Manitoba Burn Fund critical of fundraising middleman on funeral home websites
My Tribute Gift Foundation takes 8% cut on every donation transaction, says Martin Johnson
The chairperson of the Manitoba Firefighters Burn Fund is warning donors not to use the online donation page on funeral home websites, but make donations directly to their organization instead through cheques or by phone.
A number of Winnipeg funeral homes, including Cropo Funeral Chapel and Neil Bardal Funeral Centre, use a third-party service called My Tribute Gift Foundation to facilitate online donations to registered charities.
But Burn Fund chairperson Martin Johnson says My Tribute Gift Foundation, a registered charity itself with Canada Revenue Agency, takes an eight per cent cut on every transaction and does not make that clear to donors.
Last year, the foundation facilitated transactions amounting to $2,377,228 in online donations to charities. It spent $240,506 on "management and administration," although the charity reports having no employees.
My Tribute Gift Foundation did not return CBC News' calls for comment.
Burn Fund says it wasn't asked for permission
Johnson says he was never told by My Tribute Gift Foundation that it would be fundraising on the charity's behalf. He was alerted to the foundation's activities in early April by the widow of a retired firefighter.
She told Johnson that friends were upset they had not been acknowledged for donations they had made in her husband's name to the Burn Fund.
But in the case of this widow, Johnson had no idea who was making the donations in her husband's name. He said he soon learned he had to log onto the My Tribute Gift website to get a list of donors so he could finally tell the widow who to thank.
Johnson said he's "disappointed" and he's worried that mourners in Winnipeg are likely not aware when they use funeral chapel online donation pages that part of their contribution is going to My Tribute Gift Foundation.
Nearly 100% of direct donations go to programs: Johnson
According to the foundation, this cut covers a five per cent for handling fees and three per cent for card processing fees.
Johnson said credit card companies normally charge around two per cent per transaction.
"We a volunteer organization, we [the Burn Fund] don't have any salaries, we don't pay rent for overhead. One hundred per cent of that donation, minus the service charge, goes directly into the things we support," he said.
The funeral centre said if the online donation function becomes an issue for clients or the community, it will contact Frontrunner and potentially remove My Tribute Gift from its website.
Listen to Marcy Markusa's interview with Martin Johnson on Information Radio on Thursday morning at 6:10 a.m. on CBC Radio One, 89.3 FM in Winnipeg.