America's worst charities

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

In detail#12: Youth Development Fund

Also doing business as: Children's Dream Network, A Child's Dream

Rick Bowen started Youth Development Fund 30 years ago. Its stated mission is to fund educational programs for children to prevent drug abuse and promote health and fitness.

Over the past decade, donors contacted by professional solicitors have given the Tennessee charity nearly $30 million. Youth Development paid those solictors 83 percent of the money raised.

Much of what's left goes to Bowen himself. Youth Development pays Bowen's private production company about $200,000 a year to produce two underwater videos. The charity also pays a Knoxville TV station to air Rick Bowen's Deep Sea Diving on Sunday afternoon, though the show makes no mention of Youth Development Fund.

In its IRS tax filing, the charity says the shows have a potential audience of 1.3 million. But the station manager said the shows attract only about 3,600 viewers each week.

Bowen, now 63, said his company “just happened to be the low bidder,” for the video work, which has taken him from Cozumel to Key West.

Youth Development Fund also solicits under the name "Children's Dream Network," saying the program "provides dreams to children with life-threatening illness." Bowen said the program finds children through word of mouth and currently has about 300 families awaiting help. The charity has spent an average of $23,000 a year on direct cash aid to dying children.

Since 2009, the charity has also shipped donated medical supplies valued at about $9 million to Central America. Bowen said the supplier recommended an orphanage in Guatemala as one of the recipients. Youth Development Fund pays the supplier a few thousand dollars for shipping and counts the full value of the shipment as revenue on its tax forms. That boosts the charity's good deeds and makes its fundraising costs look lower in comparison to donations raised.

"It's just a way to help so many more people," Bowen said of the donations. "I got thank you letters, the whole bit."


In their own words: the Charity's mission

Youth Develpment Fund is a non-profit general assistance fund for educational programs and services for children. Youth Development Fund supports educational programs concerning drug abuse, health and fitness; presents festival events for children and the general public; produces and distibutes public service announcements regarding child-family relationships and pursues all other related purposes all other related purposes allowed to non-profit corporations by law.

Unedited mission statements provided by the Colorado Secretary of State


Youth Development Fund

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 $2,525,788 $2,054,512 $471,276 $0 $28,650 1.13% $2,505,173
2010 pdf $3,137,808 $2,214,571 $923,237 $0 $21,350 0.68% $2,409,698
2009 pdf $2,183,944 $1,627,261 $556,683 $0 $34,100 1.56% $2,162,571
2008 pdf $1,580,987 $1,270,685 $310,302 $0 $32,925 2.08% $212,425
2007 pdf $1,942,352 $1,670,377 $271,975 $150,000 $13,575 0.70% $236,645
2006 pdf $3,060,786 $2,816,857 $243,929 $174,000 $102,744 3.36% $558,847
2005 pdf $3,386,551 $3,029,997 $356,554 $18,000 $0 0.00% $449,512
2004 pdf $3,162,863 $2,625,838 $537,025 $381,492 $0 0.00% $426,145
2003 pdf $4,080,467 $3,362,300 $718,167 $341,655 $0 0.00% $350,515
2002 pdf $4,617,669 $3,818,447 $799,222 $307,541 $0 0.00% $1,681,703
zTOTALS $29,679,215 $24,490,845 $5,188,370 $1,372,688 $233,344 0.8% $10,993,234

Who raised the money

Year Solicitor Cash raised Cash to solicitor Cash to charity % to charity Activity
2009 Associated Community Services (Southfield, MI) $1,704,231 $1,218,959 $485,272 28.50% solicitation
2009 Telequal $479,713 $408,302 $71,411 14.90% solicitation
2010 Associated Community Services (Southfield, MI) None $592,563 caging & admins
2010 Telequal $480,230 $320,528 $159,702 33.26% fundraising
2010 E-Timed Solutions $93,764 $73,709 $20,055 21.39% fundraising
2010 Associated Community Services (Southfield, MI) $2,563,814 $1,820,334 $743,480 29.00% fundraising
2011 Associated Community Services (Southfield, MI) $2,027,930 $1,651,394 $376,536 18.60% fundraising
2011 Courtesy Call $19,858 $18,646 $1,212 6.10%
2011 Telequal $478,000 $384,472 $93,528 19.60% fundraising
2011 Associated Community Services (Southfield, MI) None $540,463 caging & admins