Epilepsy Talk

Do You Know Where Your Charity Dollars Go? | May 6, 2011

These days, because of Federal budget cuts, virtually EVERY non-profit is desperately in need of funds.

I virtually get phone calls every day. The American Lung Association is calling me as I write this article. (I guess I’m on too many lists!)

But the real question you have to ask is: Not how much money you’re giving, but WHERE it’s actually going. How do you know how your charitable dollars are being spent? 

(Fortunately The Epilepsy Foundation is a 3-star charity, according to the trusted Charity Navigator. It’s also ranked as a top-rated charity by the Charity Watch Organization, part of the American Institute of Philanthropy.)

But the controversy over the best-selling Three Cups of Tea, written to raise money for the Central Asia Institute (CAI) is a real eye-opener. And they’re in very hot water over the accountability of their financial practices.

Recently, CBS’ 60 Minutes aired an expose about this charity and also questioned how they spent its funds.  In fact it wasn’t just building schools and hiring teachers in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The book was quoted as being as being “a beautiful story and it’s a lie.”

To read the controversy surrounding Three Cups of Tea — which is just one charity — go to:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/04/18/135508982/three-cups-of-tea-author-in-hot-water-over-alleged-fabrications and  http://www.npr.org/2011/05/06/136029810/can-you-know-where-charity-dollars-go-not-easily?ft=1&f=1001

I think you’ll be surprised. And disappointed.


  1. I don’t trust charaties and I would’nt send any of them a lead penny!
    I’ve gotten fraudulent letters, calls and emails from people with a sob story about how someone is dying and they need my help and if I send so much money in a specific amout of time I’ll save their life.
    Most of these are quoted letters with a different name.
    There’s enough friends and relative for me to help right here in the US!

    This is emmbarresing, but I fell for a fraud sacm and lost close to $6,000.00. That taught me a lesson.


    Comment by Mike Farnam — May 6, 2011 @ 4:50 PM

  2. Hi Mike,

    I can understand your mistrust, but there’s 2 sites where you can check out a charity’s accountability:
    Charity Navigator http://www.charitynavigator.org/
    and The American Institute of Philanthropy

    BTW, my generous mother-in-law has given hundreds of dollars away (that she can’t afford to — and she DOESN’T have dementia.)

    She was caught up in the Haiti horror and ended up contributing to a lot of “boiler room” operations. She was heart-broken.

    But that hasn’t stopped her from giving. She just does a little more research now! 😉


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 6, 2011 @ 8:29 PM

  3. I remember Haiti. I did not give at all to the Red Cross. They are greedy. They use disasters to make a fortune.

    They still have the money that was given to them. They have not built homes for the people at all. The people are still living in tents. It showed on the news that they were actually selling the water for a dollar, Until people compained who had given the money to the chairty.

    If I want to give money, I will go directly to the people and give it to them. I wish I had the money to build a house for one family there. I would go there and buy the house myself. Then they could live there for free.


    Comment by ruth brown — May 7, 2011 @ 2:23 AM

  4. I know three people who go to undeveloped countries every summer to help with construction. (Plumbing, houses, roads, etc.)

    They ARE the truly dedicated ones. I agree with you Ruth, it’s easy to give money.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 7, 2011 @ 1:41 PM

  5. That is great that some people actually go to other countries to help them out.

    I did not mean that it is easy to give money. Right now, people are giving money to charities and are poor themselves. They sincerely want to help other people. It is hard on them.

    The money that was sent to Haiti wound up with the government officials and the Red Cross. They gave very little to the people. Enough money was given to build houses for everyone in the country.

    For the rich it is a tax deduction. I am sure that most of the rich are giving to help the poor in Haiti.


    Comment by ruth brown — May 7, 2011 @ 6:27 PM

  6. My mother-in-law is still collecting clothes (especially shoes) for her gardener’s kin back in Haiti.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 7, 2011 @ 8:12 PM

  7. Phylis, that is great!! Way to go1!


    Comment by ruth brown — May 9, 2011 @ 12:24 AM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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