Scottsdale Police Union Charity: Less than 5 Cents of Each Donated Dollar Actually Getting Used For Charity

These guys hassle me constantly for money and I generally duck them.  Which is good, because if I had actually given money, I would be pissed:

The Scottsdale police union known as POSA -- the Police Officers of Scottsdale Association -- stages several events every year to help bring police and the community closer together. Over the next two weeks, 500 Scottsdale children will go holiday shopping with $150 in their pockets in the annual Shop with a Cop event.

But a closer look at POSA's federal tax filings shows just pennies of every dollar you donate reaches the community.

...

The union's most recent federal tax filings, for 2012, show about a million dollars in donations. For every dollar donated, professional fundraising services kept 81 cents -- about $814,000, records show.

A little more than 6 cents of every dollar went toward the $62,000-a-year salary of POSA director Cindy Hill. Hill is also the wife of union leader Jim Hill.

Less than a nickel of every dollar -- about $45,000 -- was spent on events like Shop with a Cop.

To be fair, this is probably about the same percentage of union dues that gets spent for their stated purpose, so these guys probably don't see anything amiss.

  • jdgalt

    I'm a tax professional, and have some related info that people may want to know.

    All organizations that have IRS tax-exempt status (501(c)anything) are required to file an information return, Form 990, each year with the IRS. Among other things the form shows how much money the group gets, and how much is used to pay its officers and directors. These returns are public information, and can be viewed on guidestar.org .

    The site also gives them efficiency ratings. However, the ratings more or less assumes that they're all supposed to be charities devoted to helping the poor. Thus, if the non-profit group you look up is actually a church, or a game club, or a political committee, the rating is probably meaningless.

    In order to legally deduct your charitable donation, you're supposed to get a letter from the charity that includes all of the following information. Insist on one, in case you get audited.
    (1) A statement that the group is a 501(c)3 exempt organization. (You can't deduct donations to 501(c)4 political committees.)
    (2) The group's EIN (tax ID number), a number of the form 12-3456789.
    (3) A statement that they didn't give you any goods or services in return (or if they did, the fair market value, which you then have to subtract from the deduction).

    If you donate property worth more than $250 to a charity, you have to get a professional appraisal first if you want to deduct it. An exception is vehicles, where the charity will issue you a 1098-C showing what they sold it for, and that's how much you get to deduct.

    If you've never heard of a charity, check guidestar before donating to them; there are lots of phony charities out there, and even some legitimate ones which aren't deductible because they haven't filed their paperwork. Veterans and police groups (including Police Athletic Leagues) are especially likely to be scams. And of course most groups that have political purposes are 501(c)4s and not deductible.

  • dawnma gill

    If cops took 500 kids shopping, each with $150, then my math shows they spent $75,000. Yet the net amount spent on the program was only $45,000? What happened to the other $30,000? Did the cops steal it under Civil Asset Forfeiture???

  • bigmaq1980

    Good info. Thanks!

    This all just shows that our taxes are too complicated...we have to be able to discern at time of giving a 501(c)3 vs 501(c)4???

    Other than girl guide cookies, and the odd school benefit (where one's child goes to school and knows about the drive), usually keep our money and give to organizations we know are effective with their funds (with the help of research like the site you provide).

    One thing that is bothersome is the numbers of celebrity charities. Many are outside of the US and have less transparency.

    Cynically, they seem to be more of a promotion vehicle for the celeb vs a consequential benefactor for their cause.

    No doubt they also (wisely) combine trips and use the (generous allocation of) expenses and their (valuable) "time" as charitable write-offs - probably a very effective tax savings strategy (and not something the everyday joe can really do).

    All this just helps make the case for a flat tax, no deductions. Or, just roll all taxes into a sales tax.

  • HenryBowman419

    Some of these so-called charities exist, it seems, largely to benefit the folks who run the charity. Often the executive director gets paid handsomely, but farms out the fund-raising to some call center which soaks up perhaps 85% of the funds collected.

    A Tampa Bay newspaper has listed the 50 worst such charities (data updated in Dec. 2014). It's worth looking at the list if you plan to give to a charity. Beware of any charity that has as part of its name "police", firefighter", "cancer", or "children". There are lots of scams.

  • Larry Geiger

    Not defending these guys. I don't know. However, does POSA hire people that perform public service. For instance, the YMCA is non-profit. Almost all money raised is spent on salaries. Lifeguards. Camp counselors. Basketball coaches. Again, I don't know what kind of work POSA does.

  • Charles Clarke

    While I agree with a lot of what you said, you should know/learn that the IRS doesn't allow you to deduct anything for donating time. They would require you to earn money for the time and then donate it, which would, at most, be a wash.

  • Bew

    Where I live, firefighters are allowed to stand in intersections and walk amongst cars at red lights, collecting donations in fireman boots. I suspect that you or I would not be allowed such a privilege.