Dialing for Autism Dollars · 2009-03-12 14:30

The “Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation” & Its Telemarketing Campaign

I had just finished putting away my groceries last Wednesday afternoon when the phone rang. I picked up the receiver, and several seconds later an unfamiliar woman’s voice asked for Mr. or Mrs. Seidel. Although I am generally quick to tell telemarketers my policy of not responding to telephone solicitations, this time I replied, “This is she, may I help you?”

Her pitch went something like this:

“I’m calling for the Autism Foundation Wings of Hope Neighborhood Campaign. We’re calling to ask if you would send letters to your friends and neighbors to raise funds for camp scholarships and help for families with autistic children. You don’t have to write the letters yourself, we have a kit that we can send you.”

I said, “What was the name of that organization again?”

“The Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation.”

I told the woman that I happened to be an autism advocate and was familiar with the names of many different autism organizations, but had never heard of either the Autism Foundation or the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation. I asked her where it was located. She left the phone briefly, then returned and stated that it was based in Everett, Washington. I then asked whether the foundation conducted programs in New Hampshire, and what other programs it provided in addition to the one for which she was raising funds. When she was unable to answer, I said, “So you’re not personally familiar with the foundation, but are raising funds on their behalf?” She admitted that this was true, and suggested that I visit the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation website at http://www.myasdf.org.

Establishing The Virtual Presence

The Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation website greets visitors with a statement of charitable purpose and legal status.

“The goal of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation (ASDF) is to support children with an autism spectrum disorder by providing education, information and financial assistance to their families and relevant community service organizations.”

“Funds donated to ASDF will be used to address any and all kinds of issues in assisting children with Autism and their families.”

“Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation is recognized as tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the internal Revenue Code. Your donation is TAX DEDUCTABLE. [sic]

Visitors are informed that ASDF furnishes daycare providers, pediatricians and early childhood educators with free “autism emergency response” kits that include “risk assessment tools” and an educational video designed to assist them in early identification and diagnosis. The logo of Goodwill Industries of Southwestern Michigan is displayed beside an announcement of that agency’s partnership with ASDF to “help disseminate key information” about autism.

Other pages on the site provide basic information on autism spectrum conditions, screening tools for autism and Asperger Syndrome, intervention programs, safety issues, and entitlement programs. Most of this text is adapted from publicly available sources such as the National Institute of Mental Health, National Research Council and Autism Society of America.

Descriptions of ASDF’s family assistance and camp scholarship programs state that “ASDF partners with state Autism chapters [sic] in helping to locate and assist families in need.” Testimonials from the directors of the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp and the Autism Society of Oregon express their gratitude for donations that enabled local ASO members to participate in a social skills seminar and camp programs.

In a brief podcast, an unnamed mother describes her concern over her son’s development, and her discovery of the ASDF website. In a 30-second public service announcement, pediatrician Dr. Mary Alice Reid briefly describes early signs of autism, and encourages concerned parents to visit http://www.myasdf.org.

Visitors to the “Wings of Hope” page wishing to participate in the letter-sending campaign are instructed to address return envelopes to Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation, P.O. Box 96730, Washington DC 20090-6730, and to call 866-747-7691 should they require additional fundraising materials.

Visitors to the “Donate Today!” page are promised that contributions will “help us help children with autism,” exhorted to “feel confident in their donation” due to the organization’s tax-exempt status, and encouraged to mail checks, money orders or cashier’s checks to Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation, 228 W. Lincoln Hwy. #301, Schererville, Indiana 46375

Filling In The Blanks

Although the Washington, D.C. address suggests a national presence, although the references to a neighborhood campaign and regional grantmaking suggest widespread local programming, and although numerous autism researchers, organizations and advocates are invoked and personally thanked throughout the ASDF website, the identities of its own directors, officers, staff, members or volunteers are nowhere to be found.

A call to directory assistance yielded no District of Columbia telephone listing or street address for the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation. The District of Columbia Business License Center confirmed that ASDF is not registered to conduct charitable solicitations in that jurisdiction, and that solicitation endorsements are never issued to charities without a street address.

The Schererville, Indiana address provided on the “Donate Today!” page belongs to a rented mailbox at a UPS Store in a strip mall.

A call to the toll-free number listed on the website (866-747-7691) was greeted by a “please hold” recording that did not specify an organizational name; the call was disconnected after a 35-minute wait.

A call to the toll-free number identified as the source of the call to my home (866-670-6296) was greeted by a recorded message:

“Thank you for calling the Autism Foundation Wings of Hope Program. We are very sorry we missed you. We will try to reach you again in the next few days. We are calling you with some recent updates. If you would like more information about our organization please press “1” now. To speak with an Autism Foundation representative, please hang up and dial 1-866-582-7634. Representatives are available 8:00a.m. to 9:00p.m. Eastern Standard Time.”

Pressing “1” led to another message:

“The goal of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation (ASDF) is to support children with an autism spectrum disorder by providing education, information and financial assistance to families and relevant community organizations.”

A call to the toll-free number mentioned on the recorded message (866-582-7634) was greeted by another non-specific “please hold” recording. The call was answered after thirty minutes by a young woman who informed me that my name and contact information had been provided to her employer, InfoCision Management Corporation, by the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation.

The GuideStar database contains numerous entries for groups with names that incorporate the terms “Autism” and “Foundation,” such as the Autism Society of America Foundation and the California Autism Foundation, and for state and local Autism Society of America chapters, such as the Autism Society of Colorado. However, although the telephone solicitation, recorded call-back message and “Wings of Hope” website page refer to “The Autism Foundation,” the only groups called simply “The Autism Foundation” are a Florida- and Massachusetts-based charity that was dissolved in 1998, and a small, identically-named fund associated with the Philadelphia-based Center for Autism.

GuideStar does, however, contain an entry for the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation, c/o Michael Slutsky, at 10512 19th Avenue, Ste. 101, Everett, Washington 98208. ASDF was granted tax-exempt status in 2007; its address belongs to the office of Charlotte Maris, CPA. A 990 nonprofit tax return has not yet been filed by the organization.

A file for ASDF was opened with the The U.S. Better Business Bureau in October 2008, but it is not identified as an BBB Accredited Charity. A comment from BBB indicates that “the most recent report on this organization has expired,” and that “a new report has not been developed due to lack of inquiries.”

The domains autismspectrumdisorderfoundation.com, autismspectrumdisorderfoundation.org, autismspectrumdisorderfund.com, autismspectrumdisorderfund.org, and myasdf.org are registered to Michael Slutsky at a residence on Muirfield Court in Schererville, Indiana. (The first four domain names were secured on February 15, 2007, and myasdf.org eight months later.) Mr. Slutsky is principal of Angel Lite Fundraising, a business located at the same address that sells private label scented jar candles to school groups, sports booster clubs and churches conducting fundraising campaigns. Angel Lite was established in 2002 and is registered with the Indiana Secretary of State as an active for-profit business entity; however, the company’s website was taken offline sometime after January 2008.

Building The “Nonprofit” Business Enterprise

In March 2007, shortly after its first four domains were registered, the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation was incorporated in Delaware (1) with Ms. Doris Rieke named as its initial director. The initial mailing address provided for ASDF is that of the Kansas City law firm of Copilevitz & Canter, which represents nonprofit organizations, professional fundraisers, and commercial businesses in the areas of charitable solicitation, telemarketing, fundraising and regulatory compliance. Among the firm’s more notable victories was a successful First Amendment challenge to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2003 restrictions on telephone solicitations, made on behalf of telemarketers U.S. Security, Global Contact Services and InfoCision Management Corporation, and the Direct Marketing Association.

ASDF’s Bylaws locate its main office at a residential address in Marysville, Washington, and describe its purpose:

“to provide education, financial support and in-kind support in connection with the early detection of, and intervention in, autism and related disorders affecting children, as well as supporting research and treatment of autism and related disorders by any and all means and to engage in other charitable and educational activities consistent with an organization exempt from Federal Income Taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.”

Copilevitz & Canter attorneys registered the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation as a Washington state nonprofit entity and submitted ASDF’s application for tax-exemption in May 2007. The application names Michael Slutsky as President; Marysville, Washington school psychologist James Michael Roan as Treasurer; and Jan Coyer of Moriches, New York as Secretary. The application discloses the organization’s projected income and expenses from May 2007 through December 2009:

  2007 2008 2009 TOTAL
Income $200,000 $400,000 $750,000 $1,350,000
Expenses        
Fundraising $10,000 $30,000 $50,000 $90,000
Grants $0 $30,000 $30,000 $60,000
Prof. fees $10,000 $30,000 $30,000 $70,000
Programs $180,000 $310,000 $540,000 $1,030,000
Total expenses $200,000 $400,000 $650,000 $1,250,000


A description of planned activities states that roughly half of program expenses will be spent on information services — i.e., website development, preparation and distribution of informational materials and assessment tools — and the other half on making grants to other organizations that conduct autism research and provide direct services to autistic children and their families. Central to the public information program is the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), a screening instrument developed by University of Connecticut researchers in 1999; since its creation, the M-CHAT has enjoyed increasingly widespread use by clinicians, researchers and social service agencies working with young children.

