The most obscene “guilt mailing” I’ve ever seen

By | October 16, 2009


You’ve all gotten them, right?  An envelope, or sometimes even a box, from some alleged charity you’ve never heard of before.  You open it up and discover personalized mailing labels, greeting cards, a notepad, a tree ornament, a cheap electronic doodad, a coin, or whatever, along with a plea to send a donation.

The strategy the charity is employing is twofold: some confused old people and idiots will think they’re required to send a donation in exchange for the junk, and some others will feel compelled to send a donation because they would otherwise feel guilty about accepting something for nothing from a charity.

I call these “guilt mailings.”

(Interestingly, the UK’s Institute of Fundraising says they’re a no-no (page 8): “Fundraising organisations OUGHT to be able to demonstrate that the purpose of the enclosure was to enhance the message and/or the emotional engagement in the cause and not to generate a donation primarily because of financial guilt or to cause embarrassment.”)

I know what the senders of these mailings are trying to do, and I know it’s slimy, so I’m completely immune to their efforts to generate guilt.  Not only that, but rather than prompting me to donate, guilt mailings tend to have the opposite effect — I tend to put any charity which uses them onto my “do not donate” list for good.  If the freebie is useful, I go ahead and use it without any qualms at all.  I’m heartless about it… when they send reply envelopes with stamps on them, I cut off the stamps and use them to send my own letters, just on principle.

I thought by now I’d seen it all, but I received in the mail today the guilt mailing to beat all guilt mailings, from St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota:

(click for larger image)

(click for larger image)

What have we got here?  Taking it from the top:

  1. The envelope in which everything was packaged.
  2. A big card with a pretty picture and “Special Holiday Gifts for YOU from the Lakota children!” printed on it, with a ribbon, two bows, and a retractable ball-point pen taped to it.
  3. Twenty-four personalized address labels and six gift stickers, with “What shall I bring to the Lord, the God of heaven, when I come to worship him? – Micah 6:6” on the back of them.  Oh, I don’t know, how about a retractable ball-point pen and some personalized address labels?
  4. The pitch letter about the poor Lakota Indian children (one of them with the fictional name “Emily Fire Cloud”; oh, it’s just too trite for words!) that St. Joseph’s wants you to help them missionize.
  5. Notepad (not personalized; cheapskates!) with the same bible quote on the back of it.
  6. The first of eight rather fancy Christmas cards with envelopes.
  7. Reply card and return envelope.
  8. More cards and envelopes, and finally, a piece of wrapping paper.

Imagine my surprise (not!) that the American Institute of Philanthropy has not issued a rating to this charity.  They are a religious organization and therefore exempt from reporting laws, and they declined the AIP’s requests for information that would enable them to issue a rating.  The BBB Wise Giving Alliance says that St. Joseph’s fails to meet three of the 20 standards they use to rate charities.  And if you donate to St. Joseph’s, they’ll sell your personal information to make more money off of you.  And let’s not forget about those messy allegations of abuse at the school.

Here’s my personal rating for St. Joseph’s: a big, fat, F.

UPDATE: The only sign of any organization other than St. Joseph’s on any of the materials enclosed in the mailing is this tiny logo on the back of the greeting cards, enlarged here for readability:


Googling for “reproducta” takes you to, and the “For Fundraising” box on Reproducta’s home page takes you to  Judging from the content on the latter site, this mailing was probably produced by Quadriga Art, Inc.

UPDATE [April 5, 2011]: It turns out that Quadriga Art, Inc. does not exactly have a stellar record. According to the American Institute of Philanthropy, at least two different charities for which Quadriga did fundraising, Disabled Veterans National Foundation and SPCA International, paid Quadriga so much for its services that they ended up in major debt to Quadriga, i.e., Quadriga charged them significantly more than they raised, to the tune of millions of dollars. Furthermore, at least one and perhaps both of these charities had contracts with Quadriga which required that their debt to Quadriga be paid off before they could use a single cent of donations for the services their charities were actually supposed to be providing. By utilizing Quadriga’s services, St. Joseph’s has affiliated itself with a fundraising company which thinks nothing of ripping off charities, and puts itself in the company of charities which are at best mismanaged and at worst fraudulent.

