Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation spends 90% of its money on solicitors

Editor's note: As part of a yearlong investigation into charities across the nation, the Tampa Bay Times and its reporting partner, the Center for Investigative Reporting, asked readers in June to suggest nonprofits for closer review. Readers responded with nearly 300 suggestions. In the coming months, the Times and CIR will examine some of those charities and share what we found.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation is one of the worst charities in America when it comes to spending large amounts of cash on for-profit solicitation companies.

But that fact has been obscured in documents filed with state regulators.

The Times and CIR took a closer look at the charity after readers suggested we investigate.

IRS tax documents show that from 2009 to 2011, the charity raised $7.6 million through its solicitors. More than 90 percent of that was paid directly to for-profit solicitation companies hired by the charity.

Its history of using high-cost fundraisers for most of its income would be enough to make Autism Spectrum one of the nation's worst charities. The Times/CIR rankings are based on the amount of money charities spend on fundraisers. But because state reports filed by one of the charity's solicitors understated Autism Spectrum's fundraising cost, it did not make the list.

The charity was founded in 2007 and is run by Michael Slutsky. The organization's mission is to educate the public about autism and provide financial assistance and educational material to help detect and treat the disease.

It provides scholarships for autistic children to attend camp, sends holiday gift cards and gives 'Early Detection Kits' to agencies that work with young children, according to its website.

But of the $7.6 million raised by solicitors, less than 3 percent has been spent on direct cash aid, tax records show.

Parker Autism Foundation in North Carolina has received about $10,800 from Autism Spectrum each year for the past three years, according to Shelley Reilley, the foundation's president. Her foundation also received Target gift cards at Christmas and a new van for transporting children.

But such grants are a small part of Autism Spectrum's programs. About two-thirds of the $2.3 million the charity reported spending on programs was educational material delivered in conjunction with its fundraising pitches.

Charity officials did not provide samples of their fundraising material. Slutsky said the charity is trying to reduce its fundraising costs.

Autism Spectrum has gotten low marks from watchdog organizations. Charity Watch gave it an F, and Charity Navigator issued a zero-star rating. The Better Business Bureau reported that the charity did not disclose information when requested.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation

Schererville, IN

 • Total cash raised: $7.8 million
 • Cash raised by solicitors: $7.6 million
 • Total paid for professional solicitation campaigns: $7 million
 • Disciplinary actions: 0
 • Other names used: Autism Awareness Program, Autistic Children of America

How autism group would stack up

Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation spent more than 90 percent of donations raised on professional solicitors' campaigns. Here's how that compares with the top five medical charities that made the Times/CIR list of America's worst, based on 2011 IRS 990 filing or latest year available:
 • Cancer Fund of America: 83 percent
 • American Breast Cancer Foundation: 82
 • Breast Cancer Relief Foundation: 84
 • Children's Cancer Fund of America: 81
 • Children's Cancer Recovery Foundation: 64

Revenues and expenses are totals over three years based on IRS 990 filings from 2009 to 2011


Previous reviews

Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation spends 90% of its money on solicitors 08/04/13 [Last modified: Monday, August 5, 2013 12:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. An annotated look at week 2 of the Bucs on 'Hard Knocks'


    We're back for another episode of The Annotated Hard Knocks, trying to find behind-the-scenes insights and things you might have missed in Tuesday's second episode of "Hard Knocks," following the Bucs in …

    As the crowd recognized him and got loud, Jameis Winston jumped up and down in celebration. [GREG AUMAN | Times]
  2. Review: 'The Defenders' brings out the best in Marvel's unlikeliest heroes


    The ties that bind Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist run deep. But they're just starting to figure all that out in The Defenders.

    Mike Colter, Scott Glenn, Finn Jones, Krysten Ritter and Charlie Cox in The Defenders.
  3. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson can't keep 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' on-target


    The Hitman's Bodyguard is an assault tank on semi-automatic pilot, spraying jokes and bullets with only the ammo consistently hitting its targets. The irresistible teaming of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson might be even funnier if they missed once in a while.

    Samuel L. Jackson, left, and Ryan Reynolds star in "The Hitman's Bodyguard." (Lionsgate)
  4. Hillsborough leaders ask for patience as multiple schools still suffer from broken air conditioners


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins and his facilities chief appealed to parents Wednesday to be patient as the district works through chronic air conditioning problems — and to advocate for more state funding.

    Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins says air conditioning problems at multiple schools are a "major concern" for the district. [SKIP O'ROURKE  |  Times]
  5. Hillsborough will leave Confederate monument up if it can't get private money to move it

    Local Government

    TAMPA — If the money needed to move Tampa's Confederate monument can't be raised privately in 30 days, then the monument will stay where it is, Hillsborough County Commissioners decided Wednesday.

    The Hillsborough County Commission voted last month to move the Memoria in Aeterna Confederate monument from the old county courthouse to a private family cemetery. CHRIS URSO   |   Times