America's worst charities

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

In detail#5: Firefighters Charitable Foundation

Firefighters Charitable Foundation was created to provide financial assistance to people who have been affected by a fire or disaster.

Over the past decade, its professional solicitors have been the biggest beneficiaries. From 2002 to 2011, it raised $64 million in donations and paid $55 million of that to its solicitors. The charity spent less than 10 cents of every dollar raised on direct financial assistance to those in need.

The charity's founder, Louis Pelico, left the organization in 2006. He said he couldn't reduce fundraising costs and decided he had had enough. "I tried for years to get it down. I figured if I hadn't gotten it down by now that I wasn’t going to," he said. "It’s a sword that really cuts you. It helps you and then it cuts. It’s doubled-edged."

Frank Tepedino, who became president of the charity after Pelico, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinelin 2007 that he planned to slowly change the way the charity raised money. That hasn't happened.

Today, the charity pays its for-profit solicitors 90 cents of every dollar raised.

Some of that money goes to a broker who arranged contracts between Firefighters Charitable Foundation and some of its telemarketers. The broker earns about 4 percent of any donations collected by the telemarketers, records show.

Some industry experts say it is absurd for charities to use brokers. Lists of telemarketers are readily available and using brokers just wastes more money.

Tepedino said he is trying to raise money from other sources, such as fundraising dinners and golf outings. “If you have a better way of helping us, I’m open,” he said.


In their own words: the Charity's mission

The purpose for which this corporation is formed and for which it shall be exclusively administered and operated are to receive, administer and expend funds for charitable and educational purposes in connection with the following: A) to provide direct aid and/or funds for medical care, sustenance, housing, medical supplies and equipment, as well as education scholarships to families who have been victims of fire or disaster during their time of need. B) to provide direct aid and/or funds for medical care, sustenance, housing, scholarships, medical supplies and equipment to children in need throughout the world; C) to assist other charitable, educational and social welfare organizations in the conduct of similar activities.

Unedited mission statements provided by the Colorado Secretary of State


Firefighters Charitable Foundation

Known state disciplinary actions

Find out more about the actions in our database

States bringing actions Number of known actions Outcomes Total fines
Pennsylvania 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
2012 pdf $7,155,858 $6,077,856 $143,964 $300,864 $10,000 0.14% $33,519
2011 pdf $7,571,600 $6,558,459 $1,013,141 $305,736 $463,547 6.12% $689,361
2010 pdf $5,048,024 $4,348,724 $699,300 $292,020 $248,872 4.93% $481,576
2009 pdf $4,830,972 $4,206,567 $624,405 $265,222 $431,676 8.94% $656,483
2008 pdf $5,099,932 $4,369,283 $730,649 $227,996 $301,286 5.91% $510,916
2007 pdf $4,168,287 $3,554,128 $614,159 $187,239 $270,023 6.48% $475,221
2006 pdf $4,366,316 $3,670,098 $696,218 $160,537 $506,465 11.60% $668,748
2005 pdf $5,081,926 $4,285,191 $796,735 $112,431 $257,621 5.07% $328,883
2004 pdf $8,782,464 $7,473,195 $1,309,269 $121,126 $1,012,981 11.53% $1,132,299
2003 pdf $10,723,016 $9,228,613 $1,494,403 $121,320 $1,172,913 10.94% $1,287,553
zTOTALS $62,828,395 $53,772,114 $8,122,243 $2,094,491 $4,675,384 7.4% $6,264,559

Who raised the money

Year Solicitor Cash raised Cash to solicitor Cash to charity % to charity Activity
2008 Jak Productions $893,370 $759,365 $134,005 15.00% fundraising
2008 Courtesy Call $528,153 $448,818 $79,335 15.00% fundraising
2008 Community Support (Milwaukee, WI) $208,730 $172,997 $35,733 17.10% fundraising
2008 Associated Community Services (Southfield, MI) $213,408 $181,396 $32,012 15.00% fundraising
2008 Directele $257,329 $218,729 $38,600 15.00% fundraising
2008 Organizational Development $271,303 $227,944 $43,359 16.00% fundraising
2008 Statewide Appeal $577,371 $502,095 $75,276 13.00% fundraising
2008 Telcom Services $601,656 $523,261 $78,395 13.00% fundraising
2008 Public Awareness (Irving, TX) $721,264 $627,314 $93,950 13.00% fundraising
2008 Midwest Publishing (Phoenix, AZ) $827,348 $707,364 $119,984 14.50% fundraising
2009 Jak Productions $789,508 $688,143 $101,365 12.80% fundraising
2009 Statewide Appeal $698,446 $621,572 $76,874 11.00% fundraising
2009 Civic Development Group (Edison, NJ) $581,493 $494,269 $87,224 15.00% fundraising
2009 Public Awareness (Irving, TX) $555,206 $493,914 $61,292 11.00% fundraising
2009 Telcom Services $510,157 $454,067 $56,090 11.00% fundraising
2009 Courtesy Call $405,981 $354,624 $51,357 12.70% fundraising
2009 Organizational Development $251,032 $216,469 $34,563 13.80% fundraising
2009 Directele $238,740 $202,929 $35,811 15.00% fundraising
2009 Fire Fighter Services $197,102 $167,537 $29,565 15.00% fundraising
2010 Telcom Services $285,976 $254,519 $31,457 11.00% fundraising
2010 Statewide Appeal $827,880 $736,816 $91,063 11.00% fundraising
2010 Public Awareness (Irving, TX) $470,723 $418,930 $51,793 11.00% fundraising
2010 Public Appeal $393,032 $349,798 $43,234 11.00% fundraising
2010 Organizational Development $261,778 $225,289 $36,488 13.94% fundraising
2010 Newport Creative Communications $422,274 $282,240 $140,034 33.16% fundraising
2010 Midwest Publishing (Phoenix, AZ) $841,291 $732,001 $109,290 12.99% fundraising
2010 Menacola Marketing $322,886 $271,289 $51,597 15.98% fundraising
2010 Jak Productions $974,630 $867,421 $107,209 11.00% fundraising
2010 Fire Fighter Services $247,554 $210,421 $37,133 15.00% fundraising
2011 Organizational Development $197,531 $169,876 $27,655 14.00% fundraising
2011 Directele $203,283 $172,791 $30,492 15.00% fundraising
2011 Fire Fighter Services $260,742 $221,631 $39,111 15.00% fundraising
2011 Courtesy Call $298,668 $262,261 $36,407 12.20% fundraising
2011 Newport Creative Communications $530,667 $331,913 $198,754 37.50% fundraising
2011 Public Appeal $637,137 $567,052 $70,085 11.00% fundraising
2011 Public Awareness (Irving, TX) $701,688 $624,502 $77,186 11.00% fundraising
2011 Statewide Appeal $793,657 $706,355 $87,302 11.00% fundraising
2011 Midwest Publishing (Phoenix, AZ) $794,625 $695,372 $99,253 12.50% fundraising
2011 Jak Productions $3,153,602 $2,806,706 $346,896 11.00% fundraising