Opinion

Opinion

Charity concerns

It’s time for Kansas lawmakers to take some action with wayward nonprofit organizations.

August 24, 2011

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There are a lot of things felons can’t do in the state of Kansas. They’re prohibited from working a wide variety of jobs, can’t buy a gun legally and can’t vote until they’re finished with parole.

But the law’s a little fuzzy when it comes to allowing felons to start a nonprofit organization and manage hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.

State law gives county attorneys, district attorneys and the attorney general the option to file an injunction or restraining order against a nonprofit if anyone involved in soliciting funds has a conviction for “misappropriation, misapplication or misuse of money or property of another.”

In other words, theft.

A Journal-World investigation of the Tonganoxie-based Purple Heart Veteran Foundation discovered that the foundation’s director, Andrew Gruber, has a felony theft conviction. It seems as though the law would apply to Gruber’s situation, though it’s yet to be seen if law enforcement will take any action against the charity.

Gruber, despite the theft conviction, is in no way prohibited from running a nonprofit. But, if he does operate one, and someone in law enforcement chooses to act, Gruber’s charity could be banned from operating in the state.

The Journal-World investigation highlighted numerous other areas for concern involving Gruber and his charity — though none of these issues appears to be illegal.

For example, there apparently isn’t anything illegal about hiring the business of a close family member to operate all fundraising for a charity.

There also isn’t anything illegal about having only three members on the board of directors­ — one of whom is the charity director — who decide compensation.

And while it violates the norms and best practices of nonprofits across the country, there isn’t anything illegal about a charity giving only 11 cents on the donated dollar to those who are supposed to benefit from the charity.

Recent awareness of the issues with the Purple Heart Veterans Foundation and Kids vs. Cancer, both operated by Gruber, might be enough to prompt people to send their donations elsewhere.

But if it gets to that point, or if a county attorney or the attorney general takes action, Gruber could simply close down the existing operations and start another organization whose name tugs at the heartstrings. “Care for Kittens,” “End Child Hunger,” “Stop Child Abuse,” or any number of charity names that would warm the hearts of well-intentioned donors.

State agencies, such as the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, advise consumers to be wary of charities and check them out before you donate. But that isn’t easy to do for the average citizen. It’s time for Kansas lawmakers to look at ways to rein in wayward charities and mandate some level of best practices seen in the nonprofit sector. As it stands, there’s little in the law to ensure the hard-earned dollars of generous Kansans are really going to help those in need.

Comments

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 10 months ago

"there isn’t anything illegal about a charity giving only 11 cents on the donated dollar to those who are supposed to benefit from the charity."

Where did that idea come from? They don't have to give that much.

The following are repeats of postings I made here on LJWorld. The article was titled: 'Save the Children solicitors irk some downtown shoppers, business owners', by Shaun Hittle. It was published on June 6, 2011.

June 6, 2011 at 7:13 p.m:

I was told by a former employee of an organization that solicited for 'The Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police' or some similar name, that they were paid a flat fee of $100,000 (at that time) for the right to make and collect telephone solicitations for them.

The flat fee was the same, regardless of how much money they actually collected. And, from what I was told, it was a very profitable business.

I could hardly believe him!

I had questions about how ethical that was, and I was told that $100,000 was more than 'The Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police' could collect any other way, and that by collecting money that way, they got more of an income than they could any other way.

Well of couse one day the phone rang, and guess who it was! I started to grill the person on the other end of the phone line - and he admitted all that was true!

Ethical man, I must admit!

But if anyone heard that call, he lost his job for sure.


June 6, 2011 at 7:28 p.m.:

That brings to mind another "legal" "scam" that people see all the time and an amazing number of people contribute, thinking that they are doing someone some good by sparing just a bit of pocket change.

I'm talking about those cardboard stands that you commonly see in restaurants and other businesses, asking for spare change, usually quarters, for maybe "The March of Dimes" or some other charity. You are to insert your quarters or dimes into the stands to make your contribution.

But if you look closely, you will notice that it appears that someone has been stealing from the charity!

Here's the way it works: Someone pays a flat fee for the "right" to place a solicitation card in a business, and then they get to keep all the money collected. I don't know how much the flat fee is, but I'm guessing that it's about $25 a month, but I really don't know how much it is.

So, every once in a while, the person who placed the collection card there goes and collects all the change collected, and then pockets the money. Of course, he counts every last dime for tax purposes, you can count on that.

If you seriously want to donate to that charity, note the name and phone number from the card, it's printed right on it, and then send your donation directly.

But of course, no one ever does that. They just put their quarters in, and "feel good" about themselves.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, I know. I left out an R in "couse". But, an obvious mistake like that proves it was my original writing. Since then, I've started to use a spell check.

Plus I have a repeated phrase problem. I'm working on that.

LLLCubed 3 years, 10 months ago

Thanks Ron, we see the problem and it appears that he can't figure what is fair. If they come this way, I will call the Attorney Generals Hot line to turn them in...

Love LLLCubed I always use misspelled words for the smae reason, forget the spell checker full speed ahead...

jafs 3 years, 10 months ago

Interestingly, the donation jar at the register at Dillon's says 100% of the donations go to the organization.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 10 months ago

Some of them may be legit, especially if they are operated by the business that have a donation fund that they administer themselves.

But I'm sure a lot of them are not.

happyrock 3 years, 10 months ago

So Dolph, why are you picking on this guy and not the hundreds of other charity scams that call Kansans everyday? What did he do, cancel his subscription to your lousy paper? Please write something relevant.

happyrock 3 years, 10 months ago

You are correct. I think Dolph is an idiot. The guy may be a crook, but so are 90% of the scammers who call everyday. I wish the state would take this issue up and close these people down. We could then eat out meals in peace.

canyon_wren 3 years, 10 months ago

I imagine Dolph is "picking on this guy" because his practices have been identified--and the intention of the article is to let readers know that this is entirely possible with other charities, as well. It wouldn't take much research to uncover other instances of this, but adding those would be somewhat redundant. This covers the subject quite well and should be useful to most of us. I also appreciate Ron Holzwarth's comments.

LLLCubed 3 years, 10 months ago

Sorry you feel like $0.11 per dollar is a good standard for your area. In the State of CA of must have $0.50+ per dollar to remain a non-profit and 50% must go to the cause you state in your documents.

The reason you may have ended up with a felony conviction is that you don't relaize what is fair. For non-profits, your either greedy or it's a bad cause to feed your self first and then help the ones who need it.

You need to get into the private sector where most rules are dropped and you can be the fat man in the candy store and eat until you explode.

Larry Khe Sanh Surivor class of 1968

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