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FOX 5 I-Team

Big, Annual Fundraisers But Where's the Money?

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For a few years now, big name sponsors like Coca-Cola and Georgia Pacific, as well as stars like Dionne Warwick, have donated time and money to a big, splashy, annual fundraising event. But, when you get past the lights and cameras, you're left to ask: Where is that money going?

Singer Dionne Warwick headlined this year's Diamond Awards -- the an annual fundraising event for "The Not Alone Foundation" - an Atlanta group that claims to raise money for people with kidney disease.

The event boasted this spring's event was "presented by...Coca-Cola..." The foundation's CEO Mark Dodd explains one of the things his group does.

"We're the only foundation, or well one of the very few, that raises money to help individuals get on the kidney transplant list."

Leading up to this year's fourth annual event, "The Not Alone Foundation" advertised itself as a "partner of Georgia Transplant Foundation," a well-respected, fundraising organization in the transplant community. Only, Georgia Transplant Foundation says it's not affiliated and ordered Dodd to remove any references on its Web site and "never again claim to be affiliated with GTF."

The I-Team decided to check out how much money "The Not Alone Foundation" takes in and how much goes out. We started with Guidestar. It's a clearinghouse for everything you might want to know about charities registered with the IRS. But "The Not Alone Foundation" is not listed here. But, Mr. Dodd says, not to worry, they're working on it.

"It's a lot of paperwork," he assured us.

"The Not Alone Foundation" is also not registered as a charity with the state of Georgia. In an email, Mr. Dodd writes that "he started the process." But, a spokesman with the secretary of state's office says their office can't find evidence of him ever applying.

The I-Team asked Mr. Dodd if we could see names of people the foundation has helped. He said yes but wanted to clarify a few things.

"Let me help you, the first three years, and this is where I get very offended from people like you. First, we said we are grassroots. That means we didn't get started from a grant. We didn't get started with seed money. We didn't start with a loan. We started with a vision."

He promised to open up the group's books to us, but this is all we got - an email that says for the last two years "The Not Alone Foundation" raised "roughly 30k-35k" each year. But he won't tell us who has been helped "out of respect for their privacy."

The I-Team asked The Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta - experts who've been in business since the 1950s connecting charities with donors - how normal or unusual this is that a charity is not registered as a charity with the secretary of state's office or the IRS.

"That would definitely be a concern. You'd really have to figure out what was the rationale behind that," said Alicia Philipp president of The Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta.

We talked to both sponsors, Coca-Cola and Georgia Pacific, about what we uncovered. They both said they're surprised to hear that "The Not Alone Foundation" is not a registered charity.

"I mean in terms of, when you say raised money, not for the program. That, it, it was not our, it was not our goal, we knew we could not give our grants out first to three, three to four, two to three years. It was program. It was pragmatic," added Mark Dodd.

The foundation's CEO says he also has chronic kidney disease and can't work, but he does not take a salary from running the organization.

There are many great charities out there. And if you want to donate to one, there are so many ways to check them out. First, Guidestar has lots of information from hardworking charities about what money comes in, what goes out.

And locally, The Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta has what it calls a "Checklist for Giving." It's a checklist for you to use with questions to ask a charity if you are thinking about donating money.

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