GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – Over the past few weeks, you may have seen bright plastic bags in your mailbox asking for donations.
The bags say what you give goes to charities and ministries in South Carolina and other states and that it helps victims of domestic violence.
7News investigated whether those claims are accurate.
Our Diane Lee learned we aren’t the only ones trying to figure out where the donation end up.
The bright pink and orange bags, stuffed near mailboxes ask for donations for victims of domestic violence.
“Domestic Violence is a very prominent thing so we thought we could help,” says John and Anne Sokol.
The Sokols were one of many households in Greenville moved to donate noting the bag says “Serving Charities and Ministries” in 7 states including both Carolinas.
“They think that they’re making donations to local shelters and local charities, when really all of their possessions, their monetary donations are actually benefiting a program in Lawrenceville, GA,” said Courtney Beaty of the Better Business Bureau.
The Sokols say the pickup crew gave them this pamphlet that says their donations go to “Local domestic violence shelters.”
So we asked the head of NSPIRE Outreach if that’s true.
When asked if they partner with a local domestic violence partner in South Carolina, Greg Kennard of NSPIRE said, “Not at this time. Within the next few months we’ll have a residence, we’ll have a director in Greenville.”
Kennard says they don’t believe it’s misleading because NSPIRE serves people from South Carolina in their Georgia residence. When we asked for numbers, he said 6 homeless and 4 domestic violence victims.
South Carolina law prevents the Secretary of State or Attorney General from investigating churches, but we contacted other states on this bag and found out Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina all have open investigations into NSPIRE.
“Because of their IRS status, they don’t have to really disclose where their money does go,” says Beaty, “And although they’ve been asked by the different government entities and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, they refuse to disclose where this money goes.”
“We didn’t lose that much but still you feel taken,” say the Sokols, “You get skeptical [of legitimate causes].”
NSPIRE says it sells what its residents don’t need to thrift stores and puts that money back into services for the people they help.
We should note the church is registered as a non-profit with 501(c)(3) status.
But the Secretary of State in Tennessee is looking into getting the church’s designation revoked and had also hit Nspire with a $45,000 civil penalty.
Here are some tips from the BBB on what to look for before you give:
- Get the charity’s exact name. With so many charities in existence, mistaken identity is a common problem.Thousands of charities have “cancer” in their name, for example, but no connection with one another.
- Resist pressure to give on the spot, whether from a telemarketer or door-to-door solicitor.
- Be wary of heart-wrenching appeals. What matters is what the charity is doing to help.
- Press for specifics.If the charity says it’s helping the homeless, for example, ask how and where it’s working.
- Check websites for basics. A charity’s mission, program and finances should be available on its site. If not, check for a report here.
- Check with state charity officials. In many states, charities are required to register, usually with the office of the attorney general, before soliciting.