A July Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that professional fundraisers keep so much of the money donated to charity by conscientious, generous-minded people that 430 different California charities over the last 10 years got not one penny of the contributions. In fact, in 337 cases, the charity paid an additional fee on top of getting nothing back (but did come away with the donors' names and addresses, for further solicitation). Philanthropy watchdogs say fundraisers should never keep more than 35 cents on the dollar, but the Times found the overall average was 54 cents, and for missing-children charities, fundraisers kept 86 cents. (Fundraisers for an organization called Citizens Against Government Waste kept 94 cents.) [Los Angeles Times, 7-6-08, reported in News of the Weird]
The Better Business Bureau's Give.org provides the public with information and guidance for wise giving.
My pet charity, Colorado Springs DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance), spends 10% or less for operating expenses, and has no paid staff. We are continuously looking for donors and volunteers to help us serve an area where conditions for the mentally ill can be described as "primitive."