America's worst charities

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

In detail#17: Operation Lookout National Center for Missing Youth

Operation Lookout was started in 1984 by the husband and wife team of Mike and Melody Gibson. Over the past decade, the charity has let professional solicitors keep 82 percent of the $19.6 million raised from donors across the country. But Melody Gibson said the charity uses solicitors for a "dual purpose." When telemarketers call people at home asking for money, they also ask potential donors to post photos of missing children in their communities.

"This is a highly valued service to us as we do not have enough time in the day for all the tasks required," Gibson said. "So we count on the outreach to enroll private supporters to help us locate a missing child."

As a result, Operation Lookout claims, 82 percent of the missing children whose photos have appeared on the charity's website have had their cases resolved.

"So you know there's hope," Gibson said.

When fundraising declined in 2001, the Gibsons launched another charity, Caring for Our Children, to raise money for Operation Lookout. Both charities rely heavily on high-cost professional fundraisers and are on theTimes/CIR list of the nation's worst charities.

Operation Lookout has signed settlements with regulators in Florida and Iowa. In Iowa it agreed to stop soliciting until 2016 as a result of fundraising abuses by its telemarketer. Callers lied about how much money went to the charity and said local children would benefit from the donations when the money was used nationwide.

Operation Lookout's role has been limited to giving free advice to parents. Though a 2010 IRS filing said the charity spent $90 on "investigations," Gibson said Operation Lookout "does not give money to any entity or directly to any individual or family. OL is not a grant making entity. OL’s mission is to work with families in crisis whose children are missing prior to age eighteen."

Although neither Mike nor Melody Gibson reported a salary from Operation Lookout in 2011, the couple has been paid in the past. Over the past decade, the couple earned a total of about $600,000. Melody Gibson is executive director; her husband is head of casework. Both receive "back wages past due from previous years when the cash flow permits," Melody Gibson said.

Like other executives of charities on the Times/CIR list, Gibson said donors can always give contributions directly to the charity to avoid telemarketing expenses.

 


Operation Lookout National Center for Missing Youth

Known state disciplinary actions

Find out more about the actions in our database

States bringing actions Number of known actions Outcomes Total fines
Florida, Iowa 2 Ban, Fine/penalties $500

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 $917,974 $769,226 $148,748 $62,654 $0 0.00% $385,428
2010 pdf $1,286,561 $1,117,048 $169,513 $71,671 $0 0.00% $132,628
2009 pdf $1,343,652 $1,068,273 $275,379 $81,265 $0 0.00% $163,019
2008 pdf $2,005,809 $1,620,986 $384,823 $153,799 $0 0.00% $254,184
2007 pdf $2,476,069 $2,030,969 $445,100 $196,008 $0 0.00% $1,024,604
2006 pdf $2,188,711 $1,790,170 $398,541 $133,052 $0 0.00% $623,953
2005 pdf $2,400,700 $1,971,195 $429,505 $199,025 $0 0.00% $655,971
2004 pdf $2,573,544 $2,119,545 $453,999 $241,750 $0 0.00% $320,206
2003 pdf $2,415,111 $2,009,648 $405,463 $238,322 $0 0.00% $357,665
2002 pdf $1,977,700 $1,643,882 $333,818 $161,304 $0 0.00% $337,934
zTOTALS $19,585,831 $16,140,942 $3,444,889 $1,538,850 $0 0.0% $4,255,592

Who raised the money

Year Solicitor Cash raised Cash to solicitor Cash to charity % to charity Activity
2009 Crown Management $11,926 $9,971 $1,955 16.40% fundraising & call to action
2009 PJG Sales $13,595 $11,807 $1,788 13.20% fundraising & call to action
2009 Lino's $37,471 $28,926 $8,545 22.80% fundraising & call to action
2009 Teleservice USA (Clawson, MI) $63,185 $57,755 $5,430 8.60% fundraising & call to action
2009 Associated Community Services (Southfield, MI) $65,718 $37,323 $28,395 43.20% fundraising & call to action
2009 Contract Communications $99,302 $84,247 $15,055 15.20% fundraising & call to action
2009 ATS $173,075 $133,763 $39,312 22.70% fundraising & call to action
2009 Midwest Publishing (Phoenix, AZ) $467,384 $396,670 $70,714 15.10% fundraising & call to action
2009 Insight Teleservices $404,896 $302,000 $102,896 25.40% fundraising & call to action
2009 Preferred Community Services $7,100 $5,811 $1,289 18.20% fundraising & call to action
2010 Teleservice USA (Clawson, MI) $42,069 $35,404 $6,665 15.84% fundraising & call to action
2010 PJG Sales $20,397 $17,404 $2,993 14.67% fundraising & call to action
2010 Midwest Publishing (Phoenix, AZ) $464,634 $402,177 $62,457 13.44% fundraising & call to action
2010 Lino's $15,551 $12,604 $2,947 18.95% fundraising & call to action
2010 Insight Teleservices $397,474 $357,319 $40,155 10.10% fundraising & call to action
2010 Crown Management $53,812 $46,886 $6,926 12.87% fundraising & call to action
2010 Contract Communications $84,260 $72,603 $11,657 13.83% fundraising & call to action
2010 ATS $160,886 $141,395 $19,491 12.11% fundraising & call to action
2010 Associated Community Services (Southfield, MI) $47,478 $31,256 $16,222 34.17% fundraising & call to action
2011 Associated Community Services (Southfield, MI) $23,937 $13,987 $9,950 41.60% fundraising and call to action
2011 Crown Management $32,713 $27,462 $5,251 16.10% fundraising and call to action
2011 Teleservice USA (Clawson, MI) $38,055 $31,002 $7,053 18.50% fundraising and call to action
2011 Contract Communications $40,850 $34,739 $6,111 15.00% fundraising and call to action
2011 Corporations For Character $76,277 $64,858 $11,419 15.00% fundraising and call to action
2011 ATS $177,507 $135,575 $41,932 23.60% fundraising and call to action
2011 Midwest Publishing (Phoenix, AZ) $274,119 $232,430 $41,689 15.20% fundraising and call to action
2011 Insight Teleservices $254,516 $229,173 $25,343 10.00% fundraising and call to action