UPDATE [December 4, 2011]: Check out the dream-catchers (remarked upon by several people in comments below) that are currently being included in the guilt mailings from St. Joseph’s (click for a full-size image):

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393 thoughts on “The most obscene “guilt mailing” I’ve ever seen

  1. Kathy

    I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on the horrors that have happened at residential Indian schools over the past century, including St. Joseph’s. These schools were used to “Kill the Indian to save the man” and were government mandated. Native American children were kidnapped from their homes on reservations or parents were deprived of food and jailed if they wouldn’t let their children be taken. The children were often raped, murdered, tortured, humiliated, imprisoned in solitary confinement, punished for speaking their own language, forced to forget and hate their own culture… Forty to sixty percent of children ended up in mass graves. Most of the abuses were done by the Catholic Church (70%) and other “religious” groups who used these schools to practice pedophilia and not be held accountable because, even today, Native Americans have very little rights. Canada’s government has at least apologized, but the U.S. government and Roman Catholic Church have yet to say one word to the thousands of survivors from this reign of terror against native peoples. Many law suits have been filed, some monies have been given out, but mostly it’s being shushed up and covered up.

    I wouldn’t care if St. Joseph’s has cleaned up its act and was all sparkly now… Out of principal, I would never donate to this “charity”… It is like raping and abusing these innocent children and families all over again. Please think twice before defending ANY Indian school. Give your money directly to Native Americans if you really want to help. And tell them you’re sorry for what the white people have done to them for so many years. I’m 50 years old and am only now learning about this terrible injustice of residential schools. I am sorry for what Native Americans have endured and only hope they can find it in their hearts to forgive such atrocities….

  2. Dickn52

    I went further in 2010 and checked student enrollment for the year. NO Indians in the school. NONE.

    1. Linda

      What do you mean “no Indians in the school?” St Joseph’s has a website with pictures of the children. Can you explain? Thanks.

      1. chuck

        I just was there and can tell you that there are native kids there. I meet at less 3o of them

    2. Kieran

      Maybe Dickn52 was referring to Indians, that is, people from India, not Native Americans (sometimes called Indian because Columbus was confused about where he landed).

      1. Warren

        That’s likely true, but it’s a bit confusing, considering the name of the school is St. Joseph Indian School, not St, Joseph Native American School….

  3. heteromeles

    I’m also a little disgusted that you have to buy your way off the DMA list. I guess something as simple as a letter saying, “take me off your mailing list,” is no longer sufficient.

    The sad thing is that I sent them money once, years ago, and they’ve already burned through my entire donation and then some sending unwanted junk my way. While I have nothing against the school or the kids (or the tribe, for that matter), I hate seeing charity wasted that way.

  4. Beware!

    Anyone intending a donation to this entity should be strongly advised they make absolutely NO effort to seek out or even consider the most efficient means of disbursing the monies they receive!
    They are currently in the process of erecting an addition to the Museum and Cultural Center and my repeated attempts to demonstrate the significant cost savings available relative to this project have been flatly denied.
    This results in an incredible disservice to the benefactors who donate under the assumption their grants are to be utilized in the most advantageous manner possible. One can only imagine the alternative worthy purposes the capital not squandered, could be put to use for.
    How ironic that an organization constantly soliciting charitable funding would emphatically, have no interest in determining the wisest means of procuring resources. I would strongly urge anyone contemplating a gift to these individuals, seriously reconsider in favor of a reputable cause.

  5. MK

    I received a gift package today. It includes address labels, note pads, shiny stickers, Dream catcher (made in China), and a letter to plea donation. Since I made a small donation to NWF(National wildlife federation), I have been receiving numerous socilitations by male. It is obvious that NWF sold my name. Anyway, as usual, i did my research and arrived several good sites including this one. BBB rates this charily poorly. That alone convinced me not to even consicer this as a charity. And reading all the comments as well as the initial article made my conviction stronger. There are a lot of good, honest charities. They don’t allure donation with flashy junk gifts.
    If you get junk gifts package, that is a telltale sign of non-trustwortyness.

    1. Lucy

      I got the Dream Catcher also, and “Made in China” did it for me. There are plenty of serious charities helping Native Americans; we don’t need to be buying doo-dads from China to help them.

  6. Kara

    I got one of their guilt mailings with various ‘gifts’ and replied with the letter below …. then they sent me yet another copy of the original package a few months later.

    I am fairly confident they got my details because I have a membership at the Museum of the American Indian. Not that I begrudge the Smithsonian selling their mailing lists, they need to keep up their funding when hit by budget cuts. By being on that list I made the cut of being sympathetic to native issues. By being in a zip near an extremely affluent area statistically I would not know much about boarding schools and could be easily guilt tripped. Well, they goofed. Anyway, here is the letter I sent, the closing is supposed to be ‘you are standing in the way!’ in Lakota but I think I got the spelling wrong:

    Please remove my name off of your mailing list. While you may be tempted to discard this letter since there is no cheque in the envelope I would appreciate it if you would pass it to superior (or Fr. Huffstetter). Either way though, the ethical dilemma you chose to dump on me is now gone by writing this to you.

    To say I do not agree with how you are doing things would be an understatement! True, we both want to help but there our paths differ. Your organisation’s mindset wants to continue the problem of how the reservations are (and actually make them worse). Meanwhile myself and many others want to make things better there. As a stark example — just before getting your mailer I had returned from sending some needed things to a rez whose shipping cost alone was many times more than the total worth of the blundering ethical debt you chose to send me … and I am already thinking ahead to what to send there next.

    I am sure you are aware of the issues people have with missionary boarding schools and have arguments against them, so I will not waste the time of either of us debating them. Instead I will focus on one, splitting children away from their families and people. The cultural and linguistic damage you are causing by doing so is staggering. You even underscore that you are separating children and that you are giving up on their homes with the following line from your letter: “(the children) come here to escape homes and families shattered under the daily pressures of poverty and despair on the reservations.”

    Yet, we do not have to look too far to see a parallel situation. My spouse is Deaf so I know some of the history there. In the 1960s oral deaf schools were doing an analogous thing — breaking children apart from the rest of their culture and trying to cause them to be part of the mainstream. Adults today that went through such schools are either isolated from Deaf (note the capitalisation) culture or they despise what happened to them (and sometimes both). Deaf schools today are where that culture flourishes though — the schools saw that embracing what was there rather than trying to remove it from the children was what was needed and in the best interests of the population they wanted to help.

    Now as to the ‘gifts’ you chose to send me, which I never asked for. Let’s be honest, the only one worth worrying about is the dreamcatcher. By placing an indebtedness on it you do realise you pretty much destroyed it, right? It is now positively dripping in negative energy. As a result I had insomnia most of last night and will have to leave work early today — gee, thanks for that. I will perform a cleansing ritual on it. When that is totally successful I will charge it with positive energy and my plan is to then send it (with none of your materials obviously) in another batch of supplies.

    Kuseya nayajin!

    1. Patricia Dickerson Lemon

      I’m s Cherokee who is VERY indignant about what the churches of all stripes, but especially the Catholics, have done to us, but I would like to make a small donation (all I can afford) to a Lakota group that does something worthwhile. Can you suggest one?

      1. jik Post author

        I don’t know about Lakota groups in particular, but CharityWatch gives the American Indian College Fund an A- rating, and both the Association of American Indian Affairs and Futures for Children get B+ ratings.

  7. Roger Nehring

    One last thing, those allegations of abuse while appalling are from thirty years ago.

  8. Roger Nehring

    St joseph’s Indian School provides housing, food, medical care, education, recreation, clothing, fulltime counseling services, transportation, family education programs, collage scholarships, travel opportunities and more for two hundred Native American children from 1st through 12th grade.
    The housing isn’t just adequate, it is excellent and being improved regularly. The medical care is provided by two full-time RN’s and a doctor who has daily hours on campus. The food is first rate and all homes are required to log meals to ensure balance and complete nutrition, including as much fresh fruits and vegetables as the children will eat. Breakfast and dinner are prepared in the homes by houseparents and they eat as a family. Lunches are served in the campus cafeteria and HS students eat lunch at the HS.

