By Elise Pattison
These reporters went to great lengths to find the truth. They spent an entire year investigating charities in Tennessee, Arizona and other states. They travelled across state borders and dared to be assertive with people who didn’t want to speak to them. While people were running away or pushing them away the reporters continued to fit questions in in a way that the people would feel inclined to answer.
The reporters also used public tax records (Form 990s) to determine how much the centers were making and how much they were spending to help cancer patients. They were in contact with professionals at Guidestar, the Association of Direct Response Fundraising Council, and the University of Washington in order to validate the methods used to determine which charities helped people the least.
They faced other challenges: some public records requests were denied, and some were inadequately answered. In addition, some charities hide the costs of fundraising such as telemarketing from the tax forms by conducting it “in-house.”
Many other complications plagued these reporters who simply wanted the truth. They had to sift through over 5,000 charities by identifying things such as how much money they kept, how many fundraisers they ran, and where they got their cash revenue.
However, at the end of the day, these journalists boldly presented this information in a format that would expose these centers to the public for what they truly were—scams.