Helping Hand honored despite close ties to a Hamas-funding Pakistani charitySeptember 12, 2013
Charity Navigator, a leading evaluator of nonprofit groups in the U.S., has published 15 different “top 10” lists to help donors assess charities. Among those lists is a list of 10 charities with low overhead costs that rely on private donations. Helping Hand for Relief and Development, a Michigan-based Islamic charity, ranks seventh on that list.
Charity Navigator does not appear to have factored in Helping Hand’s ongoing cooperation (see here and here) with the Al-Khidmat Foundation, a Pakistani charity which gave a 6 million rupee check to Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in 2006.
The Pakistani tie-in is even more alarming considering that the auditing firm that prepared Helping Hand’s financial statement for 2011, the most recent year available, divulged that “We did not audit the financial statements of the Organization’s operations in Pakistan which reflect total assets and revenues constituting 55 percent and 60 percent, respectively, of the related consolidated totals.”
It is also worth noting that Helping Hand reported having $7 million in medical supply and drug assets in their last tax return. The fair market valuation of drugs donated to and distributed by charities, especially deworming medication, has been an area of increased scrutiny. Helping Hand states that it uses current accounting standards to comply with IRS mandates in this area, but some analysts still believe that in-kind donations to charities are being overstated. This has the effect of exaggerating the net worth of some charities, and it makes administrative costs appear to be a small share relative to their size. Charity Navigator is well aware of this ongoing controversy, but how closely it examined drug valuations by charities on their top 10 lists is unclear.
The Charity Navigator rating is already being exploited by Helping Hand, which is running a banner across its homepage in large font and all capital letters with misleading phrases “TOP 10 HIGHLY RATED CHARITY” and “DONATE WITH CONFIDENCE” along with Helping Hand and Charity Navigator logos. Muslim news websites such as ABNA (hat tip to Creeping Sharia and Islamist Watch) have touted the rating as well.
The Muslim advocacy group ICNA has also congratulated Helping Hand for the rating in a press release. But the ICNA statement should be taken with a grain of salt because 1) ICNA is a partner organization with Helping Hand, and 2) ICNA has received a loan from Helping Hand with favorable financing terms. ICNA’s indebtedness to Helping Hand was not disclosed in the press release.
Institutional donors who may be considering donations to Helping Hand and private donors who intend to give zakat to Helping Hand should consider the serious questions about Helping Hand’s operations in Pakistan and donate elsewhere. Banks with relationships with Helping Hand should also review the risk of maintaining those accounts.