A description of fundraising programs describes the anticipated source of capital for ASDF’s plans.

ASDF will rely primarily on personal solicitation of individuals and the development of foundation and government grant appeals. All members of the board and volunteers will be encouraged to inform their families, friends and contacts about the ASDF and its many services, and need for public support. When future resources are available, ASDF may seek the services of outside consultants to assist it in further developing its fundraising strategies. However, no such service providers have been engaged, to date.”

ASDF may also rely on passive, on-line giving by those who visit the organization’s website once it is developed. Interest will also be generated through word of mouth and partnerships with participating (and benefitting) organizations.”

ASDF will primarily conduct fundraising in a limited geographic area in its first years of existence, but will be prepared to accept funds from any potential donor located outside of that intended region.”

Tax-exempt status was granted by the IRS to the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation on August 14, 2007.

In mid-2007, a website was created for ASDF by Indiana web designer Nikki Massey, who also developed Mr. Slutsky’s fundraising supplies business website. The new ASDF site went live shortly thereafter, and in early 2008, the Angel Lite Fundraising site was taken offline.

In November 2007, Ms. Massey posted ASDF’s public service announcement to YouTube. Two months later, new YouTube member “watrpilot” — a username identical to the prefix of the email address listed on Mr. Slutsky’s domain registrations — praised the video as “excellent and informative,” without disclosing that he had commissioned its production.

Bankrolling The Charitable Start-Up

Contrary to his assurances to the IRS that fundraising would initially be conducted in a limited geographic area in ASDF’s first years of existence, as soon as tax-exemption was granted, Mr. Slutsky contracted with Precision Performance Marketing, a for-profit fundraising consulting firm that plans and manages multi-state direct mail campaigns and targeted mailing list rentals. Campaigns could be conducted immediately in the twelve states that do not require charities to register before soliciting donations — i.e., Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming — and after October 29, 2007 in California, the first regulated state to grant ASDF a charitable solicitation license. In a Fundraising Disclosure Form later filed with the North Carolina Secretary of State, ASDF indicated that it received $14,602 from the PPM campaign by the end of 2007.

According to documents later filed with the Washington Secretary of State, the Oregon telemarketing firm Jadent, Inc. also conducted fundraising campaigns for ASDF during 2007, but no further information is publicly available about their outcome.

In May 2008 — barely eight months after tax-exempt status was awarded — Mr. Slutsky expanded the scope of his fundraising to encompass direct-mail and telemarketing campaigns in all fifty states. He and co-director and Chief Financial Officer Janet Coyer entered into a three-year contract with Precision Performance Marketing. The PPM campaign, and the ultimate fate of contributions made by well-meaning donors, carries considerable uncertainty.

Targeted Audience. It is the intention of the parties to contact those individuals who have a predisposed interest in the program service of ASDF, but who have not yet affirmatively expressed the same. Because of the nature of this campaign, PPM and ASDF acknowledge and agree that the income generated from the contemplated mailing program cannot be forecast in advance, and may in fact prove to be less than the cost of maintaining this program.”

Also in May 2008, ASDF’s attorneys at Copilevitz & Canter began to submit ASDF’s charitable solicitation registrations in the thirty-nine states besides California that require them: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Although he is identified as a Director and Treasurer in ASDF’s application for tax-exemption, the name of school psychologist James Michael Roan does not appear on the board rosters filed with the state registrations. (2) The address provided for Mr. Slutsky in the state filings is a unit in the Camelot Apartments in Schererville, Indiana. A newly-named Foundation director, Helen Ignas, is owner of the apartment complex and owner-occupant of the Muirfield Court residence previously given as Mr. Slutsky’s home address. CFO Janet Coyer, formerly identified as a resident of Moriches, New York, is listed in the state registrations at another Schererville residence.

The audit submitted with the state registrations was prepared by Charlotte Maris, CPA of Everett, Washington, who is designated as custodian of ASDF’s financial records. Ms. Maris discloses that she “is not independent with respect to Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation, Inc.” but does not elaborate further on the nature of her relationship to the organization. The audit reports the following figures for the period March 14-December 31, 2007 — the first nine months of ASDF’s existence:

Revenue  
Revenue from direct public support $14,602.00
Expenses  
Business expenses $865.00
Contract services $2,250.00
Employee wages $138.90
Operations $3,005.38
Other $12,428.70
Total operating expenses $18,699.69
Net loss ($4,097.69)
   
Assets  
Checking account $234.01
Liabilities  
Michael Slutsky payable $4,245.71
Payroll liabilities $22.35
Wages payable $63.64
Total liabilities $4,331.70
Net loss ($4,097.69)
Total liabilities & stockholder’s equity $234.01


After obtaining approval to solicit donations in a number of states, Mr. Slutsky and Ms. Coyer entered into a contract with the Akron, Ohio-based firm InfoCision Management Corporation, “to recruit volunteers through a residential campaign, who will solicit voluntary contributions from neighbors” on behalf of ASDF. InfoCision’s responsibilities include developing scripts, making telephone solicitations, verifying pledges, and sending mailings. Completed telephone calls are charged at $3.30 apiece; each fulfillment and follow-up letter costs ASDF $1.01, plus the cost of postage and stationery. Communicator training, telephone lookups, computer programming and other services are also separately charged.

The contract offers no estimate of the percentage of gross revenues that ASDF can hope to receive from the campaign. A “break even” clause guarantees that the “client’s liability for costs incurred under this Agreement shall not exceed the gross telemarketing income generated under the agreement” — i.e., although ASDF may ultimately receive nothing from the campaign, the only losers will be the donors who intended their contributions to support autism research and programs for autistic children and their families.

Sprinting To The Financing Goal

The Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation’s telemarketing campaign began in late summer 2008. Calls were received by participants in online autism discussion groups, who expressed skepticism about the organization’s legitimacy and the ultimate destination of donations. Call recipients complained of hang-ups and calls made late in the evening. Others commented on how unusual it was for an autism organization to raise funds in such a manner. The Autism Society of North Carolina issued an “Autism Telemarketing Alert” to warn its members that ASDF was in no way connected with their organization, and that its representatives were unaware of well-established autism programs in their state:

“The Autism Society of North Carolina wants you to know that despite the [The Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation’s] claims to provide support to families of children with autism and camper scholarships, it does not appear that this happens. In fact, when contacted about their claims to work with state organizations, a representative of myasdf.org did not know that the Autism Society of North Carolina existed or that we run a summer camp program.”

“The above organization is located in Washington state and uses telemarketing to raise funds. The Autism Society of North Carolina does not have any affiliation with this organization.”

“The Autism Society of North Carolina’s mission is to provide supports and promote opportunities that enhance the lives of individuals within the autism spectrum and their families. To accomplish this we hold fundraising events like the Autism Ribbon Run on October 11. ASNC also may ask for contributions to support programs like the summer camp program or other services via the mail and email. The Autism Society of North Carolina DOES NOT USE TELEMARKETERS to raise funds. The money raised through our mail and email campaigns is used to provide services and supports to North Carolinians on the autism spectrum and their families.”

Although Mr. Slutsky asserts that donors to his Foundation can “feel confident” that their donation will “help us help children with autism,” this caveat from the Oregon Department of Justice offers a much less rosy view:

“InfoCision Management Corporation estimates that the nonprofit organization will receive 22.0394736842105% of all donations collected. Please note that if InfoCision Management Corporation over-estimated donations or under-estimated expenses of the solicitation campaign, the nonprofit organization may receive nothing and InfoCision Management Corporation may retain all donations collected to cover the cost of conducting the campaign.”

Parallel to the ongoing InfoCision effort, on November 14, 2008, ASDF retained another professional fundraising enterprise, Associated Community Services — a firm with a track record of returning as little as 11% of contributions raised to its nonprofit clients. (In August 2008, the firm was fined $100,000 by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office following consumer complaints about its employees’ belligerent, rude, obscene, intimidating and too-frequent fundraising calls.)

The calls continue into 2009, with telemarketers located in call centers and home offices throughout the Midwest making thousands of automatically-dialed contacts with members of the target audience, introducing themselves as representatives of “The Autism Foundation,” soliciting donors to send their checks to a post office box in the nation’s capital, all for the alleged purpose of benefiting autistic children and their families.

A Foundation Of Little-Known Quantities

Although the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation’s current principals all live in Schererville, Indiana, neither ASDF nor Mr. Slutsky are known to Lake County, Indiana members of the Autism Society of America or to representatives of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism.

