America's worst charities

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

In detail#1: Kids Wish Network

Every year, Kids Wish Network raises millions of dollars in donations in the name of dying children and their families. Every year, it squanders almost every penny.

The money gets diverted to enrich the charity’s operators and the for-profit companies Kids Wish hires to drum up donations. Sick children wind up with less than3 cents of every dollar raised. That has been the formula for 16 years, ever since Kids Wish mimicked the respected Make-A-Wish Foundation and launched its relentless drive for money. In the past decade alone, Kids Wish has channeled nearly $110 million donated for sick children to its corporate fundraisers. That makes it the worst charity in the nation, according to a Times/CIR review of charities that have steered the most money to professional solicitation companies over time.

In addition to the money paid to for-profit fundraisers, Kids Wish has paid its founder and his own companies at least $4.8 million in salary and fees over the years. While founder Mark Breiner was still president of Kids Wish, earning $130,000 a year, he joined a former employee as a partner in a fundraising company called Dream Giveaway.

In 2008 and 2009, Kids Wish paid Dream Giveaway nearly $1.7 million in consulting fees to run automobile give-aways that raised money for the charity.

Breiner continued making money after he retired from Kids Wish in mid-2010 and left his mother-in-law on the charity board. In 2010 and 2011, the charity paid two of Breiner’s companies $2.1 million for licensing, consulting and brokerage fees.

Kids Wish violated IRS rules by waiting four years to disclose the money it paid Breiner. The charity blamed the delay on a mistake by its accountants.

Breiner declined to answer questions about his fundraising and consulting businesses, which received an additional $1.26 million from Kids Wish for a car giveaway in 2012.

But he said in an email that the charity recently completed an IRS audit that included a review of its contracts with his companies.

"They found no indication of private inurement or conflict of interest with founders or the board," Breiner said.

The Kids Wish website is full of testimonials from families thankful for their wishes, including magic moments with the likes of President Barack Obama and pop star Rihanna. About 800 children get their wishes granted each year. But the charity spends most of its resources collecting donated items —toys and coloring books — and handing them out across the country.

Kids Wish has hired Melissa Schwartz, a crisis management specialist in New York City who previously worked for the federal government after the 2010 BP oil spill. Schwartz said the charity has hired outside companies to do fundraising so that its staff can focus on wish-granting. According to its 2011 IRS filing, Kids Wish had 51 employees

Schwartz also said all contributions made to the charity through its website go 100 percent to granting wishes.

She declined to answer detailed questions about Kids Wish’s fundraising operations or its payments to its founder, saying the charity "is focused on the future."

Regarding the Times/CIR ranking of Kids Wish as the nation's worst charity, Schwartz said, "There are more than 100,000 children and their families in whose lives Kids Wish Network has helped make a positive difference. They would surely refute any negative characterization as to the importance and successes of the charitable efforts of our organization."


In their own words: the Charity's mission

The specific and primary purposes 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 engage in and perform any and all acts of a charitable nature to help children by all means, without limitation, as well as to raise funds and acquire products for said purposes. (B) to provide and use the aforementioned services and products to grant to children, meeting criteria and guidelines as set by the board of directors from time to time, and their immediate families, a "special wish"" as consistent with the abilities of such children and their families and the capabilities of the corporation as specifically authorized by 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of the United States and other appropriate laws and regulations. (C) to use any and all lawful means to accomplish the purposes and objectives of the corporation and, in general, either lawful pursuit necessary or incidental to the accomplishment of the purposes or objectives of the corporation. (D) to enter into any other lawful endeavor, from time to time and without limitation, except as prohibiting by 501(c)(3) of the appropriate laws, rules and regulations. (E) to assist other charitable , education and social welfare organizations in the conduct of similar activities; (F) to establish a main office or offices for the conduct of the activities necessary to carry out the purposes of this corporation; and (G) to engage in any and all lawful activities incidental to the foregoing purposes, except as restricted herein. Said powers shall include, but not be limited to, the power to sue and be sued; the power to enter into contracts; the right to receive property by devise or bequest, subject to the laws regulating the transfer of property by will, and otherwise acquiring and hold all property, encumber, transfer upon trust o"

Unedited mission statements provided by the Colorado Secretary of State


Kids Wish Network

Known state disciplinary actions

Find out more about the actions in our database

States bringing actions Number of known actions Outcomes Total fines
Mississippi, Utah 3 Fine/penalties $6,250

