Profile of charities provides guide to decisions about giving

December 15, 1993|By Wayne Hardin | Wayne Hardin,Staff Writer

The "Annual Charity Index," a pocket-size book containing the lowdown on 222 national charities, has been updated for 1994 -- just in time to help inform decisions about holiday charitable contributions.

A publication of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in Arlington, Va., the 316-page book provides background profiles on popular charities and information on charitable giving.

The book makes no recommendations on individual charities.

It includes general advice on tax implications of donations, filing complaints, handling telephone solicitations, evaluating sweepstakes offers and donating to charity thrift stores.

"You can check out a charity before you make a gift," says Bennett M. Weiner, director of the council's Philanthropic Advisory Service.

The profiles, based on information from the charities, include such things as income distribution, program service expenses, fund-raising costs (should be no more than 35 cents on the dollar, Mr. Weiner says) and paid staff, including salaries of chief executive officers.

Charities are included in the book if the CBBB receives a certain number of inquiries about them during the year. "The most asked question is finances," Mr. Weiner says. "Most are requests for information, not necessarily complaints."

He and Julie A. Rizzo, editor of the 5-year-old index, say publicity about problems with a charitable group, such as last year's uproar over questionable expenditures by the president of United Way of America, increases the inquiries.

"The salary issue always keeps coming up," Mr. Weiner says. "But you shouldn't base your whole decision for giving on salary only. The organizations can't run on thin air."

To order, send a check or money order for $12.95 payable to CBBB Foundation to Charity Index, Council of Better Business Bureaus, 4200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 800, Arlington, Va. 22203.

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