Celebrity charities: How bad press affects donations

Cyclist Lance Armstrong, founder and chairman of Livestrong.

David Brancaccio: The U.S. agency that monitors prohibited drugs in sports has filed new doping charges against the most famous of American cyclists, Lance Armstrong. In a statement, Armstrong denies any doping whatsoever, saying he's never failed a drug test. Armstrong is also known for his charitable work through his foundation, Livestrong.

Sandra Miniutti follows philanthropy at CharityNavigator.org. Ms. Minuitti, good morning.

Sandra Miniutti: Good morning.

Brancaccio: So, we know what's going on with Lance Armstrong could affect cycling but what do you think about his charitable work, do you think it will have a connection?

Miniutti: I think it will, I think it could potentially be extremely damaging the contributions to his foundation. That said, he does have a lot of adoring fans so I think only time will tell if contributions dip after this latest allegation.

Brancaccio: It's not the first time that the central figure whose name is on the charity has run into trouble, there's probably a track record here.

Miniutti: There is a track record here and I think the charity has some experience dealing with this problem because it has come up in the past. I think they've tried to put their CEO more out in the front of the organization, but I think that there's still probably trouble sometimes in their offices and they're probably still scratching their heads trying to figure out what they're going to do from here.

Brancaccio: How should people really evaluate a philanthropy or a charity when they are thinking about donating. Part of it would be, perhaps, the reputation of the founder, but there are other tools.

Miniutti: There are other tools and I think this highlights the problem of donors giving simply because of a celebrity affiliated with the charity.  You need to take some time, check out the charity's financial performance, look into their accomplishments, really vet their mission. I think many times people support a charity thinking it does one thing and it actually does something else. So you really do need to invest those few minutes to find out what the charity's mission actually is before you support it.

Brancaccio: Sandra Miniutti, CharityNavigator.org, thank you very much.

Miniutti: Thank you.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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