When I called Michael Slutsky to ask him for more information about ASDF, he described its program of public and professional education, camp scholarships, and financial support to families. When I asked about the scholarship program, he was unable to recall the names of any participating camps. When I asked about financial support, he stated that ASDF had underwritten swimming lessons for a child in Massachusetts, making the grant directly to the family rather than through an agency. He acknowledged that he has no personal connection to or professional expertise in the field of autism, yet claimed that ASDF works with “community health departments across the country.” When pressed for specifics, he identified the Multnomah County (Oregon) Health Department as one such agency.

During our conversation, Mr. Slutsky stated that he was the source of most of the contributions to ASDF. However, a Fundraising Disclosure Form filed with the North Carolina Secretary of State indicates that the entire $14,602 in “direct public support” described in the 2007 audit came from ASDF’s initial direct mail campaign, conducted by Precision Performance Marketing. (3) Additionally, the net loss recorded in the 2007 audit is roughly equivalent to the liability payable to Mr. Slutsky, suggesting that his “contributions” are recorded in the Foundation’s books as loans which he expects to be repaid.

The Multnomah County Health Department staff member whose name was given to me by Mr. Slutsky indicated that he had recently called her with an offer to provide a computer to a local family in need; she noted that although the donation had not yet been completed, he had already expressed his hope that she would provide a testimonial thanking ASDF for its gift. When I asked whether she was acquainted with ASDF board member and CFO Janet Coyer, she replied that Ms. Coyer was Mr. Slutsky’s office manager.

When I called James Michael Roan to inquire about ASDF, he described himself as a “technical advisor” and Mr. Slutsky as a childhood friend and businessman with no autistic family members or professional credentials. He explained that he and Mr. Slutsky developed the idea of establishing a nonprofit organization several years ago during a conversation about Mr. Roan’s work evaluating children with suspected developmental and learning disabilities. He indicated that he had helped to develop the informational material on the website about a year and a half ago, but has had little contact with his old friend since that time. When I asked for his opinion about ASDF’s telemarketing solicitations of donations from residents of states where no programs were offered, he stated that he knew nothing about the business part of the Foundation’s operations. Although in his responses to parent questions on AllExperts.com Mr. Roan formerly described himself as “Past President and current board member of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation,” the reference was removed from his biography in January 2009.

I also asked Dr. Mary Alice Reid, the Elkhart, Indiana pediatrician featured in ASDF’s public service announcement, about the nature of her relationship with the organization. Dr. Reid stated that she appeared in the PSA after being invited to do so by the media director of a local high school given a grant by ASDF to produce it; she felt that it had excellent potential to educate families in the early signs of autism, and to educate students in video production techniques. She also stated that she has no other connection to the organization, has no knowledge of its financial data or business dealings, and has never met anyone directly involved with it.

The director of the Autism Society of Oregon, Genevieve Athens, confirmed that Mr. Slutsky contacted her directly some time ago offering to make small grants to local families for respite care, social communication seminars and camp attendance, and that those grants were very much appreciated by their recipients. However, after ASDF’s telemarketing campaign was brought to her attention by ASA chapter directors who had received telephone solicitations at their homes, she informed Mr. Slutsky that she could no longer accept his offers of assistance, and has more recently sought to have her testimonial removed from the ASDF website.

Let The Donor Beware

In the December 2008 report, Pennies for Charity: Telemarketing by Professional Fundraisers, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo aggregated the results of 553 telemarketing campaigns conducted on behalf of 442 charities, which raised a total of $178.7 million during the year 2007. Key findings include:

“In nearly 80 percent, or 436 of the 553 campaigns, the charities kept less than 50 percent of the funds raised.”

“In nearly half, or 271 of the 553 campaigns, the charities received less than 30 percent of the funds raised.”

“In 51 of the 553 campaigns reflected in the report, charities actually lost money.”

“In only 45 of the 553 campaigns did the charity retain at least 65 percent of the money raised, the amount deemed acceptable under the Better Business Bureau’s standards for charitable organizations.”

“In total, 60.54 percent, or $108.2 million, of the funds raised by telemarketers in 2007 was paid to the fundraisers for fees and/or used to cover the costs of conducting the campaigns. By comparison, charities retained 39.46 percent, or $70.5 million, of the total funds raised in the campaigns.”

According to the Cuomo report, the rate of return to nonprofits for fundraising campaigns conducted by InfoCision Management Corporation ranged from 0% to 78.5%. Although well-established organizations such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, American Heart Association and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF netted from 57% to 78% of their donors’ dollars, size and name recognition did not guarantee high performance; for instance, an Easter Seals campaign netted only $28,355 out of $373,876 raised — a paltry 7.58%. The one campaign conducted by Associated Community Services that is included in the Cuomo report returned 17.5% to its nonprofit client — $190,164 out of a total of $1,086,651 in donations collected.

Other public reports indicate that ASDF’s other telemarketing partner, Jadent, Inc., averages a return of only 26% of contributions to its nonprofit clients — a pittance, albeit a significant improvement over the 12% figure reported by the Oregon Department of Justice in 2003.

The Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation’s fundraising projections, were they to be realized, would place the organization among the wealthier small nonprofits dedicated to autism research, education and service provision. ASDF’s grandly-stated plans to work with public health departments and organizations across the country might seem credible were they formulated and executed by individuals with a personal or professional stake in furthering the welfare of autistic people and their families, and expertise in how this might be brought about. However, this is far from the case with respect to this fledgling enterprise — an enterprise established by a professional fundraising supplies salesman, its board populated with old friends, business associates and housemates, none of whom have any connection to autism save for a school psychologist who helped to develop content for its website, but who has been only nominally involved since.

References to ASDF as “The Autism Foundation” and to “partner[ing] with state Autism chapters in helping to locate and assist families in need,” and instructions to potential “volunteers” to address solicitation letters to a Washington, D.C. address, create the very real potential of misleading donors into believing that they are contributing to the most well-known national, membership-based autism organization — the Autism Society of America, which provides services to and advocacy on behalf of individuals and families affected by autism, which supports autism research and professional education, and which has 190 local and regional chapters throughout the United States.

Autistic citizens, their families, and the organizations that serve them need all of the financial support they can muster. Most operate on a shoestring budget and concentrate their expenditures on programs intended to provide immediate benefit to their constituents. Donors to community- and membership-based autism organizations can generally feel confident that their contributions will be used for their intended purpose, and will not be deployed as InfoCision founder Gary Taylor recently pledged to deploy $10,000,000 of his profits — to purchase naming rights to a football stadium.

Autistic citizens and their families do not need self-appointed philanthropic middlemen who concoct an obfuscatory tangle of toll-free telephone numbers, post office boxes and forwarding orders, and misrepresent their identity and scope of activity in their public appeals, to create an illusion of prestige and far-reaching effect. They do not need carpetbagging fundraisers-for-hire who blanket the nation with intrusive telephone solicitations and siphon resources away from legitimate support and advocacy organizations. They do not need ambitious empire-builders who exploit the golden opportunity in increased autism awareness, gather a fortune from well-intentioned donors, expend most of that fortune on their own salaries and fundraising expenses, dole out the meager leftovers to the real intended beneficiaries of their donors’ generosity, and seek credibility-boosting testimonials from their grantees before the ink on the check has even had a chance to dry.

A Creative Alternative

If the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation’s tele-minions come to call, turn the tables and suggest that they themselves donate to reputable organizations that actually provide services to children and adults on the autistic spectrum, and to the families and professionals who love and educate them. Here are a few:

Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE)
ARC of King County
Autism National Committee
Autism Network International
Autism Society of America Foundation
Autism Society of Indiana
Autism Society of New Hampshire
Autism Society of North Carolina
Autism Society of Oregon
Autistic Self-Advocacy Network
Autistics.org
Provincial Autism Center (Halifax, NS)

Resources on nonprofits, professional fundraisers and fundraising campaigns

State Filings for Nonprofits (USA.gov)
Features state-by-state links to information on incorporating nonprofit organizations, and to state forms and information on charitable solicitation activities.

Better Business Bureau: Check Out A Business or Charity
Organization entries provide information on programming, governance, fundraising, tax status and finances, and evaluate compliance with BBB’s “20 Standards for Charity Accountability.”

GuideStar
Information on nonprofit organizations from federal filings. Includes 990 forms for organizations with more than $25,000 in annual contributions.

Charity Navigator
Features “Top Ten” lists such as “10 Charities Overpaying their For-Profit Fundraisers,” “10 Charities Drowning in Administrative Costs” and “10 Charities Stockpiling Your Money.”

Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts: Non-Profits & Charities Document Search
Includes document filings from 2005 forward in .tiff format.

North Carolina Secretary of State Charitable Solicitation Licensing Section
A gold mine of information on the business of fundraising. Publishes .pdf’s of all documents submitted by charities seeking to solicit donations in the state, including incorporation papers, audits, and contracts with professional fundraising firms. Start here, then go to New York for the tax exemption application, and you will have everything you need to document an organization’s federal and state filing history.