    The teachers and administration are deeply dedicated, the class sizes are small, there is much individual assistance provided and there are daily, supervised study and reading times in every home. The school has an enrolled Lakota woman as a full-time culture teacher. All text books are new and the school, overlooking the Missouri River/Francis case Lake is beautiful, clean and always in good repair.
    The homes are staffed by married couples as much as possible to provide a home-like atmosphere. The children and staff are protected by security cameras and lots of top notch training for staff. The counseling staff consists of six full-time professionals as well as a substance abuse counselor. Some of the housing staff are also licensed, professional counselors. The students come only by application and only from homes with significant issues, such as poverty, substance abuse, parents in prison and so on. The school will not accept children from functional two-parent homes although many such families do apply because of the quality of the care and education provided. Guardians may remove children at any time, the students are not prisoners by any means. No student is expelled for infractions unless they are a danger to other students or demonstrate through repeated offenses and refusal of treatment that they have no will to improve. Visitors approved by the guardians may visit the students any day and may check students out for weekends. The school encourages parental and family visitation by providing gas vouchers and housing on campus for visits. Students also benefit from a mentor program organized by St Joe’s.
    The school has a full gym,indoor swimming pool, game room and weight/exercise room in a recreation building for student sports and recreation. They employ three full-time recreation coordinators. It also has a gym in the campus school and a complete athletic program including track, football, and basketball for grade school students. The children compete against teams around South Dakota.
    Two high school students go to Gernmany for a cultural exchange program every summer for two weeks. They study German for several weeks(unfortunately not a language offered by Chamberlain HS), and German students come to St Joseph’s every year. High school students are given a weekly allowance and grade bonus awards every week. Half of this is saved for them and the total is given to the student upon graduation from high school. Each student who attends St Joe’s during HS graduation and goes to college receives a scholarship regardless of how many years they attended St Joe’s. Former students who graduate elsewhere can also apply for college funds.
    All athletic fees, activity fees and costs for uniforms, shoes or other equipment needs are paid for by ST joe’s. Students are transported to activities whenever needed and students who have driver’s licenses are provided with cars and a gas allowance.
    The school provides housing during vacation breaks for students who must stay in town for athletics or activities or for those kids who have no safe or adequate home to return to. St Joe’s provides summer camp for kids who stay and for the two closest reservations, Lower Brule and Crow Creek. They transport, feed provide medical care for and full day activities for hundreds of kids. None of these activities is aimed at proselytizing. The school also operates a book mobile for both reservations, providing books for any children on the reservations who want them. The Society that operates St Joeseph’s also runs a women’s shelter for domestic violence survivors on the Standing Rock reservation. No cute fund raising materials from them, eh?
    All students attend mass and religious instruction, but only Catholic students receive Catholic religious instruction. The school does not proselytize to Catholicism. If you have ever had to attend a Catholic mass every week, you would know that is the anti-proselytizer for kids.
    The staff at St Joe’s, two hundred people, are devoted to providing the best for the students who come to St Joeseph’s.
    And what is wrong with the name Fire Cloud? Why is that trite or fictional? It is an actual name along with many other exotic sounding (to wasicu ears) names. Would Pretty Sounding Flute, Yellow hair, Dusty Bull, Whirlwind Charging Warrior, Comes Flying or Bad Heart sound more or less ‘authentic to you? These are all local names.
    Anger over salaries is petty and foolish. Check the corporate competition’s salaries and grow up. No kid is denied ANYTHING because of the czaczkis St Joe’s sends donors or because of salarie paid. And the cards-they are designs from student art projects, so take your bitterness and hatred and tell me what YOU have done for Lakota children recently. I am on Facebook if anyone wants to respond to me directly.

    1. jik Post author

      All of that is wonderful, but it has no relevance to my complaints against the school.

      1. Renee

        All that sounds great. Now if only the children werent stolen from their homes and forced into the school so that the school can get tons of money, then it would be even better

  9. Jennifer

    Just ran across this posting while I was looking for an update on whether St. Joseph’s has improved its financial practices. In March, I sent the following questions to the school and received the responses inline. This addressed some but not all of my concerns, and I thought I’d make the details available here for those who are interested.

    (1) What activities and expenses are included in “promotion of Lakota cultural heritage”? How does that money “go directly to the Lakota children and families”?

    “We promote the Lakota culture and heritage primarily through the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center on our Chamberlain campus. The annual American Indian Day Powwow and weekend celebrations are additional parts of our cultural promotion. Educational materials used in mailings to people around the country are also classified as promotion of culture.

    The money invested in these promotional activities goes directly to the children and their families because all of these investments bring attention to them as people and to their needs, thus increasing the funds we are able to raise for the programs these families rely on us for.

