Shufelt: Do you know where your charitable dollars go?

Dan Shufelt

I recently visited one of my favorite family-owned restaurants in North Phoenix to pick up a take-out meal.

Walking up to the front door — on a Friday night, I passed a table not unlike those set up by Boy Scouts or girls’ choirs soliciting a few dollars from patrons passing by — this table was raising funds to support services to kids in foster care.

I should have stopped and engaged in conversation, but I was busy. I picked up my food and headed home. Digging into my meal, I got a sour taste in my mouth.

I am the president and CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, the state’s largest provider of basic needs for children who have been abused and neglected; children who are moved to a relative or to a licensed foster home to seek comfort and safety.

  • Among our many services, we have provided a bed or a crib to 2,800+ kids already in 2018 to give them a safe place to sleep.
  • We meet and interact with dozens of foster parents every week.
  • We also collaborate with every credible agency working to make lives better for kids who are victims of the irresponsible acts of adults.

As I bit into my gyro, I felt curious – I have not heard the name of this organization. I sent emails to associates, and posted an inquiry on a foster parent board that I participate in. Has anyone benefited from this agency? The early responses indicated a lack of knowledge of their services or even their existence.

One writer pointed me to a case that I had heard about in Tucson where someone set up a foster support agency and paid the people who solicit funds at their booths 50 percent of collections raised. That means that 50 cents or more of every dollar raised goes to fundraising, and that’s before paying the administrative staff!

I don’t know about you, but as a charitable donor, I don’t want the majority of my good intentions to go to pay people to sit at a table. As a leader of a non-profit dedicated to meeting the needs of kids in foster care, I don’t want our important, essential work to be tainted by groups whose first priority is anything other than to provide services and support to children in foster care.

Arizona Helping Hands was started 20 years ago as a volunteer-based service. Our mantra was to perform One Good Deed a Day to support our community needs. Since shifting our mission in 2013 to providing basic essential needs to kids in foster care, we have made lives safer and more comfortable for thousands of children.

We have grown 10-fold over the last five years into a recognized leader in support for these boys and girls. With our growth, we have always sought to minimize our overhead and operate as efficiently as possible. We cherish every penny of our donor dollars.

Our latest tax and financial reports reflect that we operate with a seven percent overhead. That means that 93 cents of every dollar donated to our cause will go to provide direct service to kids who need a helping hand. We don’t pay someone to sit at a table and ask for your spare change.

We make a difference every day in the lives of children throughout Arizona. We share our love, our service and our support with families, knowing that the work we do has an impact, and feeling good that we do everything possible to wisely use our donors’ dollars to make it all happen.

I didn’t enjoy my Greek meal as much as I would have liked, but I take great comfort knowing that charitably-minded donors, who choose to support Arizona Helping Hands, won’t suffer indigestion when they ask how their hard-earned money is put to use in our community.

Dan Shufelt is the president & CEO of Arizona Helping Hands

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