New York State Office of the Attorney General Charities Bureau Registry Search
In addition to requiring organizations to submit their certificate of incorporation, bylaws and IRS determination letter, New York also requires an organization’s application for tax-exemption. All of these documents are made available in .pdf format.

West Virginia Secretary of State
Unique among the states, West Virginia publishes nonprofits’ disclosures of the percentage of contributions from the state and the percentage of program funds disbursed within it.

Washington Secretary of State Division of Charitable Solicitations and Trusts; Registered Charity and Commercial Fundraiser Search
Features a cleanly-designed, easily navigable database interface.

Washington State Commercial Fundraiser Activity Report Listed by Overall Percentage of Funds Retained by Charity Clients
Office of the Secretary of State Charitable Solicitations Program, December 2007.

Iowa charities and fund-raisers
A user-friendly directory maintained by the Des Moines Register, with information current to November 2008. The database contains information for all nonprofit organizations and professional fundraisers registered to raise funds in that state, whether based in Iowa or elsewhere.

Pennies for Charity: Telemarketing by Professional Fundraisers
New York State Office of the Attorney General

Professional solicitors take a cut of your donation to charity: Data on over 4,000 Virginia fundraising campaigns
Provides data from 2000 forward. Search interface features simultaneously useful and cumbersome drop-down lists of all registered charities and solicitors.


UPDATE: Waist Deep In The Autism Fundraising Hole (published September 30, 2009)


Footnotes

1. See document labeled “09/09/2008 Filing Amendment” at NC Secretary of State.
2. See document labeled “06/27/2008 Attachment” at NC Secretary of State.
3. See document labeled “06/27/2008 Attachment” at NC Secretary of State.

Comments


  1. They had the slightest idea what they were getting into when they called you, right?

    That was fascinating, and disturbing. Amazing work.

    Joseph    2009-03-12 15:39    #

  2. Kathleen, at the risk of repeating myself, I never met someone as thorough as you.

    — _Arthur    2009-03-12 16:16    #

  3. Awe-inspiring. Blogged.

    Ken    2009-03-12 17:09    #

  4. I learn a lot when I read your posts. Sometimes more than I want to.

    Thanks for the work that you do Kathleen!

    — Patrick    2009-03-12 17:12    #

  5. If there are no criminal charges for this Slutsky character, there sure ought to be.

    — Clay    2009-03-12 19:06    #

  6. Kathleen, make sure you make this maestro sleuthing example part of your portfolio.

    There are many small companies that NEED someone like you.

    — _Arthur    2009-03-12 21:16    #

  7. Amazing. Great work from you Kathleen. I’d never realised how grasping some selling themselves as aiding charities could be.

    Sharon    2009-03-13 06:58    #

  8. WOW! Kathleen, how come every newspaper in the country is not busting down your door to have you do investigative reporting on this kind of stuff? Oh, yeah, because they hate real news. Great work!

    Ryan Wilson    2009-03-13 11:12    #

  9. Boy, are they sorry they called you, right? ;-) Thanks very much for this eye-opening post about this organization. Sad to say, I’m sure there are many well-intentioned people out there who would donate thinking they were doing something good.

    Niksmom    2009-03-13 12:05    #

  10. Sickos :( well done for catching them out. I linked to this and put it on Krumblr and Twitter.

    Kev    2009-03-13 13:38    #

  11. Kathleen, I will never call you and ask for money.

    bmartinmd    2009-03-13 15:05    #

  12. “Kathleen, I will never call you and ask for money.”

    Well I would, but I sure won’t lie about it! hehe Great job, Kathleen.

    — trog69    2009-03-14 06:49    #

  13. Wow. Carpetbagger is a good choice of terms.

    Kathleen, thank you your incredible investigative reporting of this purported “charity”.

    — Regan    2009-03-15 05:01    #

  14. Great sleuthing. Your intel on this guy gives me good leverage in telling people not to provide services to this charity. I’ll pass the word.

    — quail    2009-03-17 15:12    #

  15. Stupendous demolition. Sledgehammer, meet nut… but that’s actually the baby pool end. Have a look at the world’s second biggest charitable foundation, the one that owns Ikea: the Stichting INGKA Foundation. Assets of 36 billion, payouts of approximately 1.7 million – say 0.05 percent – according to the Economist, via Wikipedia. Think what autism research could do with 3.6 billion dollars a year…
    Actually, no, it’d probably all go on ABA. Don’t.

    — ChrisB    2009-03-18 21:09    #

  16. Awesome investigation!

    I’ll bet you’re on their do-not-call list now.

    — Elaine    2009-03-20 03:26    #

  17. This is very interesting. James Michael Roan works at the school where I work. He very boldly advertises himself as a psychologist when in fact he is not licensed to do so in the state of Washington. He is not authorized to present himself as a psychologist outside of his employment at my school since he is not a licensed psychologist. I always considered him to be misinformed, a quack, a rogue psychologist, and have not addressed my concerns about his ethics to him personally since it would be very harmful to relationships within the school. Maybe his activities are more expansive than false advertising. I have reported him to the Washington State licensing section for unauthorized practice, because I am a mandated reporter, but I don’t know whether or not they have taken action. It seems not.

    — Gretchen Saari    2009-04-01 00:23    #

  18. Woe to the fraudster who tries to trick the astute Mrs. Seidel!

    Have you thought of taking up private investigation?

    — isles    2009-04-13 18:04    #

  19. Someone posted this link on our AutismKing (ARC of King County) group. YOU are amazing, and helpful, and I can’t wait to delve further into this wonderful blog!

    — Kathy Weatherford    2009-04-25 09:56    #

  20. I am in awe. That was as thorough and dispassionate a dissection as I’ve seen. Please do the same for some televangelists.

    Mona Albano    2009-05-06 21:16    #

  21. I’m certainly glad my research resulted in my finding your blog! I found myself unwittingly agreeing to their mail campaign during a moment of household chaos. I waffled from guilt for not wanting to fullfil my ‘obligation’ to anger that I had been roped into begging my neighbors for cash!! Thank you for some insightful information which absolved my guilt and fuels my anger!

    — K. Anderson Bflo, NY    2009-05-07 08:53    #

  22. Hey – thanks for the thoroughness of your research. I agreed to a campaign, but I too planned on researching it before bugging my neighbors. Turns out you have already done the investigation for me … and I AM a journalist!
    Thanks for the info – you saved me hours of research.

    — Dixie    2009-05-15 02:29    #

  23. Terrific, thorough-without-being-deadening piece of investigative work! Of course, why not start a “non-profit” that asks for money on behalf of autistic children—who could refuse? As the mother of twins who are on the spectrum (we’re still trying to work out where), I could tear this guy’s throat out.
    Thank you!

    — Helena    2009-06-23 14:31    #

  24. Very good work. Very imformative and thorough. Is there any way to make these people stop calling my home every day?
    Thanks and keep up the good work.

    — Carol    2009-06-26 11:33    #

  25. Thank you for this great article!!! I was called also. I have been taking some classes at the University, some concerning ASD, and my nephew has AS, so I was a prime target for their calls. But I research everything first. Oh boy, am I glad I did. They are not getting a penny from my neighborhood. Again, thank you!!!

    — Beth    2009-07-06 16:14    #

  26. I get some hang-up calls, Google the number, wind up spending an hour reading about this tangled web of obfuscation and and essentially theft from well-intentined donors. I am now outraged. Your work is exemplary in depth of delve and in presentation. Attorneys General in all 50 states should be reading and learning from your work.

    — Alden    2009-07-07 08:48    #

  27. Thank you for this invaluable information. You certainly do a very thorough job!

    — Sue    2009-07-14 19:01    #

  28. This morning, 08/01, I received the same call you did, Kathleen. We both volunteer and contribute to a local program serving preschoolers with disabilities, including many with autism. The name of this organization was unknown to me and so I asked for the web address. After much hemming and hawing, the caller provided it. Fortunately, when I went to check it, I found your post at the same time. All my vague misgivings were confirmed. Thanks for your excellent work. It needs even more attention.

    — Mary Ann Maggitti    2009-08-01 10:28    #

  29. Thank you! I had asked if they were associated with autism speaks and they did not give me a straight answer. I am due to get their packet in a few days and will inform my neighbors of this scam. No money will be sent from here. I was suspicious but didn’t follow up – thanks for letting us know.

    — Virginia Keller    2009-08-15 18:09    #

  30. Kathleen, thank you for taking the time to research this organization. I have a “donation packet” sitting in front of me as we speak. And since I am not a “couch muffin” I decided to do a little research before sending this out to friends and neighbors. Lucky I happened upon your site, and the work was done for me! I worked as an autism tutor before starting my own day care. I have friends that have children with autism. It sickens me that organizations would take advantage of people trying to do something productive. I will skip the solicitations, and make a donation to a more worthy organization. Thanks for saving me the money on stamps!

