#IceBucketChallenge: Fake News story says ALS Assoc. not using donations fo

iMediaEthics publishes international media ethics news stories and investigations into journalism ethics lapses.


Home » Fact Checking»

(Credit: ALS Association)

The ALS Association isn’t ripping off its countless new donors, the association said this weekend in response to a news story by the website PoliticalEars.com.

Poltiical Ears’ homepage promotes items for sale including a “2nd Amendment Sign,” a “Credit Card Knife,” and an “Obama Bullshit Protector Set.” Other articles on its website include “ISIS LIVING AT 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE?” and “RESEARCH FRAUD: VACCINE LINK TO AUTISM COVERED UP BY TOP SCIENTISTS” and the site has been listed as a satire site.

The ALS Association, which advocates for research for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, claims the story is wrong.

Carrie Munk, the chief communications & marketing officer for the ALS Association, told iMediaEthics by e-mail “I can’t even begin to tell you how many phone calls, emails, etc. we received about the Political Ears story. Sadly, we won’t be able to reach everyone who read it to correct the incredible misinformation in the piece.”

You can’t have gone online or watched TV this summer without seeing the Ice Bucket Challenge, a campaign to raise money for ALS research that has splashed all over the media landscape. From celebrities to politicians and anyone with a Facebook account, videos of people dumping ice water over their head and challenging friends to do the same and donate money for ALS research have been everywhere.

The PoliticalEars.com article was published Aug 28 and was headlined: “ICE BUCKET FRAUD: ALS FOUNDATION ADMITS THAT 73% OF DONATIONS ARE NOT USED FOR ALS RESEARCH.” 

The article is “filled with half-truths and misinformation,” the ALS Association responded in an Aug. 30 statement on its website.  The association listed claims in the article and countered with its response. For example, the PoliticalEars article claimed:

“Over 73% of all donations raised are going to fundraising, overhead, executive salaries, and external donations. Less than 27% is actually used for the purpose we donated for.”

ALS Association’s Munk added that the Charity Navigator figures cited are from 2013.

ALS Fact Checks PoliticalEars.com claims

But, ALS Association said it spends “a total of 79% on programs and services” and provides a “breakdown of these expenses” for curious readers.  ALS Association also said it spends 28% of its budget on research, but donors can specifically earmark their donation to send “100% of their donation” for research.

“The ALS Association spent 79% of our annual budget on programs and services last year, which includes 28% on research,” the association said. “ONE of three main pillars of our charitable work (see below for breakdown). If a donor would like 100% of their donation to go to research, he/she can simply check a box on our online donation form here.  If a donor already donated and would like to redirect their donation, please email us at donations@alsa-national.org.”

However, Charity Navigator, a widely-cited charity evaluator, gives the ALS Association a 90.73 score out of 100, iMediaEthics found. That ranks the association with four stars, the highest number of stars a charity can be given, and categorizes the charity as “exceptional” because it “exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its cause.”

Charity Navigator says ALS Association spends 72.4% of its money on “program expenses.”

Whereas PoliticalEars.com said more than 73% goes to “fundraising, overhead, external salaries and external donations,” Charity Navigator says fundraising is 16.5% and administrative expenses are 11%, for a combined 27.5%.

See ALS Association’s full breakdown of the claims made by PoliticalEars and the association’s response.

Charity Navigator created the graph below to show that 72.4% of the ALS Association’s expenses go to programs.

iMediaEthics has reached out to Charity Navigator for comment.

PoliticalEars.com doesn’t appear to have any contact information available. PoliticalEars.com does link to a Facebook page, the “Don’t Tread on Me” Facebook community page, which also doesn’t list contact information. All in all, such lack of transparency seriously compromises the site’s credibility.

UPDATE: 8/31/2014 9:28 PM EST with more information

Submit a tip / Report a problem

#IceBucketChallenge: Fake News story says ALS Assoc. not using donations for research?

Share this article: