SALT LAKE CITY — The Better Business Bureau of Utah is urging local donors to use caution when solicited for used household item donations by Friends of Multiple Sclerosis Charities.
Jane Driggs, president and CEO of Utah’s BBB, said BBB Standards for Charity Accountability states that charities should spend at least 65 percent of their total expenses on program activities. Last year, Friends of Multiple Sclerosis Charities spent only 16 percent.
Driggs said the organization’s 2013 IRS 990 tax form shows it had revenue of $1,233,225 in contributions and grants and spent 16 percent or $197,250 on its programs. Of this amount, FMSC provided $6,000 in monetary assistance to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in New York City. The remaining $191,250 went to the “salary and related employee benefits paid to disabled individuals while gainfully employed by the organization,” according to tax forms.
The Utah-Southern Idaho Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society did not receive any money in 2013 from FMSC, despite the fact that its name and contact information is listed on the “Contact Us” page of FMSC’s website.
“As the BBB reported, the National MS Society did receive $6,000 from the Friends of MS Charities in 2013,” said Becky Lyttle, spokesperson for the National MS Society of Utah. “The Friends of MS Charities who gather household items is not affiliated with the National MS Society. People who would like to make cash donations in support of MS research, programs or services can do that directly with their local chapter of the National MS Society.”
Lyttle said donors are encouraged to perform due diligence to understand where their dollars go. The BBB is one of several credible sources for this information.
A press release issued by BBB said according to the FMSC website, donatemsut.org, the organization states, “The Friends of Multiple Sclerosis is dedicated to helping those with MS by supporting cutting edge research and by donating to programs that provide services that help people with MS in Utah cope with this devastating and crippling disease.” The previous website in July 2014 noted, “Your donations are taken to a Savers store, with which we have a contract. In exchange for the donations, we are paid a fixed sum of money.”
BBB believes an organization that claims that “Your . . . donations of used clothing and housewares help us provide services to adults and children living with Multiple Sclerosis” should be providing a greater share of their contributions to programs for both adults and children.
BBB sent FMSC three requests for information that went unanswered.
The organization, located at 396 West Ironwood Drive, Suite A, Salt Lake City, solicits consumers to donate clothing and household items through bins placed in parking lots, Savers Thrift Stores and scheduled pickups at a consumer’s home.
The organization did not return calls to the Standard-Examiner for comment.
BBB offers the following tips if you are solicited to give used household items:
·Check BBB charity reports at bbb.org
·Be wary of names that sound like well-known charities.
·Often, charities that pick up used household items sell these items to local thrift stores per pound.Find out how much of your donation will actually go to programs.
·If you can’t find information on an organization, ask them to provide you with their most current IRS Form 990 so you can see how they spend their money.They are required by law to provide this to you, upon request.
·Don’t give in to high-pressure tactics: your money is just as good tomorrow as it is today.
·For more information on charities in Utah, contact the BBB at 801-892-6009 or visit bbb.org/utah.