    — Miranda Ewing    2009-08-21 07:58    #

  31. I was about to send information to my neighboors, but I never heard of this institution so I research on interent. I’m glad I found your blog and immediatly took my name off of their list.

    — Vanessa Scocchera    2009-08-22 11:31    #

  32. Kathleen — I’m so glad I decided to check into the ASDF organization before I solicited donations from my neighbors. I’m so glad I found your web site. Thank you for your investigative work. I will not be donating to this sham organization nor will I ask my neighbors to do so.

    — Rich    2009-08-22 13:08    #

  33. I’m so glad that this has been useful to you all.

    Hmm, I’m reminded that ASDF was due to file a post-fundraising-campaign report with the CT Secretary of State’s office back in June or July. I’ll be interested to see and do the numbers.

    Kathleen Seidel    2009-08-22 21:55    #

  34. Thanks Kathleen. Our son is Autistic and neighbors asked me about this organization. What a shame.

    Mike McBride    2009-08-25 13:10    #

  35. My wife received a call August 09 here in Long Island, NY and accepted a kit. We got it with the names of 14 neighbors. She asked me to check it out with Give.org and charitynavigator. Naturally, I couldn’t find anything, but I searched and found you and this great investigation. But, why are they still operating?

    — Steve Walk    2009-08-25 20:47    #

  36. Wow, I agreed to participate in their mailing campaign. I received the kit and began preparing the envelopes, then decided to check this organization out Online. Thank you for this report. I am returning this kit to the sender with a note that their organization does not pass the muster test.

    — Ruth Parrish    2009-08-26 09:25    #

  37. Thank you very much for your dilgence in exposing this questionable “charitable” organization. I have an autistic granddaughter, and these folks seemed fishy. I looked on the internet and found this info. Wonderful job!!!

    — Michel Lee Blauser    2009-09-04 01:07    #

  38. Thank you for this very informative blog. I received a call from “ASDF” and agreed to help with the fundraising by mailing out letters. While addressing the envelopes, I noticed a typo in the packet. That missing letter bothered me enough that I came up to research the organization. After coming up blank (except for their own website), I found your info. I’ll be tossing the “kit” in the trash. Thanks for what you’ve done!

    — Courtney Kalnoske    2009-09-10 12:49    #

  39. Thank you for your wonderful investigative report on this organization.

    — Leo    2009-09-18 07:47    #

  40. I received the call and accepted the packet thinking that I was only going to be asked to mail out information about autism to promote awareness. I was surprised to find that this also involved asking for a donation. My husband did some checking and found this information. I’d already mailed the flyers, and just spent an hour visiting and calling neighbors to tell them to disregard the mailings. Then I called ASDF to let them know I wanted to be removed from their phone and mailing lists immediately. The woman I spoke was dumfounded to hear me state that I wanted nothing to do with this organization!

    — Liz    2009-09-18 10:34    #

  41. Just received the kit. Double checked their website and then found you. Hallelujah! Thanks for letting me know this is a ruse. I got suspicious when I didn’t see a chart with their use of funds like the March of Dimes or Doctors without Borders.

    I am embarrassed that I fell for this.

    Thanks so much.

    — Monica    2009-09-21 10:31    #

  42. ASDF has filed its 2008 audit and tax return, and current fundraising contracts, with the NC Charitable Solicitation Division. My update is here:

    Waist Deep In The Autism Fundraising Hole

    To summarize: At the end of 2008, ASDF was $165,000 in the red thanks to the telemarketing and direct mail campaign. Until that debt's paid off, you can bet that no more than a fraction of a cent from every dollar donated will ever go to the camp scholarships and financial assistance to families that they describe in their fundraising spiel and literature.

    Kathleen Seidel    2009-10-03 11:47    #

  43. Ditto a lot of the above posters… we have a son who we thought might be on the spectrum and 2 of our closest friends have sons who are autistic. I accepted the kit and now can’t wait to get the phone call asking if I mailed out the envelopes!

    Thankfully intelligent, hard-working ‘reporters” like Mrs. Seidel are not gone the way of the dodo as newspapers flounder financially. This new breed of investigative minds have tools and the means to reach an even greater audience. Kudos to you on your research and thank you on behalf of those of us who were duped.

    — Eric    2009-10-03 11:55    #

  44. Update: they are now involved in the sweepstakes scam industry. My Dad, with early-to-mid dimensia, has been heavily involved in entering sweepstakes. He gets many offers that look similar, including ASDF. ASDF’s is for $6,888.00 and requests a donation. My Dad really thinks the donation will help his chances, even though the offer states—as by law—that a gift is not required. There is a huge industry that got his name and must have sold his name…an industry that ASDF is involved in. Further damning evidence.

    — coo    2009-12-14 12:15    #

  45. I also received a call asking to mail letters to my neighbors and I also intended to do some research before mailing these letters. Thanks for your information, I will not help an organization that does not appear to do anything to help those that really need it.

    — Gail    2010-04-18 22:01    #

  46. I am so glad to have found this information. I did send out to my neighbors, but had this uneasy feeling that something wasn’t right. I’ve only had two responses, but will be returning their checks. They had a goal of $50 for my little street and I had intended to make up any difference with my own donation. Thanks for all your hard work!

    Peg    2010-04-18 22:06    #

  47. Kathleen, thank you for the detailed info. I too agreed to mail requests for donations and when the packet arrived today I decided to get more info on this outfit, ‘just in case one of the neighbors asked about them’. I must admit that the small print on the back of the info card stating that the paid solicitor’s costs would be covered from the donations, made me quite uneasy. Your specific investigative details convinced me that I’ll be returning the packet ‘without donations’ and a request to remove my name and phone number from their contact list. I will also be notifying friends and family of this companies questionable practices. I’m still waiting to hear from the Atty. General’s office as to their input at this time even though I’ve already made up my own mind. Again, Thanks.

    — Rosemary L. Wolkon    2010-04-20 15:52    #

  48. OMG! I felt bad that I hadn’t yet mailed out the donation requests to my wonderful neighbors. I sat here writing them out when it dawned on me that I should investigate the organization so I could offer proof of validity to my neighbors if asked. Yikes! Glad I found your information. Why haven’t they been stopped. What needs to be done to accomplish that?

    — Kat    2010-04-20 18:37    #

  49. My mom got a call asking her to collect money for this organization. Not being on the internet she asked me to look up some information for her, and the first site I came to was yours. Thanks so much for saving her alot of time and embarrasment!!

    — Sherri    2010-04-23 22:14    #

  50. Like so many others on this site, I assumed when I received the call that the organization I would be helping was affiliated with respected autism awareness charities. I have a severely afflicted daughter with autism who is now 22, and I wanted to help gather money for the cause. I feel fortunate that i found the link to this site just before putting stamps on the letters in my kit. I plan to tell any follow-up callers about this site so that they can have the opportunity to determine whether they are also being taken in.

    — Kenneth C Parker    2010-04-25 19:57    #

  51. I got one of these calls about two weeks ago. The guy asked if I would make a donation or send 12 letters to my neighbors. I told him I wasn’t interested , and he insisted on going on , so I just hung up on him .

    — Rich    2010-04-28 23:56    #

  52. Thank you for this expose and the work you do! I was almost ready to send out the letters to my neighbors but wanted to research ASDF. I was about to give when I finally found a link to this blog. As a grandmother of two autistic children, I would have been really dismayed to find out that I helped a disreputable organization like ASDF.

    — Shelley Chotai    2010-05-04 19:37    #

  53. Many thanks Kathleen (and others). I had also agreed to mail out the envelopes when asked on the phone. When I received the packet I realized that I was not aware of the name of the group and there was nothing in the packet about how the money would be used. I immediately Googled the name and came across this blog. The entire packet is now in my recycling bin (after shredding my neighbor’s names and addresses). Thank you for exposing this group.

    — Bob    2010-05-09 15:29    #

  54. I just read this article today (5/12/10) after my brother mentioned he had helped this group. Since I have a son with Autism, this kind of ‘fundraising’ bothers me. So imagine my state of mind when these people actually called ME today! Thank you kathleen for such a fine piece of work.

    — Terry    2010-05-12 11:39    #

  55. Kathleen, I just recently received my packet which I agreed to on the phone, looked through the materials suspiciously and investigated on the web. This kind of scam is not only criminal but very cruel to those of us who have family members with autism. My grandson has aspergers and I truly resent the fact that people are donating to this fraudulent organization when their help could be going to a legitimate charity. Thank you for your diligence in unmasking such a scam.

    — Nancy Richards    2010-05-18 11:07    #

  56. I also just received my package and decided to google this ASDF to see if they were legit. Thanks so much for this information. I certainly would not want to ask my neighbors to contribute to an organization that is not on the level. Thank you also for listing the legit organizations that actually do work towards helping parents cope with autism.

