Charity Case

After the big split, HCC goes for the glamorous giving

Rogers of HCC argued that the ratio of donations to charity is high -- but that claim is based on what's left over after the organization finishes paying for the gala stars, meals, facility and related expenses. He said 70 percent of what's left makes it to charitable causes. "We'd like to get it to 90 percent if we could," he said. "We are a relatively new charity, and we'd like to grow it."

But Lynda Gornitsky, a national authority on charities, said the big-expense organizations miss the mark, that the true test of quality is the ratio of revenue to charity. Gornitsky, of Boston College, teaches the only academic course on corporate philanthropy.

Houston Children's Charity doesn't come close to measuring up to benchmarks set by other highly successful nonprofits. "If someone came to me and asked if I would give to them, I would say no," Gornitsky says. "Fund-raising costs should be under 20 percent."

The Variety Club is "in the ballpark," but HCC's galas, like the latest featuring Bill Cosby, is excessive, Gornitsky says. "They probably didn't need to spend that much to raise that money."

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