Northeast Bakersfield

Questions leveled about group seeking donations

Questions leveled about group seeking donations

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) -- One local organization is leveling accusations against a new group that's just started soliciting for donations. "Ray's Life Ministries" set up outside several local stores this week. The organization "Nu Creations" has put out similar solicitors for several years, and they raised questions to city officials about the new group.

Eyewitness News spotted "Ray's Life Ministries" outside a store at Mt. Vernon Avenue and Columbus on Tuesday. The man at the small table had a bright yellow box for collections. He questioned why the news photographer was there, yelled a profanity and then called someone with the organization. The photographer said that man then threatened him.

At the nearby Target store, another man had a yellow box out front. When the Eyewitness News photographer arrived, the man asked if he was being filmed and then called his boss, who arrived at the store. Ray Grable aggressively approached the photographer and told him to put down the camera. They talked and Grable gave him a phone number.

A spokesman for Nu Creations said Ray's Ministries did not have non-profit status, but they'd tried to get a non-profit business license from the City of Bakersfield.

A spokeswoman in the city treasurer's office told Eyewitness News they'd been given some documents by Ray's Ministries, but after being contacted by Nu Creations, clerks looked over the materials and decided they couldn't verify they were legitimate. Instead of a non-profit business license, Ray's Ministries was issued a "miscellaneous" business license.

On Wednesday, Eyewitness News was informed Ray's Ministries solicitors were outside the Target store again. A woman who identified herself as Lilly approached a reporter and insisted the group had a non-profit license and pulled out some paperwork. That was an application for a city business license, not an actual license.

The woman then called her boss, and turned the phone over to the reporter. Ray Grable said he's just started collecting donations this week, and the group is "in the process of getting non-profit status."

"Working to get your non-profit status and having your non-profit status is two different things," Damone Daniel said. He identified himself as the treasurer and program director for Nu Creations Outreach. That group has been out in front of stores with bright orange boxes for about three years.

Eyewitness News got questions about Nu Creations starting in 2009. Viewers complained about aggressive solicitors, others questioned where funds were being used, and some former Nu Creations workers complained about how they were being paid. Some told Eyewitness News they got up to half the funds collected in the boxes.

Both organizations said Ray Grable used to work for Nu Creations, and has now set up this separate group.

As for the new group collecting funds before they have official non-profit status, Bakersfield Homeless Shelter spokeswoman Carolann Wooton said in situations like that, "the best practice is, if you're collecting funding -- it should be running through another registered 501c3."

For donors to check the validity of any group, Wooten suggests the organization "Guidestar." She said they're the industry standard for non-profits, and sort of a watchdog for charities.

By logging on to the Guidestar website, anyone can check an organization's name and see if it's registered with the IRS as a non-profit, see the group's financial data, whether they've filed their IRS tax forms, and a statement about the organization's mission.

Wooten said potential donors can also ask for a group's IRS "letter of determination." A United Way spokeswoman also suggested donors can check the charities section of the California Attorney General's website.

On Guidestar, "Nu Creations Outreach" is listed as a registered non-profit with the IRS, and the IRS 990 tax forms for 2010 are available. The site says no mission statement or impact statement were filed for the organization.

Nu Creations' Damone Daniel told Eyewitness news the group raises funds for a food pantry and and youth center.

Ray's Life Ministries would be too new to show up on that a website like Guidestar, but founder Ray Grable said he's raising money to start up programs, and he wants to partner with a food bank. He said everything will be in order soon. "Check back in two months," Grable said.

As for donors checking before they give to any organization, Wooten has some advice. "It is our job when we give money, to do our due diligence," she said. "Know what you're giving the money to. And if you're unsure -- don't give it."