    In addition, using education to break down social barriers and stereotypes is key to the future success of our students.”

    (2) What activities and expenses are included in the apostolate of prayer programs? How does that money “go directly to the Lakota children and families” in any tangible form?

    “We believe that every person has a spirit, regardless of whether they choose to be Christian, practice traditional Lakota spirituality or something else entirely.

    Our apostolate of prayer programs build a community of prayer between our students, staff and supporters through prayer cards, enrollments and other spiritual activities at the school. The money goes directly to the students as we work to meet our mission of serving the spiritual needs of each child and family.”

    (3) Supporting services include fundraising expenses of $13.2M and donor development expenses of $5.4M. Please: (a) explain what activities comprise “donor development” as distinguished from “fundraising expenses”;

    “Donor development is largely attracting new supporters, friends and stakeholders to our mission. Fundraising expenses are the costs associated with raising funds from existing donors.”

    (b) provide an itemized breakdown for all such costs, i.e., costs of direct mail solicitations, fees paid to third parties engaged to perform fundraising, etc.;

    “Nearly all of our fundraising expenses are direct mail related. Half of all mailings we send are created, produced and dropped from our Chamberlain offices. The other half of our mailings are developed with our business partners; these are typically mailings that we are unable to insert with our equipment in Chamberlain. We do not have regular, on-going third party agreements. To the extent that we do have agreements, they are simply on a job-to-job basis. For instance, we pay for mailing components or inserts and they either mail them for us or send them to Chamberlain where we mail them. Our decisions are based on efficiency, practicality and cost-effectiveness.”

    (c) explain the rationale for St. Joseph’s statement that its total fundraising expenses are no more than 35% of its costs.

    “Programs for us are either educational or spiritual. This includes programs at the school, on the reservations and content in our mailings. The AICPA, the accounting body, allows some portion of mailings to be deemed fundraising, administrative or educational/spiritual.

    For example, consider an organization that sends literature to raise money but also advises what foods to eat to reduce cancer risk. There is a fundraising and educational component. From an accounting perspective, this is called “joint cost allocation” (see AICPA’s SOP 98-2). So between our various programs in South Dakota and in the mail, we try to keep fundraising costs down. The percentages are arrived at following our annual financial audit conducted by an independent CPA firm.”

    (4) All of your written appeals in 2011 have claimed in some fashion that St. Joseph’s is facing financial hardship and is not able to meet its program expenses or pursue needed projects. Please explain this in light of the $5.7M overage in contributions last year as well as the additional $6M in investment/interest income, and identify specifically which projects cannot be funded in accordance with an established budget.

    “The overage you indicate has actually funded the cultural center expansion we are set to being in Fall 2012. The expansion will include both an alumni and historical center. This investment was made as a way to expand our outreach to Lakota families, current students, former students, alumni and contributors. Our investment returns look good when the market is strong. However, the returns represent our obligation to our charitable gift annuitants, who rely on our promise to fund 100% of each contract’s face value. Our small endowment fund also factors in to our investment numbers. The reality is, however, these funds are not available to us for immediate program needs.”

    (5) St. Joseph’s blames “economic recession and the high cost to attract new donors” being “higher than hoped for” for its excessive fundraising expenses in 2010. However, I looked at past annual reports, and the pattern of excessive fundraising in proportion to program expenses goes back to at least 2008. Please explain specifically how St. Joseph’s plans to limit its fundraising expenses appropriately in 2011 and coming years.

    “In 2006, we began a renovation project for our student homes on campus. Knowing this expense would be necessary for the long term safety of our students, we planned carefully and took steps to build our donor base well before the project actually started. The renovation project is on schedule and will continue through the winter of 2013.

    Aside from this special project, part of our plan to decrease fundraising costs includes moving more to auto deduction and web/online giving. Both of these methods are far less expensive than mail, but it will take some time for it to make a significant impact on the ‘bottom-line.’

    Of course, it would be nice to have a large endowment which would reduce fundraising costs, but it is not large enough to make a significant difference at this time. Direct mail costs are always high. Every day, we battle rising postage, paper and production costs. Unfortunately, we are located in a region where other forms of fundraising are simply not adequate (special events, corporate giving; etc.). So, the mail is the means to fund our programs, just as it has been since our inception.”

