How to ensure that your charity dollars are being spent wisely
When Las Vegans open their wallets to give charity, often the first thing they wonder is: How will my money be spent?
They likely want their hard-earned cash going directly to a charity’s cause, not to pay for bloated salaries or excessive overhead.
Donors can rest assured. Many of the valley’s largest and best-known charities keep their money focused on their missions.
Among the 10 groups analyzed by VEGAS INC, nine spend at least 83 percent of their budgets on programming. Seven groups spend less than 7 percent on administration, and most spend less than 10 percent on fundraising.
Overall, none spends more than 7 percent on top officials’ compensation.
Still, the groups have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to money: Seven of the 10 charities finished last year in the red.
Industry watchdog Charity Navigator, based in Glen Rock, N.J., keeps tabs on almost 7,000 groups nationwide that have at least $1 million a year in revenue and survive on private donations rather than government funds.
The vast majority spend at least 75 percent of their budgets on programming, up to 10 percent on fundraising and up to 15 percent on administration, said Sandra Miniutti, vice president of marketing.
Miniutti said donors should be wary of nonprofits that rely heavily on outside companies to raise money for them. Charities can lose money on those deals because they end up paying telemarketers more than they collect in donations.
Among the 10 Las Vegas charities VEGAS INC examined, only two spent money on professional fundraising fees:
Operating profit: $4.7 million
Programming expenses: $43.3 million (93 percent of total costs)
Management/general expenses: $1.4 million (3 percent of total costs)
Fundraising expenses: $1.9 million (4 percent of total costs)
Julie Murray, former president and CEO: $177,650
Brian Burton, current president and CEO: $97,877
Combined compensation of top officials: $429,826 (1 percent of total costs)
Three Square collects food and distributes it to 250 local agencies, such as churches and missions, which feed the needy.
Donors gave Three Square 22 million pounds of food last year, worth $36.5 million.
The organization employs 96 people, most who work full time, and volunteers who donate about 96,000 hours a year, Chief Financial Officer Andy Schuricht said.
Three Square paid two chief executives during the 2012 fiscal year because of a change in leadership. Murray left as CEO in early 2011 while Burton took the helm in April that year.
United Way of Southern Nevada
Operating loss: $2.1 million
Programming expenses: $34.2 million (92 percent of total costs)
Management/general expenses: $1.1 million (3 percent of total costs)
Fundraising expenses: $1.8 million (5 percent of total costs)
Cass Palmer, CEO: $156,849
Combined compensation of top officials: $349,736 (1 percent of total costs)
The United Way uses donations to pay for health, education and financial stability programs. It funds scholarships for low-income preschoolers and provides free tax returns for families.
During the 2012 fiscal year, the agency spent $255,780 to renovate its headquarters on Flamingo Road near Jones Boulevard. The company hired Korte Co., led by United Way Board Member Greg Korte.
Palmer said Korte was the lowest bidder.
The United Way also posted the largest operating loss of the 10 charities analyzed.
Palmer blamed the loss on accounting methods, saying the group was in the red because it spent money it received during the prior fiscal year. He said that had the United Way spent the money in the same year it received it, the group’s finances would have evened out.
Operating profit: $987,920
Programming expenses: $21.9 million (88 percent of total costs)
Management/general expenses: $3 million (12 percent of total costs)
Fundraising expenses: $0 (The group raises money through the Opportunity Village Foundation, which had $8.6 million in revenue last year and $4.4 million in expenses.)
Ed Guthrie, executive director: $279,981
Combined compensation of top officials: $551,801 (2 percent of total costs)
Opportunity Village, which bills itself as “Las Vegas’ favorite charity,” employs and provides job training for people with mental disabilities. It serves more than 3,000 people a year.
The group pays $3 million to $4 million in wages each year to clients, who perform a range of jobs. They clean about 3 million square feet of office space each year, serve 350,000 meals annually to Nellis Air Force Base personnel, bake 6,000 cookies a day to sell to casinos and shred 10,000 pounds of paper daily.
The group also employs 400 support staffers.
Goodwill of Southern Nevada
Operating profit: $365,066 (for the year ending Dec. 31, 2012)
Programming expenses: $22.6 million (94 percent of total costs)
Management/general expenses: $1.1 million (5 percent of total costs)
Fundraising expenses: $363,896 (2 percent of total costs)
Steve Chartrand, CEO: $279,140
Combined compensation of top officials: $888,695 (4 percent of total costs)
Goodwill is best known for its network of retail stores that sell low-priced, hand-me-down clothing. The group has 11 stores in Southern Nevada and plans to open another next month in Summerlin.
