If you receive a check from the National Cancer Research Center as I did this week, do some research before you send a donation. You might change your mind.My $2.50 check arrived inside a fundraising appeal letter. My first thought was to toss it in recycling. (Always trust your first instincts, I learned. I'll tell you why.)
Sometimes, unsolicited checks can be used as vehicles for scams. Your endorsement can commit you to further obligations in fine print. That was not the case; the accompanying letter stated:
"The $2.50 check is real. You could put this letter aside, cash the check, and forget all about our important laboratory research and national cancer education programs. But what I really hope you will do is return the $2.50 check along with your own gift of $10.00 or more to help in our fight against cancer."
Several friends and family members have been or are undergoing cancer treatments, so my second thought was to send a minimum donation with the request NOT to solicit further. Of course, that
Deciding to trust my first instinct (tossing it), I checked on the National Cancer Research Center online and learned from blog postings that others had received similar checks as far back as 2-3 years ago with the same M.O. One blogger suggested going to the Charity Navigator site and I've bookmarked it for reference.
The National Cancer Research Institute is a project of the Walker Cancer Research Institute (WCRI) headed by Helen Marie Walker, president. Evan Harris Walker, an American physicist, who died in 2006, founded WCRI in 1981.
Charity Navigator gave it 1 star (out of a possible 4) for accountability and transparency, and 0 for financial. Most of the funds raised (over 90%) are used for more fundraising. So with a $10 donation, most goes to send mailings to more people (and so on and so on). See the pattern here.
Comments left at Charity Navigator indicate that some folks cash the check donating the money to "real" charities. Of course, you could cash the check and keep the money, but your name and address are on the check with a series of bar codes. Cashing it could lead to even more problems, and would you really need the $2.50 that much?
WHY more problems?
The WCRI could then sell your info to other "charities" and you could be inundated with even more junk mail. People often complain of being inundated by requests for money that they can't seem to stop.
If you get one of these letters, it's your choice. Mine went into the shredder after I salvaged the included postage: four 1-cent stamps. Postage this week went to 49 cents for a U.S. postage stamp.
(Credits: The graphic herein is from the Devon Authorities Recycling Partnership, U.K.)