One of the sad results of the despicable but heartbreaking cases against Penn State Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky has been a more skeptical view toward giving by potential donors to all children’s programs.
Is the organization seeking the funds 100 percent on the up-and-up? Is there any indication of abuse or attempted abuse in the charity’s history? In short, has it earned your confidence — and your money?
Even the most reputable and benign entities, it seems, have skeletons in their closets. In 2010, an Oregon court ordered the Boy Scouts of America to pay $19.9 million in damages to a victim of abuse by an assistant troop leader in the 1980s. It has been estimated that the Catholic Church in the United States has so far paid almost $3 billion for all its cases of past abuses by priests.
The truth is that you can trust the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church. The number of untoward incidents in both of their histories is minuscule — though certainly devastating — compared with all of the encounters between adults and children in those organizations.
But prospective donors are right to question how they can be assured that their money would be well directed to every charitable group.
A non-profit called CharityWatch, based in Chicago, publishes a monthly newsletter reflecting its own monitoring and investigations of charitable giving across the nation. Much of it is groundbreaking; all of it is informative and worthy of the public’s attention.
Its August issue, prompted by the towering Penn State scandal caused by Sandusky’s longtime child abuse, offers a series of tips on how to proceed when deciding which charities to support. Those tips were gleaned from interviews with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, two groups that are trying to thrive in the shadow of high-profile cases of sex abuse by other organizations.
- Ask what background checks and screenings are conducted on potential employees and volunteers who will have direct contact with children.
- Ask what guidelines are in place to ensure child safety, including ratios of staff/volunteers to children, emergency-response plans and code of conduct.
- Ask for a history of accidents or incidents.
- Ask whether the group is facing any legal action at present.
- Ask whether an oversight board is in place to ensure staff and volunteers are behaving appropriately.
If that information isn’t cheerfully given, beware. Any reluctance to discuss any of these topics should raise doubts as to whether the organization has earned your support.
It’s a shame that the abhorrent actions of so few people must create skepticism that will interfere with the future good works of any group.
But if children’s safety had been the first order of business all along, we would not be doing business today in this environment of “prove it.”