|BBB gives poor grades to two local charities|
|Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer|
|Tuesday, 05 February 2013 10:35|
Two local charities received failing or near-failing grades from the region's Better Business Bureau in a recent publication - but the ratings are based on information years out of date.
The Bowling Green Pregnancy Center received an "F," and Prevention Partners of Northwest Ohio received a "D+" in the "2013 Charity Giving Guide" released recently by the BBB of Northwestern Ohio and Southeast Michigan.
Greg Heldt, who works with the Charity Review Program of the BBB, said that the charities are rated on a long list of standards. "Every Bureau in the nation uses 20 different standards to rate a charity on there," he said, including how they spend their money, how they are overseen, fundraising practices, and board policies.
"The Better Business Bureau as a whole looks at more comprehensive parts of a nonprofit," he said.
The groups included in the booklet, of which 20,000 copies are printed and distributed annually, are contacted by the BBB to participate in the rating system if they actively solicit donations. They are then then asked to voluntarily provide information.
The Northwestern Ohio and Southeastern Michigan BBB booklet is the only one of its kind in the nation to rate charities based on a "letter" system, which Heldt himself designed.
"We take the information that we have and, using an algorithm, assign a letter grade" based on how the charity meets the standards.
Heldt said that the Pregnancy Center fell short based on information provided to the BBB in 2010. He said that it could not be determined from the center's financial statements how much was spent on fundraising. The center also did not include an annual report in its submission, and other financial and internet-related information was lacking, he said.
Lynette Worthy, executive director of the Pregnancy Center, learned of the ratings Thursday and indicated that she was "shocked" to learn of their grade. Worthy was not head of the center when the documents were submitted in 2010.
"Our pregnancy center has been in Bowling Green since 1985," she said. "We have always operated with integrity. We have always been very transparent" to community members, donors, and other stakeholders. "So this is coming a little bit out of the blue, truthfully. So we're doing the best we can to investigate this, to look into it and to figure out what happened."
"I'm trying to figure out what happened with the Better Business Bureau," she said later. "The isn't reflective of our organization at all."
The D+ given to the Prevention Partners was based on similar issues - a lack of information on fundraising spending, and no submitted annual report. Prevention Partners was last evaluated, Heldt said, as long ago as 2010.
Dr. Richard Goldberg, CEO of Behavioral Connections, said in an interview Monday that Prevention Partners was dissolved as an independent entity in February of 2010 due to budgetary problems. It no longer exists as a separate group, though its activities continue as a part of Behavioral Connections.
"But we kept the primary part of the mission going," he said. "And my feeling is that we've done a very good job."
"Whatever bad grades that Prevention Partners earned prior to that certainly should not be transferred to us."
Heldt said that information from years ago is being included now because of the large amount of time involved in putting the ratings together. "The process of evaluating a charity can take months. We need to build up a database."
"Some of the reports are older because it does take years to compile the information. We do try to make it as timely as possible."
He indicated that a charity that doesn't meet the standards is contacted and given a chance to better their rating.
"Anytime that we evaluate an organization, we give them a report saying this is what your report is right now" and provide assistance to help them work towards "compliance."
Heldt admitted that there may have been a communications breakdown between the BBB and the Pregnancy Center in that regard.
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