    (6) Does St. Joseph intend to correct the conflict of interest caused by having its chairman of the BOD serve as a compensated President, and if so, when?

    “I’d love to give you an easy answer on this one, Jennifer, but as the BBB will attest, this is a complex issue. St. Joseph’s Indian School is part of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart South Dakota, Inc. (CPOSH). In fact it is a “DBA.” The Executive Director of St. Joseph’s Indian School is also the President of CPOSH; therefore, he is head of the corporate board of directors. Our Provincial, the person our director reports to, also sits on the board. When we explain this to the BBB, it is admittedly complicated. Some years they report us as meeting this standard, some years they don’t. Regarding compensation, as a priest, our President receives only enough money to live on and donates the rest of his salary to the organization.”

    (7) St. Joseph’s web site states that contributors who do not wish to have their information given to third parties can indicate that on the online Communications Preference Form. However, the online form does not provide that option. Similarly, St. Joseph’s does not provide an “opt-out” box on the response form for written appeals. Requiring that contributors call or email St. Joseph’s in order to have themselves removed from marketing lists is a clear violation of applicable privacy regulations. When will this be corrected?

    “Regarding online, we had this available and it appears it was removed inadvertently during an automation process. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. We have already taken steps to get this resolved and will ensure the option is added back to our site.

    Regarding mail, when a donor first responds to a mailing we offer them the opportunity to opt-out of list rental/exchange; etc. We will look into expanding this.”

    (8) What steps will St. Joseph take to ensure that its web site, written appeals and other marketing materials clearly and accurately reflect: (a) how much money is spent on program services (i.e., only 43% of contributions are actually spent on educational, residential and cultural services, if that); (b) how much money is spent on educational services (i.e., only 16% of contributions); and (c) how much money is spent on fundraising (including years prior to 2010) ? How quickly will the web site and any written materials be updated?

    “Working toward transparency on the topics you’ve asked about is one of our goals as we’ve begun to formulate our next strategic plan. In order to meet scheduled mail dates, our written material is prepared approximately 6 months in advance.

    As for the website, before any updates can be made, of course, we will have to determine the best way to present the information to our benefactors. With our next strategic plan and our “decade of transformation,” we’ll be taking a very serious look at changes we’ll need to make in these areas. Again, thank you for helping us be accountable and for pointing out these specific questions; this will help us a great deal.”

    (9) St. Joseph’s repeatedly states that “auditors have verified that our numbers are accurate.” The CPA referenced by St. Joseph’s, ELO Prof., LLC, is an extremely small company with two branches in South Dakota and only 3 partners.

    (a) How did St. Joseph’s first select ELO as an “independent auditor,” and how long has St. Joseph’s used ELO as its auditor?

    “Approximately seven years. Before our current auditors, our previous auditor worked with us for approximately 20 years. Both firms were similar in terms of ability; etc. We simply chose the least expensive firm.”

    (b) Has ELO performed any audits of 501(c)(3) organizations other than St. Joseph’s, and if so, which organizations?

    “ELO is an upstanding community business in our area, and they perform all kinds of audits and tax preparation. Their website is for more information.”

    (c) Has ELO ever identified any deficiencies in St. Joseph’s records and reports? If so, what were the deficiencies, what corrections had to be made, and what steps did St. Joseph take to prevent future errors of that nature?

    “There are always small areas to improve upon at the conclusion of any audit whether it is developing a better electronic record of our museum collection or correcting small errors on inventory issues. There has never anything substantial, however.”

    (d) Has any firm other than ELO ever audited St. Joseph’s records or reports? If so, which firm, when did the audit take place, what was the subject of the audit, and what were the firm’s findings?

    “Carlon, Millar CPA firm audited us for over 20 years prior to ELO.”

    (e) Has any independent firm ever verified the results of an ELO audit?

    “No, we have never audited the auditors.”

    (f) How does St. Joseph’s intend to select the independent auditor for its 2011 annual report? Does it intend to put out a bid for competitive proposals and if not, why not?

    “We typically have not put the audit out for bid on an annual basis and there are no plans to do so in 2011.”

    1. Billy

      what a tremendous and forthright response by St. Joseph’s to very detailed questions. I am very impressed although that will fly in the face of the blog and its mission to bash this good organization.