    — Kathy    2010-05-23 18:11    #

  57. How do I remove myself from their list?

    — Chad    2010-06-13 12:47    #

  58. I was contacted by telemarketers for this charity and agreed to take a packet. Didn’t recognize the name of the charity, so I looked them up on the web, found your blog and was glad that I did this before mailing anything out to my neighbors. Enough of crooks taking advantage of people and other charities. Thanks for the great research!

    — Dale    2010-06-21 22:50    #

  59. So why haven’t they shut this a-hole down ?

    — John    2010-06-25 19:47    #

  60. FYI: Infocision,one of the companies doing the telemarketing for Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation, owns the naming rights to the University of Akron’s football field .

    Here is a link.

    — John    2010-07-05 18:03    #

  61. i have a daughter with autism and schizoaffective disorder as well as a son with pdd and a husband with dementia… and a step grandson with aspergers… asdf called and asked me to do the neighborhood mailing and when i got the packet something felt wrong… the fact the money was to go to me and then to them so i would know how much my neighbors were donating seemed off… on a whim i googled them and ended up here… am i grateful… thank-you Kathleen whoever you are for caring enough to expose this quasi scam… i chucked my kit in the circular file… as i am currently navigating the adult mental health system i am appalled at many things… including the amount of rip offs and scams that prey on the most vulnerable… i am so glad my gut feeling won out on this… jill

    — j mccarty    2010-07-18 23:56    #

  62. I’ve gotten two of these calls.I just hang up on them.
    If I read right,I believe the contract with Infocision runs out, at the end of this month (July).

    — Michael R    2010-07-20 08:26    #

  63. I too had the call and was suspicious from the start. Thanks for your research and blog. I had signed up for distributing their stuff but have now sent it to our state “PA” attorney general’s office .

    — J. Mueller    2010-07-24 15:53    #

  64. And, believe it or not they are still calling 8-30-2010 !!! My daughter actually works with Autistic clients and KNEW that this call seemed “fishy” from the start. Thank you for your exceptional investigative work regarding this scam. I am sending this all to our CT State Attorney General’s office too!

    — PJ Whelan    2010-08-30 15:57    #

  65. I received a call on 9/9/10, and agreed to receiving a packet just to get off the phone. I never planned on sending anything to anyone, but googled the name anyway. I was expecting to end up at Snopes, but this was even better! Unsettling that they have my phone number, as it’s unlisted and unpublished. When they call back, I’ll be asking them to put me on their DO NOT CALL list. Thanks Kathleen!

    — kep    2010-09-16 20:16    #

  66. Thanks for the detective work. My wife signed on to collect donations for this charity and then mentioned this to me. Your blog was the only information that I could find. I also noted that on their website they never mentioned what percent of the donations went to cover their expenses. That immediately made me suspicious— thanks for all your work on this. The package is going in the garbage (recycle)

    — Paul    2010-09-20 08:38    #

  67. I live in central PA and I got a call from ASDF last week. I have an autistic grandson, so I agreed to help with raising funds from our neighborhood. I have helped with the March of Dimes in the past and I thought this would be the same. I began to wonder if this really was a charitable foundation as I was putting my own postage on the envelopes… So I googled them and that’s when I found this post. I wish I could gather donations from the people I have already called by phone and send them to a reputable agency because, really, what a waste of time! Yes, use the low down hound dog’s own materials to collect for real help for Autism!! I have not collected any money. I guess I should call everyone back and tell them what an idiot I am. Lesson learned, investigate first!

    — Debbie Mote    2010-09-23 11:17    #

  68. It is refreshing to learn that we have people out there keen to tackle this autism problem. I am stuck with an autistic son, am at a loss what will become of in future, and here in Kenya (Africa) it is not easy. Special schools do not even exist yet such kids exhibit great potential. Thanks for the work..

    — Malik S.K.    2010-09-27 06:18    #

  69. Wow. I was just about bamboozled by this campaign. Just sitting here writing out envelopes to my neighbors, when I thought I should google the website and see if it’s for real. Thank you for your research and for saving me from potential embarrassment with my neighbors.

    — Victoria Palagy    2010-10-20 10:46    #

  70. When I rec’d my packet, I realized I had mis-understood. Not able to acquire many of the addresses I would have needed in addition my initial understanding had been, I add the stamps. Nothing about the contributors sending their contribution to me, then I to the ASDF. Since I wasn’t doing the former, contacting neighbors, I was just getting ready to make a nice contribution.So glad I searched them out first. Something did not feel right about this. Thanks Kathleen!!!!! Think United Way! What a shame.

    ps, I wondered why they hadn’t called me back. I guess, being exposed.

    — N Gottheld    2010-10-20 20:41    #

  71. Just got a postcard thanking me for volunteering to send letters to my neighbors. I never volunteered and have never heard of them. Not on Charity Navigators, etc., you know all this stuff. Your article is amazing and confirmed my gut reaction to not even call to tell them they are mistaken. Just plan to ignore this crap. Thanks again

    — Beth    2010-10-29 16:37    #

  72. This article stopped me from participating in this bogus mail campaign. My nephew has Autism and his family benefits from legitimate organizations. Autism Spectrum disorder Foundation is diverting funds away from families with a true need.

    — Mary Lorscheider    2010-11-06 18:06    #

  73. Thanks for all the great information! I just received a kit from them and will not waste my time and money mailing out their bogus solicitations. I would hate to have asked my neighbors to send money to an organization that is not doing things the right way. Thank goodness I checked them out before I did it! You did a terrific job organizing all the information. Again, thank you so very much!

    — Chris Suwalski    2010-11-10 13:30    #

  74. Thank you so much for doing this kind of research and posting it for others’ benefit. I too received the call and although I explained that times are really tough and I can’t possibly add the expense of stamps to mail their letters, they convinced me that I could hand-deliver them to my neighbors. Thank the good Lord that I checked into this further. You have saved myself and my caring neighbors from making a big mistake!

    — Jessica    2010-11-10 13:54    #

  75. Ditto on all comments and praises above. Very glad I researched this.

    — Frank    2010-11-12 16:47    #

  76. I also got the call to help. I was told all donations would be sent from the donors to the foundation, got the packet today. I was told to “make corrections” and mail out the flyers with my name on them. I am glad I looked this up. I’m tossing my packet. I would love to help those with autism, but i want to help the real thing, not someone who only wants to get rich off others while pounding their chest about how great they are for their charity. Thanks so much for the posting, you sure saved me and my neighbors a lot of hassle!

    — Linda Stanford    2010-11-12 17:23    #

  77. As a teacher having had autistic students, I was eager to support what I thought was a legitimate
    foundation. After I received a packet in the mail, I noticed the name of InfoCision Management Corp., a paid fundraiser on the back of the cards. I am so glad I researched this site before sending the cards out! Thank you so much for your info. and doing such a thorough job looking into this organization! You can be assured that I will not be supporting them or sending out their cards!

    — Kay Sykes    2010-11-13 16:36    #

  78. Thank you for your research and for this article. I, too, was contacted by this org, and I agreed to send donation requests to my neighbors. But the address list provided was incomplete and so I went checked the County Register’s website to confirm the names of occupants in my neighborhood. Of the 15 addresses I was given, 7 were incorrect. Your info has prevented me from being a participant in this fraud. Thank you for all your hard work.

    — Betty    2010-11-14 15:47    #

  79. Thanks, and ditto! My grandson has Aspergers, so of course I was interested. I usually look up these to see what percentage actually goes to the organization. It has to be at least 80%. Your information indicates that possibly 20% would go. I’m sending them back their packet with a couple of paragraphs from your research.

    — Phyllis    2010-11-14 21:11    #

  80. Thanks, you saved me some precious time and money. I will say that they called me NOT asking for this organization but for cancer research. So when I got the kit for Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation instead of cancer research, I started looking on the internet. Thanks for all your work! The kit is going in the garbage!

    — Marilyn    2010-11-15 17:09    #

  81. Wow…thank you Kathleen, what incredible research..I am so disgusted with calls from these corrupt humans…I’ve shredded every bit of their packet.

    — Jae    2010-11-18 10:03    #

  82. I live in Prince George’s County MD (suburb of DC) and ASDF got me recently, too. I didn’t have time to check them out on-line when they called but decided to look on the charity rating sites before mailing solicitations to my neighbors. When I didn’t find them there, I went on searching and your blog was the first thing I found. I can only echo the praise of others that you are willing to invest the time to check out these fakers.

    — George Potts    2010-11-26 17:14    #

  83. Thanks for the info. It is so important to check the percentage of any donation that goes to the actual cause. Legitimate charities usually list that percentage. When I didn’t find that in the materials or on line, I grew suspicious and checked your website.

    — Darlene Loiler    2010-11-29 15:05    #

  84. Thank you Kathleen. You’re my new hero. Too bad i only have two thumbs because you deserve more thumbs up than i can give you.

