Continuing a trend that Watching the Watchdogs first uncovered last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center has once again duped tens of thousands of new donors out of their money through the use of third-party telemarketers.
Page 40 of the SPLC’s IRS Form 990 tax return for 2015 shows that, once again, the company paid far more to the telemarketers than was raised in donations.
Once again, the big winner was Grassroots Campaign, Inc., which was paid $2,028,857 to raise only $757,182, for a resulting loss to the SPLC of $1,271,675 donor-dollars right off the top.
One would think that such a discrepancy would horrify the frugal bean-counters at the SPLC, but in fact, just the opposite is true, based on Grassroots’ past performance.
Overall, the SPLC seems mighty pleased with Grassroots’ efforts.
Not only was last year’s Grassroots deficit a new record high, it once again completely consumed every last dime raised by Telefund and Harris Marketing Group, meaning that all $1,514,365 dollars raised by all three firms, in the name of the Southern Poverty Law Center, went right back to the telemarketers, as well as another $969,474 right out of the SPLC’s existing donor pot.
So how many donors got scammed out of their money over the phone in 2015? At $25 dollars a pop, which seems fair for a first-time donation amount, only 60,575 well-meaning people who truly believed they were somehow “fighting hate.”
That’s over 60,000 people in just one year and that doesn’t include the 38,779 long-time donors who sent the SPLC their cash directly, for a grand total of 99,354 suckers for 2015 alone.
Over the past four years, the SPLC has sent more than 382,000 $25-dollar donations straight to the telemarketers.
But wait! There’s more! First of all, it’s not hard to figure out who the telemarketers are reaching by phone, if you think about it. Most cell phone numbers are not listed, most listed telephones are landlines, and most landlines today are owned by older people.
And how can the SPLC justify this horrific hemorrhaging of much-needed cash year after year? Well, that’s simple too, as the telemarketers actually sell the donors’ personal information to the SPLC, which then feeds the data directly into its own uber-efficient, in-house fundraising machine.
The SPLC takes a hit this year, (which is paid for by long-time donors), but next year, and the year after that, and the decades after that, every dime goes directly into the company’s crowded coffers. Last year they took in more than $54 million in tax free donations on top of their $302 million dollar endowment fund.
In the long run, these telemarketer tactics are not illegal, lots of other big name non-profits do the same thing. And for the 382,000 donors who paid the telemarketers to sell their information to the SPLC, “ignorance is bliss,” as they have no idea what the SPLC does with their money anyhow. They wrote out those checks willingly, convincing themselves that that was all they had to do to “fight hate.” They pretty much got what they were paying for.
If there is one bright note, it’s that the other two telemarketers, Telefund and Harris, actually turned over more of the money they solicited over the phone in 2015. In 2014, Telefund skimmed a mere 75% off the top of each donation. Last year they only pocketed 64% of the take.
Harris Marketing Group, after taking an incredible 90% cut of every donation in 2014, must have felt some genuine remorse, as they only took a 40% share of the pie this year.
Maybe there is hope for these people after all.