August 24, 2005
Kansas City, Mo. — Missourians who give to charity have a new resource to be better-informed donors. Attorney General Jay Nixon today launched "Check a Charity," an online database where consumers can look up financial information about hundreds of charitable organizations that solicit donations in Missouri.
"Donors should be confident that their charitable dollars are being used wisely and in the most efficient manner," Nixon said today at a news conference in Kansas City. "The more information donors have access to, the more confident they're likely to be in their giving."
The Web page, linked to www.ago.mo.gov, was unveiled today with information from 448 local, statewide, national and international charities. That number, Nixon said, is certain to grow as other charities realize the benefit of having their financial information easily accessible for donors and potential donors to review.
The charities listed on the Web site voluntarily provided the information in response to a request from Nixon's office. Nixon said his office made the request to approximately 1,500 charities that solicit donations in Missouri.
Most of the charities that responded provided the data from their IRS Forms 990. The Form 990 includes a description of the charity's mission, how much money the charity received in the year being reported, and how much the charity spent in that year on charitable programs, administrative costs and fund-raising expenses. Some charities that responded are not required by the IRS to file a Form 990; those charities provided the financial information through other documents.
"Our listing of these charities should not be seen as a 'seal of approval' from the Attorney General, but it certainly indicates these charities were willing to share the information on a Web site that received more than 484,000 hits last month," Nixon said. "An organization's absence from the Check a Charity site may very well be noticeable to donors, so I encourage the charities that have not yet responded to my request to provide that information to us."
Donors can search the Check a Charity database, even if they only have a partial name of the charity. The Web page for each charity includes a mission statement from the charity; the percentage of expenses that a charity spends on administrative costs; and the figures for program expenses (the costs incurred in conducting the charitable purposes), total expenses and total revenue for the year being reported.
Nixon noted that Missouri law does not require charities to spend a certain percentage of charitable funds on the organization's program expenses. "Consumers will be looking at the percentages that charities spend on administrative costs to help them determine where their donations will go," Nixon said.
If a charity has a Web site, that information is listed on the Check a Charity site, along with the organization's mailing address and telephone number. Consumers can use that information to request copies of the charity's annual report.
Charities not yet listed on the Check a Charity site are able to download a form from the Web site to submit with their information.