TRENTON – According to its most recent fiscal report to the state, NJ Shares, Inc., a Ewing-based charitable organization, spent a remarkable 98 percent of its annual funds to help financially distressed New Jersey residents pay their energy bills.  The organization dedicated the remaining two percent of expenditures to fundraising, management, and general costs.

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On the other end of the spectrum is Cancer Support Services, a Dearborn, Michigan-based charitable organization that is also registered to solicit donations in New Jersey.  According to its most recent fiscal year report, this organization spent only 24 percent of its funds in furtherance of its stated mission to help indigent persons suffering from cancer and to conduct public education.  The bulk of its expenses – 69 percent – were dedicated to fundraising, with 7 percent to management and general costs.

Continuing its effort to bring transparency to how charities spend donors' dollars, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs today released the latest list of New Jersey's Top 10 Most Inquired-About Charities," with pie charts illustrating each charity's spending during its most recently reported fiscal year.

The list, updated bimonthly and available at: www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/charity/inquired/#list , is drawn from consumer calls to the Division's Charities Registration Hotline, 973-504-6215.  Today's list provides information on the 10 charities most often asked about by consumers who called the Hotline in May and June 2011.

"Our commitment, to pull back the curtain and show consumers just how charities are using their donation dollars, continues," said Thomas R. Calcagni, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs.  "How a charity spends its money, is possibly the single most important factor in determining whether that charity is worthy of a donation.  And the reality is, potential donors often have no idea that certain organizations spend upwards of 70 or 80 cents of each donated dollar on nothing more than fundraising, while others spend nearly every penny on actual charitable programs.  By shedding light on how charities spend money, we are encouraging New Jersey's consumers to ‘investigate before you donate.'"

According to the Better Business Bureau's "Standards for Charity Accountability," a charity should dedicate at least 65 percent of its expenses toward program activities, and no more than 35 percent on fundraising. Consumers can compare that guideline with the expenditures reported by each of New Jersey's Top 10 Most Inquired-About Charities for their most recent fiscal years.

Each of the Top 10 charities is listed below, beginning with those that spent the smallest percentage of their funds on charitable programs. Click on each charity's name to see the full pie chart and additional information.

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/09: $7.4 Million
Charitable program costs: 24 percent
Fundraising costs: 69 percent
Management and general costs: 7 percent

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/09: $22.8 Million
Charitable program costs: 37 percent. Fundraising costs: 55 percent. Management and general costs: 8 percent.

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/10: $2.6 Million
Charitable program costs: 46 percent. Fundraising costs: 47 percent. Management and general costs: 7 percent.

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 9/30/09: $27 Million
Charitable program costs: 61 percent. Fundraising costs: 25 percent. Management and general costs: 14 percent.

, of Washington, DC

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 3/31/10: $26.8 Million
Charitable program costs: 62 percent
Fundraising costs: 6 percent
Management and general costs: 32 percent

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/09: $124 Million
Charitable program costs: 70 percent
Fundraising costs: 25 percent
Management and general costs: 5 percent

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/09: $31.4 Million
Charitable program costs: 77 percent
Fundraising costs: 19 percent
Management and general costs: 4 percent

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/10: $174.7 Million
Charitable program costs: 79 percent
Fundraising costs: 14 percent
Management and general costs: 7 percent

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 6/30/10: $888 Million
Charitable program costs: 90 percent
Fundraising costs: 6 percent
Management and general costs: 4 percent

Total expenses for the fiscal year ending 12/31/09: $14.3 Million
Charitable program costs: 98 percent
Fundraising costs: 1 percent
Management and general costs: 1 percent

The State Division of Consumer Affairs encourages New Jersey consumers to learn about charities before making a donation. For example:

  • Find out whether the charity is registered in New Jersey, or is exempt from having to register. (Certain religious and educational organizations, and charities whose annual income includes less than $10,000 in public contributions and fundraising, are exempt from having to register with the state).
  • Find out how much the charity spent during recent fiscal years on program costs, management costs, and fundraising.
  • Learn about the charity's stated mission.
  • Consumers may obtain information about a charity in several ways. They can ask the charity itself (reputable charities encourage you to do so); visit the charity's website; visit the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs' Charities Registration page at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov; or call the Division's Charities Hotline at 973-504-6215 during regular business hours.