I ran across some interesting information on-line this morning, and I thought I’d share some of it with you. The non-profit Charity Navigator web site tracks expenses via charities’ disclosure statements to the IRS to provide donors with an assessment of how well charities run themselves. A few Christian charities made their top 20 list of charities with the highest administrative costs. Here are the three national Christian charities that made the list:
Gospel to the Unreached Millions (GUM) / Administrative expenses: 43.1%
Based in Houston, this evangelical ministry is one of the least efficient in translating donations into international programs designed to spread its spiritual message. With administrative expenses topping 43% and fund-raising expenses more than 38% of its total budget, GUM was able to disburse a mere 18% of incoming money to the targeted recipients of aid in its last reported fiscal year, 2006. Managing a budget of almost $1.5 million, GUM has a poor track record of directing that cash to its evangelical programs.
Changed Lives / Administrative expenses: 47.4%
Changed Lives is a Christian organization based in Tennessee whose message of Biblical values is broadcast streaming over the internet to followers around the world. Carried by speaker Ben Haden, who began his broadcasting career at NBC in 1967, Changed Lives features video lectures on a number of spiritual topics and distributes Bibles and other religious literature for free to its supporters. While the organization’s revenues have increased over the last three reported years, its overhead has more than kept pace, pushing administrative expenses to over 47 percent of the group’s 2008 budget of around $790,000.
American Tract Society / Administrative expenses: 68.0%
Topping the list of America’s worst charities is an organization that spent more than $1.6 million dollars on its administrative expenses in 2007, over twice what it spent the previous year. The American Tract Society, based in Texas, distributes religious literature to spread its message around the world. With a history of low ratings from Charity Navigator, the group’s administrative expenses have consistently outpaced the amount of donations coming in. While the group receives income from other sources than contributions, donors to the American Tract Society may be surprised to know that the recipient is the most inefficient in the country at maximizing the impact of its donations.
Obviously, this research does not speak to the effectiveness of these charities at accomplishing their stated goals, but it does lend insight into how each one spends the money that they collect from their donors.