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Opening comments:  More at the end.

More evidence of MADD acting inappropriately.

Toronto Star - Dec. 10, 2006 - Kevin Donovan, Staff reporter.

MADD rejects 'disgruntled' critics

Charity's CEO dismisses volunteers' complaints that so little of donations go to programs

Liquor board CEO Philip Olsson, left, Public Infrastructure Minister David Caplan and
MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie tie a MADD red ribbon on a car
in an anti-drunk driving promotion last month.  CCN PHOTO

MADD Canada's top official has called a group of relatives of drunk driving victims who complained about his charity "disgruntled" and lashed out at the Star for exposing its high fundraising and administrative costs.

"The Star's investigation smacks of `gotcha' journalism," chief executive officer Andrew Murie said in a statement released yesterday. "It is unfair and obviously very hurtful to the many thousands of volunteers who put their heart and soul into the organization."

A story published in the Saturday Star revealed that Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada has such high costs that only about 19 cents of every dollar goes to victim services and the fight against drunk driving.

In addition to a detailed analysis of MADD's financial records, the story was based on interviews with leading volunteers of MADD who all work with the charity because they lost a loved one to a drunk driver.

The volunteers believe in the counselling and public awareness work of their local chapters but agreed to speak out against the charity's administration to force a change and restore confidence in what was once a low-cost, grassroots charity.

In his news release, Murie dismissed their complaints and said they are "obviously disgruntled with the organization."

Murie's release (he has refused for the past month to be interviewed in person by the Star) pointed out numerous initiatives his charity has carried out, including its annual Project Red Ribbon campaign which distributes ribbons to drivers, and an involvement in the federal government's plan to bring in impaired driving legislation that targets drugged drivers.

Yesterday, more than 100 MADD donors contacted the Star to say they had been suspicious of MADD's fundraising practices due to the high volume of telemarketing calls and other fundraising contacts they receive, sometimes monthly. MADD has numerous paid fundraising campaigns, using paid telemarketers, a company that sends people knocking on doors, a direct mail company and a company that distributes chocolate mint boxes around the province.

"I am absolutely furious at reading what MADD is doing with donors' dollars," said Joyce Williamson, 77, a widow who has made frequent $25 donations to MADD for many years.

When she learned from the Star article that so little of her cheque was going to charitable works, she decided not to give to MADD again.

She said MADD's paid door and phone canvassers used "emotional blackmail" by pressing her on the phone or at the door with numerous stories of drunk driving fatalities. The Star's story revealed that telemarketers work off a script that encourages them to press prospective donors three successive times after the person has said "no."

Williamson said she and her late husband "worked hard all of our lives" and she is happy to give to charity, but she expects the money to go to charitable works.

The Star's investigation found the paid fundraisers take most of the money, and send the remainder to head office.

However, MADD's local chapters do volunteer fundraising and money sent directly to a chapter is not subject to these high costs.

MADD founder John Bates, who is at odds with CEO Murie, and other long-time volunteers said if people want to donate to MADD they would do well to send the money to local chapters found in many cities and towns.

The Star's story revealed that MADD has been claiming for years that 83.6 per cent of donor dollars is spent on its programs. They claim this by including the high payments to professional fundraisers as charitable works on the theory they educate the public on the dangers of drunk driving when they ask for cash.

Yesterday, Murie continued to stand by this claim, despite a warning from the federal charity regulator in 2003 not to call fundraising expenses charity. This week, Canada's top charity official (speaking about the issue but not MADD specifically) spoke out against the practice, saying fundraising is a way to earn charity money but it is not charity.

Murie has told the Star many other charities count fundraising expenses as charity and yesterday in his release said it is one of the "acceptable principles" of charity accounting in Canada.

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