with Large Assets Reserves
- published in the August 2005 issue of the Charity
Rating Guide & Watchdog Report
In 2003, a number of AIP members received a direct
mail solicitation from Asian Relief, which also uses the
name World Villages for Children, that cries desperation.
The letter signed by Sister Michaela Kim, Director of World Villages
for Children, includes a nickel and dime scotch-taped to the top
and begins as follows:
I am forwarding to you this nickel and dime because I am desperate,
and must take the risk that some folks may choose not to send the
coins back to me.
But I am facing the greatest crisis in my life. Please let me explain:
My name is Sister Michaela and the terrible poverty here in Guatemala
is forcing me to say no to the precious girls and boys
who desperately need to be accepted into our Childrens Village
here in Guatemala like the ones you see pictured with me.
But how can I raise the money, with the current recession and difficult
economic times in Guatemala? I wake up in the middle of the night
fearful that I may have to even tell some of my children that I
can no longer help them.
In the same year that this desperate appeal for funds
was mailed out, Asian Relief had an unrestricted fund balance of
$33.5 million, total income of $16 million and only spent $2.3 million
or 20% of contributions it received on caring for children. Asian
Reliefs only other program in 2003, on which it spent $2.9
million, is described in its tax form: To promote and educate
our donors and potential donors of the socio-economic plight of
. Nowhere in this charitys solicitation
does it say that money is being raised to educate donors on the
plight of the poor or that more money would be spent on donor education
than on helping children. The only suggestion that funds will be
used for purposes other than caring for children is on the charitys
response coupon, which says, I confirm that you are free to
use my gift to help feed, care for and educate your children in
Guatemala or for any other purpose of World Villages for Children
as you think fit.
AIP feels strongly that Asian Reliefs solicitation
is inappropriate in light of the charitys substantial assets
and places too much pressure on the donor. It is wrong for Asian
Relief to say that children have no hope for the future
unless they can get help from their charity. Maybe another charity
operating in Guatemala, the local government, or a family member
will provide help instead. Many millions of children in the developing
world will continue to suffer for the foreseeable future whether
or not an individual responds to Asian Reliefs appeal. Donors
should be wary of any charity that attempts to scare you by making
you feel personally responsible for a problem. Such charities are
preying on your emotions so that you may not be able to rationally
make a giving decision.
Asian Reliefs coins taped to the letter and
live postage are a manipulative tactic used by charities to make
you feel obligated to return these items with a contribution. Charities
know that many people will feel like they are taking from the poor
and needy if they pocket the coins or keep the stamps. Charities
that make use of such gimmicks tend to have higher fundraising costs.
Donors who send money in response to such devices need only feel
guilty for squandering their charitable dollars on inefficient groups.
Asian Reliefs web site, www.worldvillages.org, states that
it mails coins to gain attention and increase the likelihood that
people will read the letter, and also make people aware that
it takes only a small amount of money to help a child break free
from a life of poverty
Another suspect tactic in Asian Relief's solicitation
is the use of twelve celebrity "sponsors," most of whom
are deceased, including Jimmy Stewart, Jonas E. Salk, M.D., Henry
Mancini, and Roger Staubach. The solicitation does not identify
what it means to be a sponsor. Donors should be careful to not assume
that these famous people are endorsing this charity. In response
to AIPs question concerning whether Jimmy Stewart had ever
sponsored this charity, Gregory M. Paul, Vice President of The Stewart
Family, LLC wrote in a letter to the charity that neither Mr. Stewart
nor his family have ever given consent to use his name and persona
as a sponsor of Asian Relief / World Villages
for Children. His letter went on to demand that this charity
not make use of Mr. Stewarts name or persona in its fundraising.
Asian Reliefs most recently available tax forms
(2001 to 2003) each leave off the names of its officers, directors,
trustees, key staff and five highest paid employees, which is a
violation of IRS reporting rules. Instead, the forms state that
the information is available upon request. However,
when AIP contacted Asian Relief, they were not forthcoming with
this information. In 2003, this charity responded to our request
for this information on 2001 finances. They list five officers and
directors: J. (Joseph) Vita, the only paid officer; his mother D.
(Dolores) Vita; and three nuns, including Sister Michaela Kim.
AIP repeatedly tried to speak with an official from
Asian Relief in June 2005, but they were not available for comment
and did not return messages. The charity also did not respond to
our requests for recent financial information or board of directors
contact information. According to the charitys tax form, they
have not filed this information in any state. Many states require
that charities file an audit in addition to the IRS form 990, but
exempt religious organizations from this requirement. Asian Relief
says in its solicitations that it is a nonsectarian
organization, yet hides behind its state religious exemption when
it comes to being accountable.
Asian Relief clearly has religious connections. A
missionary priest, Msgr. Aloysius Schwartz, founded World Villages
for Children in 1964, according to the charitys web site.
He also founded the religious congregation of the Sisters of Mary
to manage the childrens programs in the Philippines, Korea,
Mexico, Guatemala and Brazil. The end of the fundraising section
of Asian Reliefs web site says,
with your year-end
gift, you are doing more than just investing in a bright future
for poor children under our care. At the same time, our children
are giving you an opportunity to prepare a lasting home for yourself