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 $18,572,871 $14,514,273 $4,058,598 $994,213 $239,986 1.29% $13,775,312
2010 pdf $15,681,035 $13,742,048 $1,938,987 $1,090,175 $245,412 1.57% $9,709,408
2009 pdf $14,439,549 $12,887,303 $1,552,246 $1,251,003 $391,395 2.71% $8,427,202
2008 pdf $14,601,852 $12,885,479 $1,716,373 $1,028,905 $202,324 1.39% $8,486,828
2007 pdf $14,264,154 $12,490,985 $1,773,169 $1,053,917 $202,491 1.42% $7,724,458
2006 pdf $10,891,717 $9,107,050 $1,784,667 $900,610 $437,522 4.02% $7,377,440
2005 pdf $11,588,872 $10,007,202 $1,581,670 $828,192 $504,825 4.36% $7,475,388
2004 pdf $11,524,776 $10,401,387 $1,123,389 $726,386 $282,572 2.45% $5,344,562
2003 pdf $8,985,968 $7,446,607 $1,539,361 $570,825 $591,456 6.58% $3,994,985
2002 pdf $7,296,483 $6,271,493 $1,024,990 $498,830 $151,152 2.07% $3,415,321
zTOTALS $127,847,277 $109,753,827 $18,093,450 $8,943,056 $3,249,135 2.5% $75,730,904

Who raised the money

Year Solicitor Cash raised Cash to solicitor Cash to charity % to charity Activity
2008 Organizational Development $2,756,683 $2,426,283 $330,400 12.00% recruitment, fundraising
2008 Olympia Publishing $509,386 $407,824 $101,562 19.90% recruitment, fundraising
2008 Directele $1,619,712 $1,423,661 $196,051 12.10% recruitment, fundraising
2008 Jadent $362,462 $318,095 $44,367 12.20% recruitment, fundraising
2008 Community Support (Milwaukee, WI) $491,561 $432,574 $58,987 12.00% recruitment, fundraising
2008 Telcom Services $498,463 $437,055 $61,408 12.30% recruitment, fundraising
2008 Insight Teleservices $1,607,470 $1,416,434 $191,036 11.90% recruitment, fundraising
2008 Newport Creative Communications $1,914,321 $1,683,406 $230,915 12.10% recruitment, fundraising
2008 Brickmill Marketing Services (Wilton, NH) $2,107,562 $1,918,469 $189,093 9.00% recruitment, fundraising
2008 Charitable Resource Foundation $2,734,232 $2,421,678 $312,554 11.40% recruitment, fundraising
2009 Organizational Development $2,411,571 $2,117,322 $294,249 12.20% fundraiser
2009 Newport Creative Communications $1,732,356 $1,626,707 $105,649 6.10% fr counsel
2009 Jadent $335,950 $299,746 $36,204 10.78% fundraiser
2009 Insight Teleservices $1,763,633 $1,542,976 $220,657 12.51% fundraiser
2009 Directele $1,446,184 $1,268,576 $177,608 12.28% fundraiser
2009 Community Support (Milwaukee, WI) $954,638 $835,413 $119,225 12.49% fundraiser
2009 Charitable Resource Foundation $2,089,655 $1,793,175 $296,480 14.19% fundraiser
2009 Brickmill Marketing Services (Wilton, NH) $2,886,737 $2,722,218 $164,519 5.70% fr counsel
2009 Telcom Services $395,231 $347,110 $48,121 12.18% fundraiser
2009 Olympia Publishing $423,594 $334,060 $89,534 21.14% fundraiser
2010 Organizational Development $1,974,147 $1,727,373 $246,774 12.50% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2010 Brickmill Marketing Services (Wilton, NH) $4,632,502 $4,260,767 $371,735 8.00% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2010 Charitable Resource Foundation $1,773,005 $1,552,451 $220,554 12.40% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2010 Insight Teleservices $1,722,504 $1,515,035 $207,469 12.00% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2010 Jak Productions $1,335,308 $1,155,473 $179,835 13.50% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2010 Newport Creative Communications $1,424,144 $1,064,968 $359,176 25.20% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2010 Directele $1,193,644 $1,061,686 $131,958 11.10% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2010 Community Support (Milwaukee, WI) $836,536 $729,208 $107,328 12.80% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2010 Telcom Services $408,536 $357,644 $50,892 12.50% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2010 Olympia Publishing $380,709 $317,443 $63,266 16.60% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2011 Jadent $348,821 $304,939 $43,882 12.60% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2011 Outreach Calling $611,919 $544,416 $67,503 11.00% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2011 Dream Giveaway $4,408,685 $2,504,372 $1,904,313 43.20% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2011 Directele $1,281,616 $833,582 $448,034 35.00% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2011 Newport Creative Communications $1,452,369 $1,313,325 $139,044 9.60% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2011 Jak Productions $1,890,046 $1,655,674 $234,372 12.40% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2011 Organizational Development $1,045,659 $622,025 $423,634 40.50% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2011 Insight Teleservices $805,073 $700,360 $104,713 13.00% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2011 Charitable Resource Foundation $1,408,725 $1,221,156 $187,569 13.30% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment
2011 Brickmill Marketing Services (Wilton, NH) $5,319,958 $4,814,424 $505,534 9.50% advocacy, fundraising and recruitment

Who got direct cash aid

Year Recipient Cash received Location
2010 Funeral Assistance $2,999
2010 Hero Of The Month Gift Card $242,413