New Smart Phone App Lets Consumers Investigate Charities With Ease

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NEWARK – With a free, new smart phone app, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has made it easier than ever to “Investigate Before You Donate” and learn how your favorite charities actually spend the money you give.

The division today launched the free “Charity Lookup” application for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Built without using taxpayer money, the app is designed to help users make better-informed decisions before they donate to charities. The app is updated weekly, with information from the division’s database on the financial records of 26,000 charities and nonprofits registered to solicit in New Jersey.

“Savvy consumers do their research before they make a purchase or an investment – and they should do the same before giving to a charity,” Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said. “When you look at the numbers you’ll learn some so-called charities dedicate only 10 or 20 cents of each donated dollar to actual charitable programs, and give the rest to fundraisers. Other organizations spend virtually every penny on worthwhile charitable projects. With this app we’ve made it easier than ever to know where your money will go, before you donate.”

The screen shots, provided above, show how the app is used. Simply type in the full or partial name of a nonprofit, such as by typing the words “New Jersey” to find the New Jersey Hall of Fame. Then click on the organization’s name to find a breakdown of its revenues and expenses, drawn from the organization’s most recent fiscal year report. The app shows the New Jersey Hall of Fame spent a total of $412,000 during its most recent reported fiscal year, 99.8 percent of which went toward actual programs to support its mission, less than 1 percent of which went toward management costs, and none of which was spent on fundraising.

“While the Supreme Court has ruled that states can’t force charities to spend more money on charitable causes than on fundraising or management costs, we owe it to consumers to bring transparency to the ways charities use the donations they receive,” Eric T. Kanefsky, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, said. “This app, like our Charities Registration Hotline, provides an important service. It will help shine a spotlight on the state’s most un-charitable charities, and bring well-deserved recognition to the organizations that put donated dollars to valuable use.”

Kanefsky noted that the Better Business Bureau’s Standards for Charity Accountability state a charity should dedicate at least 65 percent of its expenses toward program activities, and no more than 35 percent toward fundraising. When consumers consider donating to a charity, they should compare that guideline with the charity’s actual expenses.

The Charity Lookup app currently is available only for Apple mobile devices, but will eventually be made available for users of the Android and other devices. It can be downloaded directly at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/new-jersey-charity-search/id503535534?ls=1&mt=8. Users can also find it by visiting the Apple App store on their mobile device and searching for “New Jersey Charity Search.”

The Charity Lookup app is the product of a partnership between the State of New Jersey and the New Jersey Information Division of NICUSA, Inc., the official eGovernment partner of the State of New Jersey. The New Jersey Information Division of NICUSA, Inc helps New Jersey government entities web-enable their information services.

The app only provides information about charities that are currently registered with the Division. Charities not listed in the app may be exempt from registration, may have had their registration revoked, or may have failed to comply with the law requiring that they register. For information on charities that don’t appear in a search of the app, consumers may call the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Charities Registration Hotline at 1-973-504-6215.

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. In addition to using the new app 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 1-973-504-6215 during regular business hours.


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