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Long Island-based foundation ranks second in list of lowest rated charities

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LONG ISLAND (PIX11) -- Americans donate more than twice as much to charity as any other country. 40 percent of all charitable giving takes place between November and December.

So we reached out to Charity Navigator, the largest charity rating service in the country. It is based in Glenrock, New Jersey. Charity Navigator puts out a year list of the consistently lowest rated charities.

Number two on the list is the Firefighter’s Charitable Foundation, based in Farmindale, Long Island. Charity Navigator’s C.E.O. Ken Berger says “They will contract with a telemarketing firm and that firm will get as much as 80 to 90 cents on the dollar of what people are donating.”

Unbelievably, the President of the Firefighter’s Charitable Foundation, Frank Tepedino, a former major league baseball player, admitted to me that donors should beware of giving to his charity. “You know, it’s not a good way of people giving their money.”

He says the charity is engaged in a number of program services. “We give away to volunteer firehouses, individuals that have a fire, a child that needs help with an operation.“ It sounds good, but of the $7,600,000 donated to the charity in 2012, only $534,000 went to program services, while $6,600,000 went to pay professional telemarketing companies.

I asked Tepedino, “Do you think the average person that’s solicited knows that 90 cents of the dollar doesn’t go to the charity?”

He answered, “No, it would be impossible.”. He claims he has no choice when it comes to the cost of raising money, insisting the telemarketing companies have a fixed rate. “We try and get a better percentage and they say no we can’t do it.”

But Charity Navigator says there are many other ways to raise money. The four-star rated New York City Police Foundation spends only 4.2% on fundraising, and the FDNY Foundation’s fundraising percentage is just 4.9%.

I asked Tepedino, “They only spent less than 5% on fundraising. How do they do it and you spend 90%? He said “I’ll tell you what we’ll do, what I will do. I will get in touch with them and I will find out how they can generate so much money to them.”

Tepedino is paid $98,000 as President, his wife Lori makes $4,500 as Secretary/Treasurer. “Isn’t that strange to have your wife be the treasurer of the charity you’re the president of?” I asked him. He said “As far as a conflict of money, she doesn’t handle money.” “She’s the treasurer”, I said. “No we have accountants that handle the money,” he replied.

What about the $70,000 loan the charity gave to John Tepedino, Frank’s son? He said “I did not get involved with that. That was done through the Board of Directors and through lawyers.” I said “Nobody else got a loan except your son”. He replied “No one else ever asked for a loan.”

Frank Tepedino has been President of the Firefighter’s Charitable Foundation for the past seven years. He says it is time for his charity to make changes. “It’s up to me to find a better way to raise money, the highest percentage to give it away.”

But until he does, he says donors should look for better ways to give. “Get in your car and take a walk to your nearest firehouse or police station, write them a check and give them 100% of your money.. I would rather see 100% of that money go that way and for you to send it to us and we have to go through a professional fundraiser.”

If you’d like to check out Charity Navigator and see their ratings of almost 8,000 major charities, go to www.charitynavigator.org

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