America's worst charities

Our ranking based on cash paid to solicitors in the past decade

In detail#13: Committee For Missing Children

On its website, the Committee for Missing Children claims it has helped reunite 1,600 missing children with their families over the past 16 years. The help provided by the charity amounts mostly to posting pictures on its own website. The charity pays so much to its for-profit fundraisers, it has little money left to do more.

Over the past decade, the Committee for Missing Children has raised $27 million in donations and steered nearly $24 million of that to fundraising companies. That makes it No. 13 on theTimes/CIR list of the worst charities in America.

After David Thelen and his wife pay their overhead and take their salaries for running the charity, the families of missing children are left with an average of $21,000 a year in direct cash aid. In 2011, the charity spent about $33,000 cash on its cause, mostly on airfare to reunite families. That's less than 2 percent of total donations.

Thelen, the charity's chief executive, said the cash grants don't take into account the long hours he spends on the phone counseling desperate parents.

After being repeatedly criticized for his charity's high fundraising costs, Thelen said he's trying to reduce fundraising costs by raising more money through the group's website and from foundation grants. But he's not optimistic.

"I may just close the doors in July when my wife's 66," said Thelen. "I'm tired of trying to convince people I'm a good charity."


In their own words: the Charity's mission

To distribute as many pictures of missing children as we can by encouraging educational dealers, manufacturers and publishers to produce pages of missing children and distributing them throughout the country. We also want to see that the parents of these missing children receive all the help they deserve.

Unedited mission statements provided by the Colorado Secretary of State


Committee For Missing Children

Known state disciplinary actions

Find out more about the actions in our database

States bringing actions Number of known actions Outcomes Total fines
North Dakota 1 Fine/penalties $1,000

Fundraising and spending history

For years prior to 2008, cash raised from other sources might be included in the "cash raised by solicitors" column.

Year 990
form
Cash
raised by
solicitors
Solicitor
was paid
Cash to
the charity
Charity
salaries
Cash to
direct aid
% cash to
direct aid
Reported
totals to
programs
2011 pdf $2,020,925 $1,759,479 $261,446 $144,851 $32,415 1.60% $252,405
2010 pdf $2,094,645 $1,881,936 $185,402 $157,843 $19,595 0.94% $243,343
2009 pdf $2,132,451 $1,914,280 $218,171 $194,433 $21,224 1.00% $314,558
2008 pdf $2,558,092 $2,262,471 $295,621 $185,216 $23,906 0.93% $304,252
2007 pdf $2,616,744 $2,290,049 $326,695 $180,070 $41,588 1.59% $348,600
2006 pdf $2,925,037 $2,586,232 $338,805 $167,290 $28,372 0.97% $300,002
2005 pdf $3,146,086 $2,780,631 $365,455 $158,886 $47,827 1.52% $364,121
2004 pdf $3,753,162 $3,248,442 $504,720 $122,867 $0 0.00% $296,982
2003 pdf $3,466,082 $3,063,211 $402,871 $102,084 $0 0.00% $226,217
2002 pdf $2,226,630 $1,979,373 $247,257 $95,731 $0 0.00% $200,084
zTOTALS $26,939,854 $23,766,104 $3,146,443 $1,509,271 $214,927 0.8% $2,850,564

Who raised the money

Year Solicitor Cash raised Cash to solicitor Cash to charity % to charity Activity
2008 Merit Fundraising $36,436 $90,910 $-54,474 0.00% telephone solicitation
2008 Newport Creative Communications $586,224 $537,874 $48,350 8.20% direct mail
2008 Xentel (Edmonton, CN) $1,935,432 $1,693,687 $241,745 12.50% telephone solicitation
2009 Xentel (Edmonton, CN) $1,641,520 $1,442,515 $199,005 12.12% telephone solicitation
2009 Newport Creative Communications $469,922 $452,303 $17,619 3.75% direct mail solicitation
2009 Merit Fundraising $21,009 $19,462 $1,547 7.36% telephone solicitation
2010 Public Appeal $28,676 $24,752 $3,924 13.70% telephone solicitation
2010 Preferred Community Services $16,210 $14,003 $2,207 13.60% telephone solicitation
2010 Confluent Impact Communication (Alexandria, VA) $7,169 $6,047 $1,122 15.70% telephone solicitation
2010 Midwest Publishing (Phoenix, AZ) $289,284 $250,231 $39,053 13.50% telephone solicitation
2010 Newport Creative Communications $400,889 $369,965 $30,924 7.70% direct mail
2010 Xentel (Edmonton, CN) $1,352,417 $1,216,938 $135,479 10.00% telephone solicitation