7 Action News talks with fundraiser that keeps lion's share of charity donations

Watch full interview below

(WXYZ) - Most donors don't know it, but many charities use the services of professional fundraisers to raise money for their causes.

RAW: Watch full interview with Kevin Bopp in the video player to the left.

The for-profit companies make calls across the country seeking donations, but don't disclose in their sales pitch that they keep the lion's share.

"These hucksters realize there's big money to be made in exploiting the trust of the American public," said Charity Navigator President Ken Berger.

Associated Community Services, or ACS, is one of the largest in the country, and it's run out of our own backyard.  The Southfield giant makes thousands of calls a day for a slew of charities.  They keep as much as 82% of each donation received.

"That's the largest misconception, that we're getting rich and the charity gets no money.  It's absolutely untrue," says Director of Operations Kevin Bopp, who works with ACS.

He says ACS actually lost money last year.

"All of the cost is assumed by the professional fundraiser…and in return, we will keep a very small percentage of the actual profit after cost, and the charity gets the vast majority of the profit."

Bopp says that, for new charities, raising just a dollar can cost ACS up to $1.50.  His company provides small charities with exposure and eventually, he says, they become more efficient. 

One of those charities is West Bloomfield's Foundation for American Veterans.  Last year, they spent more than $6.7 million, but only 15% went to help veterans.  The rest went to overhead expenses.

"Why in the world would I give if 85 cents of every dollar is going to somebody who never put on a uniform?" Investigator Ross Jones asked.

"My answer would be because the hope is a year from now or five years from now, they're in a place where, instead of 15 cents getting to those veterans, its 35 cents," Bopp responded.

Many of the charities that ACS raises money for, including those in Michigan, receive low marks from watchdog groups and state attorneys general, and that's not all. 

"Are you aware if any of the charities…are under any investigation right now?" Jones asked.

"There are several," Bopp responded.

"Which ones?" Jones asked.

"I'd rather not say their names because I don't think that the investigation is based on anything that's fair and real," Bopp said.

New York's Attorney General would probably disagree.  ACS clients Children's Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society are both under investigation today. It's part of a wide probe into possible fraud, though neither has been accused of wrongdoing.  Bopp says ACS doesn't tell donors about the investigation.

"Shouldn't a donor know that the charity that they're being asked to donate to is…being investigated for some sort of fraud?" Jones asked.

"Not at all," Bopp said, adding: "It takes one or two assertions, and I want that word really focused on, assertions of wrongdoing for an Attorney General to begin an investigation."

He says that ACS employs a compliance officer who used to investigate charity fraud, and he's given each of their charities a clean bill of health.

"We have, through our compliance officers, a very thorough process where we examine the charities," Bopp said.

But perhaps not thorough enough. Not long after we finished our interview, an ACS spokesman sent us an e-mail saying: "Your investigation has alerted us to some possible concerns" about one of the charities ACS raises money for.  But he wouldn't say which one. 

It's not believed to be either charity currently being investigated by the New York Attorney General.

If you have a tip for the 7 Action News Investigators, contact us at tips@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.

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