Goodwill employs 600 workers in the region, 525 of whom work in donation collection and retail sales.
An additional 35 to 40 provide job training and job placement services and helped 1,800 people get jobs in the valley last year, Chartrand said.
Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada
Operating loss: $755,752
Programming expenses: $16.8 million (86 percent of total costs)
Management/general expenses: $2.7 million (14 percent of total costs)
Fundraising expenses: $0
Monsignor Patrick Leary, former CEO: $88,687 (paid by related organizations, which officials would not disclose)
Combined compensation of top officials: $0
Catholic Charities provides adoption services, job training, emergency food and clothing assistance and other services to people in need.
Thomas Roberts, founding general manager of the Forum Shops at Caesars and former vice president of development at Station Casinos, took over this summer. The group would not disclose Roberts’ salary.
Leary died in December after leading the group for a decade.
Catholic Charities employs 250 people and has hundreds of volunteers. Roberts said it received two-thirds of its $18.7 million in revenue from government grants and the rest from donations and programming revenue.
HELP of Southern Nevada
Operating loss: $290,346
Programming expenses: $14.5 million (92 percent of total costs)
Management/general expenses: $957,931 (6 percent of total costs)
Fundraising expenses: $261,284 (2 percent of total costs)
Terrie D’Antonio, CEO: $164,287
Combined compensation of top officials: $372,206 (2 percent of total costs)
HELP provides substance abuse treatment, job training and housing assistance to the homeless. It also helps people pay their utility bills.
The group has 87 employees, most working full time, and serves about 100,000 people a year.
D’Antonio said the group pays for 75 percent of its workers’ health insurance but, to minimize costs, avoids other perks, including expense accounts, car allowances, mileage reimbursement and matching retirement funds.
Operating loss: $798,808
Programming expenses: $4 million (74 percent of total costs)
Management/general expenses: $394,188 (7 percent of total costs)
Fundraising expenses: $1 million (19 percent of total costs)
Estelle Murphy, executive director: $111,730*
Combined compensation of top officials: $106,023 (2 percent of total costs)
Safe Nest provides shelter, counseling, advocacy services and prevention education to victims of domestic violence.
The shelter, in a confidential location in Clark County, can house up to 103 women and children. It operates 24 hours a day and has more than 50 employees, including case managers, therapists and crisis counselors.
The group, which serves men at a separate location, also has workers who solicit and pick up donations.
*Includes $5,707 in compensation from unspecified sources.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Las Vegas
Operating loss: $1.6 million (for the year ending Dec. 31, 2011)
Programming expenses: $4.9 million (83 percent of total costs)
Management/general expenses: $655,168 (11 percent of total costs)
Fundraising expenses: $359,287 (6 percent of total costs)
Dulcinea Almazan, CEO: $142,220
Combined compensation of top officials: $413,714 (7 percent of total costs)
The Boys & Girls Clubs work with children in neighborhoods prone to violence, substance abuse and educational neglect.
Through its clubhouses, the group encourages young people to excel in school, lead healthy lifestyles and be model citizens, promoting voter registration and community involvement.
Boys & Girls Clubs posted the second-largest operating loss of the 10 nonprofits analyzed.
Habitat for Humanity Las Vegas
Operating loss: $185,099
Programming expenses: $2.5 million (91 percent of total expenses)
Management/general expenses: $132,741 (5 percent of total costs)
Fundraising expenses: $124,026 (4 percent of total costs)
Meg Delor, executive director: $16,837
Combined compensation of top officials: $68,300 (3 percent of total costs)
Habitat for Humanity, a Christian ministry, builds houses for working families who earn less than 80 percent of the area’s median income. The homes are built by volunteers and sold for no profit through interest-free mortgages.
Since its inception in 1991, the local arm of Habitat for Humanity has built 88 homes, housing 312 adults and children.
Delor earns by far the smallest compensation of any CEO or executive director of the 10 groups analyzed. She did not return a call seeking comment.
Spread the Word Nevada
Operating loss: $141,809
Programming expenses: $1.6 million (85 percent of total costs)
Management/general expenses: $99,242 (5 percent of total costs)
Fundraising expenses: $173,519 (10 percent of total costs)
Lisa Habighorst, executive director: $76,820 (4 percent of total costs)
Combined compensation of top officials: Not disclosed
Spread the Word donates 32,000 books a month to children in low-income communities. It serves 28 local elementary schools where at least 80 percent of students get free or reduced-price lunches.
Habighorst said she is the group’s only full-time employee and has 15 part-timers. Some of them work 25 hours a month while others put in 35 hours a week.
Note: Unless specified, data are for the year ending June 30, 2012.