Our check (for $2.50) arrived yesterday inside a fundraising appeal, and I was immediately suspicious. Unsolicited checks can be used as vehicles for scams in which your endorsement of the check commits you to obligations in the fine print. That did not appear to be the case with this check.
The accompanying letter from Steven L. Blumenthal states -
"The $2.50 check is real. You could put this letter aside, cassh the check, and forget all about our important laboratory research and national cancer education programs. But what I really hope you will do is return the $2.50 check along with your own gift of $10.00 or more to help in our fight against cancer."My wife immediately logged on to access the Charity Navigator website (I would encourage everyone to bookmark this worthwhile site for future reference). The "National Cancer Research Institute" is, as indicated on their checks, a project of the Walker Cancer Research Institute, which is rated by Charity Navigator with one star (out of a possible four) for accountability and transparency, and 2/4 for finances. They note that over 50% of the funds raised are used for additional fundraising. So if you send them $10, about $5 of that will be used to send mailings to more people.
"Program expenses" receive 47% of the funds. Regarding that "program," Wikipedia states:
The public education portion of the solicitation consists of an approximately 1/8 page list of "risk factors for breast cancer" on the back side of the solicitation. Overall, 52.11% + 43.14% (95.25%) of all donations go to either direct or indirect fundraising costs. The card states that 3.81% of funds go directly to research program services (38 cents out of a $10.00 donation). Thus, of the $12,568,927 raised by WCRI, $478,876.11 went directly to research. As a comparison, an NIH grant awarded to a single Investigator for a specific research study typically ranges from $25,000 to $250,000.If you read the comments at Charity Navigator, you will see that some people say they cash the check and donate the money to "real" charities. Or you can keep the money. But note this - your name and address are on the check (with a scannable barcode), and...
Numerous complaints have been made by individuals who are receiving dozens of letters soliciting funds and are unable to persuade the charity to remove their names from the mailing list. The Center then sells those names to other charities, and people throughout the country have complained of being inundated by requests for money that they can not stop.The choice is yours. My check went into the shredder.