2 minute read

Is That Nonprofit for Real? Ways to Spot Nonprofit Frauds


You might have heard the shocking story about the “nonprofit” that raised a lot of money to “help” disabled veteran Richard Osthoff provide surgical veterinary care for his beloved dog Sapphire. 

Turns out the “nonprofit” was not a 501(c)(3) non-profit and the people who set up the GoFundMe page took the money to use for other purposes. 

Truly heartbreaking.

Who Suffers from Fraudsters?

Many people suffer when this kind of charity fraud happens. Even organizations suffer.

Richard Osthoff, a disabled veteran, suffered.

Sapphire saved him several times when he had suicidal thoughts. He wanted to help her. 

Their veterinarian offered to do the surgery to remove a large lump for $3,000, which sounds reasonable to me given the quality and expertise of care that can be provided these days. 

He did his best to get the money for the surgery and that “non-profit” took advantage of his story for their own purposes. 

Unfortunately for Richard, Sapphire was euthanized for humane reasons before he could get the funds raised.

Sapphire, Richard’s service dog, suffered.

With a large tumor on her left side, I imagine it was uncomfortable for her to lie down. And maybe she had other health problems that weren’t mentioned.

Thankfully, when Sapphire was in too much pain, euthanasia was performed to stop her suffering from lasting any longer.

Like Richard, one of our One Health Family Members, Robert is a veteran. He was in need of financial support to care for his service dog, Shadow. With the help of One Health Organization, Shadow and Robert received the help they needed. You can read the full story with a happy ending here.

Donors suffered.

People who make donations in response to a great story, feel ripped off if their funds aren’t used the way that they intended. This can lead to a general distrust of all non-profits.

Real non-profits suffer.

If a donor has one bad experience with an organization that took their hard-earned money, they may stop donating to any legitimate non-profit. 

Then all real non-profits suffer because donations decline and they can risk closing their doors if they don’t have the funds they need to meet their mission.

The cause suffers.

Whether the cause is to help people, animals, or the environment, if the money doesn’t go to a real non-profit, then people, animals, or the environment suffer. 

How to Tell if It’s Actually a Non-Profit

There are some people out there who are really good at convincing caring and generous people to feel sympathy for a cause and use the money raised for their own purposes. 

And while it may be tempting to trust someone you know to tell you about a non-profit, sometimes these trustworthy people can be fooled and pass along information about a great idea for a nonprofit that is actually ripping everyone off. 

To determine if an organization is a charitable, IRS-approved 501(c)(3) non-profit, you need to do just a tiny bit of research.

My go-to place to check is the website GuideStar. Be mindful that while these organizations are all registered nonprofits, not all of them have a charitable purpose. Some are social organizations which are designated 501(c)(4) or business associations, which are designated 501(c)(6). Gifts to these organizations are not tax-deductible for donors.

To find a charity that does offer tax deductions, look for those organizations that are designated as a 501(c)(3) AND

  • Is a public charity, where donations go to help a cause, like One Health Organization
  • Is a private foundation that operates its own programs, which are funded by a wealthy family, a small group of people, or a business.

One Health Organization is a designated 501(c)(3) public non-profit and has been serving the community with trustworthy services since 2008. If you would like to support access to information and veterinary care for hundreds to thousands of dogs and cats belonging to low-income people in Northeast Ohio make a secure donation to One Health Organization today.

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