    — David Cooper    2010-12-01 18:09    #

  85. Thanks for your research – I wanted to do something to help autism – but I will not be sending these requests to my neighbors since reading your blog.

    — Brenda    2010-12-02 11:01    #

  86. Thanks, Kathleen. As the Executive Director for the largest and oldest autism services organization in Missouri, I am so disappointed to hear about this organization. In this economy, it has been hard enough to raise the money we need to run all of our programs. I had a new supporter e-mail me with “i have been getting a massive number of calls from 866-501-3683 which claims to be a autism charity using the common name of ‘wings of hope’. i went online to find that all sorts of people are being hassled by this group and many of those being hassled are striking out at autism charities, thinking this group is legit.” There is no real need for this organization or this type of fund raising. Thanks again for making people aware of this.

    Ron    2010-12-12 16:57    #

  87. I live in North Eastern PA. Got the call several weeks ago – and like the others who are commenting here, I too thought the “donation” would be mailed directly to the organization. So, when I received the packet, I put it aside until I could do some investigation. Well, our son was hospitalized and I forgot about the packet. I just found it and felt awful that I didn’t send to our neighbors. I was going to send them a donation to make up for what I didn’t do – BUT just thought I should do some quick research AND found you. As a mother of a physically and mentally challenged child, I appreciate the work you do. Thank you. I will continue to donate to organizations I know who actually provide the services they say.

    — Lynn    2010-12-15 13:03    #

  88. As a special educator who works with some students in the autism spectrum, I willingly said that I would collect for them, but never wrote down the name of whom was calling. When the packet came, I began going through the neighbor list and noticed it had names on it that were over eight years old, plus also included neighbors who don’t have home delivery. I read all that was sent and realized they really give no info about the organization—they were using my ‘pull’ that I might have within my neighborhood—in effect, using my good reputation to collect money for what? Thank heaven I looked this over before my neighbors saw through it and it reflected back on me! I will be placing all in the recycle bin.

    — Jeri    2010-12-15 21:37    #

  89. Thank you. I had just put my name on the return envelopes with postage added to it, when I thought let check this organization out, I must than you again for all your complete work in telling people about this ripoff charity, I will now run everything through my shredder.

    — Joe    2010-12-19 12:38    #

  90. I just received a fundraising letter from my neighbor and checked out this site to determine the legitimacy of this organization. Wow. Thinking about printing out the entire article for her and all of my neighbors.

    — Barbara    2010-12-24 20:49    #

  91. wow! I, too, accepted the responsibility of a packet. I had addressed my letters and was just about ready to pass them out when I got a gut feeling that I should double check. My grandson is autistic, so I thought I would be doing something to help. I am so glad I found this and I will throw away the packet.

    — Kathy    2010-12-31 17:04    #

  92. Thank you for your incredible investigative work. I, too, agreed to help and as I began addressing envelopes I got more and more uncomfortable and knew I needed more info on this organization. I found you on Google. Keep up the good work.

    — Liz    2011-01-07 15:45    #

  93. Thanks for your hard work. My husband got a donation call, and a followup letter. I was skeptical, since I had not heard of the organization, and ran across your blog—it was a good lesson for him and for my daughter, when I showed it to her!

    — Mindy    2011-01-15 20:20    #

  94. The scam continues with efforts in Florida. How do they know just whom to target? I have a grandson with autism. I felt like I could make this small effort to contact my neighbors. Now, I am really glad I put it off during the holidays and found this fantastic research you have done. Thank you so much. I will pass this information along to my daughter.

    — Karen    2011-01-23 14:16    #

  95. Infocision out of Akron,Ohio is the “outfit” making the calls for Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation. Here is the info for them :

    InfoCision Management Corporation
    325 Springside Drive
    Akron, Ohio 44333
    Phone: 330-668-1400

    E-mail us: infocis@infocision.com

    — John    2011-01-26 13:22    #

  96. I, too, agreed to send out letters to my neighbors but after reading the info that was to go out to them, there isn’t really helpful info such as telling them the signs to look for, etc., so I decided to check up on them. I will not be sending a donation or the letters. I am sorry to fail to comply but would rather give the money to a local school that has special autism classes. My American Legion Unit has donated several times in the past and I feel the money would be better spent by our local school. I am happy I checked on it before sending out the letters. If I get a call from them, I will explain my disappointment.

    — Dorothy    2011-02-06 21:31    #

  97. I sent the following message to InfoCision management (email addresses available on their website) and received a prompt and polite response from Steve Brubaker, Chief of Staff – InfoCision stating he would ensure my phone number is removed from their databases immediately.

    InfoCision Management Corporation
    325 Springside Drive
    Akron, Ohio 44333

    March 8, 2011

    To Whom it May Concern:

    I have received a growing number of phone calls from InfoCision Management Corporation soliciting donations on behalf of a variety of different charitable organizations.

    I would be most appreciative if you would ensure that my phone number (XXX-XXX-XXXX) is immediately removed from all InfoCision databases and calling lists. I do not intend to make contributions to any of the charities InfoCision represents nor do I intend to canvass neighbors on behalf of the charities InfoCision represents.

    Continuing to call my phone number (which is registered on the FTC’s Do Not Call registry) will therefore be a waste InfoCisions’s precious resources, and more importantly, will lead me to contact the New York State Attorney Generals’ office to request relief from these unwelcome third party solicitations.

    Your email response confirming removal of my phone number from all InfoCision databases and calling lists would be most appreciated. I am grateful for your assistance.

    Kind Regards,

    XXXX

    — Sara    2011-03-08 11:32    #

  98. To : Sara from 2011-03-08 11:32 ********************
    Besides Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation (ASDF), what other charities is Infocision making calls for?

    — John    2011-03-09 15:09    #

  99. John, go to the New York State Attorney General’s Pennies for Charity search website, plug in “Infocision,” and you’ll see the names of dozens of organizations that hire them to make their calls.

    Kathleen Seidel    2011-03-09 17:31    #

  100. Very nice piece of investigative work. Thank you for the heads-up.

    — Mike & Margie    2011-03-10 21:37    #

  101. I just started receiving their calls. Thanks very much for this.

    — Roman    2011-03-29 13:03    #

  102. Very helpful indeed. I received a phone solicitation for the “ Organize a neighborhood campaign” and told the woman to mail me information. I then proceeded to google the charity and found your weblog among others. This is a typical boiler room operation that uses telemarketing companies to solicit. Wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole.

    — Neil Gordon    2011-04-02 15:27    #

  103. Amazing! I can’t believe that two years later, these calls are still going out! I recently agreed to mail some letters but when the packet arrived, I naturally wanted to know more about the organization I was trying to help. Since it was not listed on Charity Navigator, I looked further & here I am.

    Thanks for saving me the stamps & for preventing my neighbors from wasting their money. I’m debating mailing the packet back or just recycling the paper…

    — Carla    2011-04-04 01:55    #

  104. My mother just received her “kit” from this organization to mail solicitations to her neighbors. Since my son—her grandson—has autism, she thought it would be a good thing to do. Thankfully she got second thoughts about it, questioning why this group was asking people in Pennsylvania to make donations to an organization in another state.

    Thanks for your thorough research on this. I’ve been involved with local autism non-profits for years, and this just smelled fishy. Any 501(c)(3) that can’t show you its 990s should be treated with great suspicion.

    — Jim McGuire    2011-04-05 14:06    #

  105. I just got a call from these bozos and asked to be put on their Do-Not-Call list. We’ll see if it works. Thanks for your excellent weblog!

    — Jim    2011-04-06 20:13    #

  106. They are still calling. I asked them to mail me information, but when I investigated them on the Internet, I discovered your very informative blog. Thank you! I’ll send my spare funds to an authentic autism charity.

    — Karin    2011-04-07 15:26    #

  107. This is all quite disturbing. We just got a call on Caller I.D. from an obvious telemarketer, at an 888 number. Looked it up online and see some postings identify the number as “Autism Foundation” and state that their calls “are being generated by InfoCision Management Corporation.”
    What’s disturbing is that just a few days ago we posted some remarks on a blog about AUTISM. Makes us wonder: Is AT&T now somehow monitoring what we post and selling the content and our contact info to telemarketers?! Time for closer scrutiny of AT&T, who are notorious for ripping off their customers’ money and privacy!
    America needs to actively restore its citizens’ privacy and expose privacy violators, whether it’s first, second or third parties that are the culprits.

    — Just Me    2011-04-09 17:09    #

  108. Got a call as well. Like other folks here, I always check first. First, at Charity Navigator, and then I look up their form 990s for where the money goes. If Charity Navigator cannot find them, is usually bodes ill. As I expanded my search, I came across this article, which appears to confirm my suspicions.

