Americans are generous. Individuals, estates, foundations and corporations gave an estimated $240.72 billion to charitable causes in 2003, according to Giving USA 2004, a study released by Giving USA Foundation. With about 30,000 new charities created annually, would-be givers are bombarded with appeals for contributions. How can you determine which cause to support?
In an investigation for 20/20, Brian Ross reports on event planner Aaron Tonken who admitted to using millions of dollars intended for charities to get A-list stars and politicians to attend some of Hollywood's biggest fund-raisers. The report points up how easily individuals can be duped into giving money to causes that never benefit from their generosity due to unscrupulous managers.
The following sites offer advice on evaluating organizations and determining which groups will put your financial support to good use.
* The Better Business Bureau offers Tips on Giving at this Web address: http://www.give.org/tips/index.asp.
* Guidestar.org offers extensive information about the nonprofit sector as well as tips for giving at this Web address: http://www.guidestar.org/learn/index.jsp
David Niven Jr., son of legendary actor David Niven, has seen firsthand some ethically questionable activities behind the scenes of some star-studded fund-raising events. He chaired Recording Artists, Actors, & Athletes Against Drunk Driving and now heads See a Child, Save a Child, a program that seeks to prevent injury and death to bicyclists and pedestrians by increasing their visibility to motorists. For more information about his organization, visit the Web site: http://www.seeachildsaveachild.com.
If you would like to ask Niven a question about his organization or the pitfalls of the Hollywood fund-raising scene, fill out the form below. We'll post his answers on the 20/20 page of ABCNEWS.com next week.