MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Times has released its list of the 50 worst charities in the country. And coming in at #15 is Project Cure, a registered non-profit based in Bradenton.
It's one of six charities on the list that the Times says gives 0% of its donations to direct cash aid.
The Times says this is a charity in name only. The report says it has paid more than $20 million to telemarketers which raise money for Project Cure, but that no money has gone to provide any sort of aid.
The name on the wall may sound noble, but take a peek behind the locked doors of Project Cure and you'll see more chaos than cure.
"I’m kinda not even sure what they really do in here, because they just have stuff in there," says Joshua Mullis, who works near the Project Cure office. The old chandelier and leftover junk inside the office are not exactly helpful when it comes to raising money for diabetes and cancer research.
This is the kind of set up that potential donors need to avoid. But just what do you need to know to make sure your donated money doesn't end up in a place like this?
Experts say before you make the mistake of sending money to a less-than-charitable charity, ask yourself some questions.
“What’s their mission? What are they trying to accomplish? How are they using their money?" says Roxie Jerde of the Community Foundation of Sarasota.
And more importantly, she says do your research. “The first thing I would recommend that somebody does in our community when they're thinking about investing, donating to a non-profit, is go to givingpartner.org."
She says it's a website that has all the facts about any registered charity, most importantly, how donated money is spent. "If they spent 90% of it on their own salaries and admin, and 10% went to some program…talk about a red flag, that’s a huge red flag."
And don't get caught up in a slick sales pitch. "It starts with your values and what you care about, but if you get so swept up in the emotions or very compelling direct mail piece and you don't do any research on it, you know, probably not so good."
We did call a number listed on the Project Cure Facebook page, hoping to get in touch with Project Cure president Michael Evers, but we just got a recording and no response.
The report says Evers' take home salary is around $200,000 a year. It also says about 90% of all donations were used on fundraising efforts.