    — Dale    2011-04-10 13:14    #

  109. Received my umtenth call today, Sunday. They have been calling for over two weeks. I see the number on my caller ID missed calls. I guess I will have to break down and answer the next one in order to hopefully be removed from their list. Thanks Kathleen

    — Richard    2011-04-17 13:17    #

  110. WOW! The first call came when I was very busy, said o.k. and forgot all about it. The kit came yesterday and looked “off” somehow. Went on-line to check their percentages admin vs. grants. Am I glad I found you folks. My concerns were well founded. They have been calling several times a day for the past week and now I have my answers. It really makes me sick. Thank you for your superb research.

    — akb    2011-04-21 12:51    #

  111. Here is a link to a news video about Associated Community Services in Michigan.ACS still is/was doing fundraising for ASDF.They tried to interview the CEO and he refused. It explains the small percentage that charities get,and how much ACS gets.The majority of the so-called “charities” that ACS collects for, are under some type of investigation by state attorney generals. The video is done by WXYZ-TV.

    http://www.wxyz.com/dpp/news/local_news/investigations/company-pockets-majority-of-charitable-donations-to-cancer%2C-veterans%2C-children%27s-groups

    — John    2011-04-27 10:33    #

  112. I too was busy and said OK to do this. It sounded like the old fashioned going door to door I once did. But opening it today, I couldn’t see anything to reassure me they were real. I went online, checked BBB and wasn’t reassured, and then happily right under the two or three of ASDF reference sites, I found yours. Thanks so much for all your great work. I’m furious that they weren’t stopped by the Supreme Court. They will just adjust their pitch and continue to pull in tax free money from unsuspecting people. I also notice they say it’s all right to send cash (on the wings of hope site) if you want to. What a red flag that is! I’m in Georgia, so it looks like they’re nationwide now. By the way, I knew someone last year who worked for a Call Center in Ohio (they’re huge there) who said all the callers make $10 an hour. BBB that I checked, hasn’t done much about them for the last year because of no requests. I’ll put a new request to them about it. How about 60 Minutes? At least they’re national in scope. Thanks again for all your great work!

    Shar C    2011-04-30 18:45    #

  113. Super-objective evaluation—five stars! My neighbor is collecting in the neighborhood, but I was suspicious because I had never heard of ASDF, even though I have a son on the autism spectrum. After reading your blog, I checked on recent ASDF filings and not much has changed: only 32% of 2009 funds went to programming (2010 not yet available), and it still has not filed a current report with the BBB. There’s not enough information to suggest ASDF is a scam, but there are much more efficient and effective charities to which to donate.

    — BB    2011-05-27 19:04    #

  114. These parasites are now 2011 infesting Ohio.

    — Michael Briceland    2011-06-02 18:22    #

  115. Thank you for excellent sleuthing. I started to mention ASDF to friends, but something made me check. Too bad we can’t trust NGO advances any more unless we check them out.

    — Pru    2011-06-11 21:07    #

  116. I was just about to mail the donor letters, when I read your article. Upon further checking, the letters are now in the trash. Can’t wait for them to call for a progress check! Peace!

    — Mike Brown    2011-06-13 08:27    #

  117. Thank you, Kathleen. What incredibly detailed research! You confirmed my suspicions and addressed every question the telemarketer could not answer… and much, much more. I just called back the “no one is available to answer your call” toll-free number and told them to save the expense by not sending the packet.
    Hope more of us will follow the lead of Sara in response #97 to stop future calls from InfoCision telemarketing.

    — Bob    2011-07-27 10:42    #

  118. Just received my packet to send out to my neighbors. I’m very happy that I checked the organization out before I sent the letters out. Thank you for all your time and effort.

    — Mary Myers    2011-09-04 07:10    #

  119. Thank you love for what you do. I received the packet to send to neighbors just last week. I decided to research ASDF before doing anything. I found you and your research. Thanks again for enlightening me to this org.

    — Bill    2011-09-11 20:34    #

  120. Regarding the CPA’s “Lack of Independence”:

    When an accountant also happens to be the bookkeeper that puts the accounting records together (usually from the client’s bank statements and check stubs) they lose their independence because they are issuing an opinion on work that they themselves have generated.

    Many times, a small business owner is not in the position to afford a full time bookkeeper nor do they have the skills to compile their own financial records. For that, they just drop everything off at a CPA’s office. The CPA, in turn, maintains the company’s ledger and creates and posts the journal entries at their office. This work could only take a couple of hours a month.

    However, since the accountant was paid by the client to create the financial records, they cannot claim to be independent with regards to the financial statements issued based on those records.

    99% of the time, there is nothing nefarious about this at all. It’s standard operating procedure.

    — Mark    2011-09-20 10:46    #

  121. Thanks for the knowledgeable detail.

    Kathleen Seidel    2011-09-20 10:59    #

  122. A big thank you! I received a fundraising packette from one of my neighbors and was about to write a check but something told me to research this so called charity. I had never heard of it before and thanks to some of the states’ regulation to disclose its solicitor (InfoCision) in bold letters on the back of the card i started searching for it online and that’s when i came upon your blog. What is sad is that there are many good-hearted people pulling out their checkbooks and sending their hard earned money to an organization with no real support of the cause it claims to support. Thank you!

    — Jenk Aral    2011-10-15 16:29    #

  123. Just received my packet today. When the telemarketer asked me to collect money from my neighbors, I told him that I would research the organization before doing anything. Never heard of them, and the whole thing sounded very strange. Thank you for the research!

    — Angela Galardi    2011-10-17 23:27    #

  124. ASDF called me a few weeks ago and thanked me for volunteering for their organization. I immediately told them that I had not volunteered for anything, do not accept phone solicitations, and hung up. Today I received their fundraising packet in the mail. I was going to call them up and lay into them verbally, but now I think my time will be better spent contacting the Pa. State Attorney General’s Office. Thank you for exposing these con artists.

    — Bonnie    2011-11-03 00:40    #

  125. InfoCision Management Corporation just called and said that 95% went to the kids, 4% for expenses and 1% for something else. They shoot Walmart shoplifters, don’t they? White collar crime is beautiful thing.

    — David F    2012-03-09 17:55    #

  126. that “organization” has called my home, my office and my cell 7x’s a day every day for 6+ mnonths. They are taking up phone lines and are harassing my family my coworkers and me. By texting and calling my cell they are also costong me minutes and money.

    — Holly    2012-04-04 22:00    #

  127. I agreed to help them, mainly because I didn’t take the time to accurately write down the charity’s name. Thank you so much Ms. Seidel, for taking the trouble to uncover the truth. As a mother of a child on the spectrum, I personally know the pain and suffering a child and their family experience living with the disorder. To imagine this person randomly choosing a mental illness in order to conjure a lucrative charity, well, it is beyond sick. It’s an ironic insult to our families.

    — Angela    2012-04-12 15:23    #

  128. Thank you Kathleen for saving me the embarrassment of sending out the information of this bogas organization. I will invest my stamps and time in a local organization here in North Carolina Which has a wonderful site near my home.

    — George Alston    2012-04-13 18:07    #

  129. These piles of shit call me nonstop throughout the day, every day. I finally called them back and went though the automated process of having my number removed from their list. Supposedly they have 31 days to do so. We’ll see if it actually stops their relentless calling

    — Justin    2012-04-23 18:55    #

  130. Kathleen, To update you, these calls to help with solicitation have come to Michigan. I agreed to help but may go the other direction, thanks to your sleuthing. I intend to not only NOT ask my neighbors to participate but tell them what I have learned from you. Thank you. Incidentally, the confirmation card I received today came from a P.O. Box in Hagerstown, MD. I have yet to receive my “packet.”

    — Mary A. Grindol    2012-07-11 23:09    #

  131. Thank you for such great investigating. In a moment of weakness when called by this group I agreed to contact my neighbors. When the packet arrived I was suspicious. I googled ASDF and found the link to your blog. As one who has a great niece with autistic tendancies I wanted this group to be real. They are not. Thank you

    — Claudia    2012-09-10 21:21    #

  132. Thank you for your thorough research on ASDF. Like you I got the phone call and agreed to the mail campaign. Once I receive the materials and read it, something didn’t seem right, especially the lack of any financial information. Thanks for posting this. It confirmed my suspicions and saved me hours of research.

    Vance    2012-10-22 09:12    #

  133. Thank you so much for your informative research. Another “solicitation” firm that has promoted ASDF is Precision Performance Marketing from St. Louis, MO. There is a BBB article about 7 charities that use them and have horrible results (if horrible means little to the person supposed to receive help). The trifecta of waste including money, time, and landfill space for this awful scheme is deplorable. To think that owners or adminstrators of these charities and their closely aligned solicitors feel good driving to their country club writing off their greens fees, cart and membership dues as an expense for fund raising seems pretty certain with scammers like this. Surely there must be a way to shut it all down and revoke their personal assets to actually give them to someone that they said they would help. If it weren’t for people like Ms. Seidel, I would lose hope in humanity.

    — Pete    2012-11-15 00:59    #