Who Really Gets Your Money?

In the aftermath of september 11, americans donated $1.3 billion to charities. But it's still unclear who will benefitfrom your cash. How can you protect your donationthe next time you decide to give?

stories and diaries of victims and their families on BlackAmericaWeb.com daily. Donors could read about victims and give directly to the fund, or directly to an individual.

That’s the reason patent and trademark attorney Darcell Walker donated to the Smiley-Joyner fund. “They made a conscious effort to let you know who was getting the money and what it was going toward,” says Walker, 43. “They made it more personal. With the Website, they put faces behind who was getting the money.”

Walker didn’t contribute right away, even though he wanted to. As smart consumers should, he weighed his options carefully. He explains that he was going to give to the Red Cross, but the story of a woman who lost three siblings in the World Trade Center found on BlackAmericaWeb.com changed his mind. He wrote a check for $1,100 on October 3, to help the woman who had taken her siblings’ children into her household, multiplying her living costs dramatically.

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) also made sure it lived up to its mission — without collecting a single donation. Instead of asking for money, it launched the UNCF Liberty Scholarship Program, which offers full scholarships to children accepted to UNCF schools whose parents were killed or permanently disabled because of the attacks. The scholarships are available regardless of race.

“Our donors have been very generous to us over the years, and so we found it unnecessary to ask for any more money,” says William H. Gray III, president and CEO of UNCF. “We called on the presidents of our 39 member colleges and universities and they are in full cooperation. We have also urged other colleges and universities to do the same.”

In fact, UNCF has already granted three scholarships: two went to Tiffany and Yolanda Smith, freshmen twins at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, who lost their father, firefighter Leon Smith Jr., and one to Vernessa Richard, a senior, also at Smith, who lost her father, fire Capt. Vernon Richard.

“The first thing we did was scour our colleges to see if any of our students had been affected. It turns out that these three young ladies attended the same school,” Gray says. He estimates roughly 6,000 children, ranging from 1-week-old to college age, could qualify for a scholarship from now through the next 20 years.

Making sure that everyone qualified to receive aid from charities actually receives it is a tall order. But if charities create processes that intimidate victims such as Johnson from ever applying for aid, they are doing a disservice to all. Consumers can use this tragedy to determine how they want charities to respond to those in need, and then continue to support those charities that perform well, and educate those that don’t with letters of concern.

Charitable giving should be regarded as any other consumer purchase. “In this case, you’re buying charity,” says Cohen. “Your attitude should be to make sure that you’re buying what you want.”

Walker points out, “As some
body who is donating

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