.1 million organizations, 10% of the national workforce, and $1.5 trillion in annual revenues. He chronicles the many flaws in the charity system, from tax-exempt charities such as bowl games, roller derby leagues, and beer festivals, to charitable hospitals that pay their executives into the millions, to--worst of all--organizations that raise millions of dollars without ever cracking the problem they have pledged to solve.
With Charity For All provides an unflinching look at the philathropic sector but also offers an inspiring prescription for individual giving and widespread reform.
attorneys general attest to predatory collection practices in charitable hospitals. At least the Whites’ story had what passes for a happy ending. Embarrassed by press accounts and pressured by the attorney general of Connecticut, Yale–New Haven cleared Quinton White’s debt in 2004, twenty-two years after Jeanette’s hospital visits and more than a decade after she passed away. Charitable hospitals have become some of the most aggressive debt collectors in the country.6 Their weapons of choice
forces—of which the low-overhead imperative is just one—and how few can demonstrate measurable success. The difficulty of identifying effective charities is well captured in the creation story of a New York–based charity evaluation organization called GiveWell. In the summer of 2006, eight friends working in the financial services industry decided to pool their efforts and make a common commitment for their end-of-year charitable giving. All of them were single, in their twenties, and doing very
before giving” is how much money a charity spends on overhead.25 Even putting aside for the moment the real limitations of the concept, which were explored in the introduction, the analysis is still likely flawed, since much of the data on overhead spending is predicated upon self-reporting. A number of charities even report zero overhead expenses in their annual 990 filings with the federal government, a virtual impossibility. More systematic studies have shown substantial discrepancies between
increasing its service field from twelve hundred at-risk youths to over fifty-six hundred in 2010. Today, Lawler and Youth Villages have come a long way from the very modest roots of Dogwood Village. Youth Villages operates mostly in the Southeast but with outposts in New Hampshire and Oregon as well. It has entered new markets in innovative ways. In Georgia and Oregon, it has merged with—in truth acquired—local operations, and in other states it won new contracts, often following its proven
improve child development through effective maternal counseling but also help mothers improve their own lives by developing a vision for their future—with the intended results a reduction in unwanted pregnancies, an increase in school attendance for the moms, and an increase in job success. Olds’s concept pushed the boundaries of human ecology—the science of family, friends, and support networks—extending social services into the lives and homes of first-time mothers in new and radical ways. Olds