      1. christopher brisson

        Billy, I have to agree with you. It is rare to encounter such detailed, forthright answers from institutions, corporations, etc., and, moreover, refreshingly devoid of glib, evasive generalities and talking points.

  10. Joyce

    I read my way through a year’s worth of comments on this blog subject. I can understand everyone’s frustration with monetary giving and choosing where to give so it lends a positive in your life for doing it. No one enjoys feeling like a fool with financial decisions.
    I decided to give to this charity years ago. But I do it my way. I shop for practical items at a deep discount in my area and ship them to the facility. I am sure the needs of the children will be met by my gifts and the wrangling over finances at the bigwig level can be carried on by someone else with the patience to deal with it. I do care the American Indians have historically received such unpalatable treatment by ‘Whites’ and ‘big government’.
    I am one and I can do something on a scale that is suitable for me… in a way that is dignifying for me and for the children and caregiving staff.

  11. mark fisher

    Google the marketing masters name does it take 47million to work with 200 kids of any sect?

    Washington, DC, January 26, 2010 — The Direct Marketing Association’s Nonprofit Federation (DMANF) today announced Kory Christianson of St. Joseph’s Indian School in South Dakota as the 2010 recipient of its Max L. Hart Nonprofit Achievement Award.

    The award recognizes outstanding achievement by an individual within the nonprofit community, and will be presented at a luncheon on Friday, January 29, during DMANF’s 2010 Washington Nonprofit Conference being held at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, DC.

    “The Awards Committee was very impressed by the detailed and enthusiastic nomination submitted on Kory’s behalf,” said Mary A. Bogucki, chair of DMANF’s Awards Committee, and vice president, Amergent. “We received notes from individuals praising Kory from both the corporate and nonprofit communities. His leadership, integrity, and humility are the true hallmarks of a worthy recipient. It is no surprise we reached a unanimous decision to present him with this year’s Max Hart Award.”

    Christianson has worked in the development office at St. Joseph’s school for over 16 years. As the executive director of development, he oversees their USA, Germany, and France fundraising programs and leads a team that raises over $50 million annually in support of programs and services for the Native American population throughout all of South Dakota. His commitment to service of the nonprofit community continues, as he is a volunteer fundraiser for the Mitchell Christian School and a member of the Avera Queen of Peace Hospital Foundation board of directors. In 1999 he became a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), and in 2000 was awarded the Charity Fundraising Executive of the Year Award by the National Federation of Non-Profits.

    St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota, is a residential and educational center dedicated to helping the state’s Native American population. The school is privately operated and receives no regular government funding. Through the generosity of its supporters, St. Joseph’s provides for all the needs of its 200 students — everything from food and clothing, to a well-rounded education and counseling — at no cost to them or their families.

    DMANF’s award was established in 1990 as the Nonprofit Achievement Award, and was renamed in 2005 for Max L. Hart, formerly of the Disabled Americans. Hart is a DMA Hall of Fame honoree and longtime advocate, supporter, and champion of professionalism for the nonprofit fundraising community. To view the full list of past DMANF Max L. Hart Nonprofit Achievement Award recipients, please click here.

  12. Bunny

    I like many others received the gift from the St Joseph School and was going to donate. I found it odd that they gave me many gifts and my first response was why doesn’t the money go to the children. I was about to send off a check but before I did I decided to look up the Organization on the computer. I found many places to donate then I saw that this Organization did not meet the 3 standards for Charity Accountability. Then I saw the HUGE salaries 2 of the Board members were making. All I could think of was the poor children who are being exploited. Thanks for this web site.

  13. John Devlin

    thanks for your internet comments. Today I received one of the packages that you describe. I was tempted to make a significant contribution, but decided to see what others might say. Thank you.
    i will not.

  14. D Kiernan

    Great blog. I just sent most of their junk back to them asking if they thought this was a respectable business for a religious order to be involved in.

  15. Kristarose

    Last year, when I made my last small donation, I included a letter stating that I didn’t want any more of the “gifts” sent with the begging letters. I said the money should be used for and by the children, not wasted on creating these gifts. Haven’t gotten a mailing since.

  16. wayne

    I am glad to hear that someone is frustrated with mailings asking for donations. At last count my mother was solicited by 140 different organizations. One hundred and forty. She passed away a year and 6 months ago and is still receiving these solicitaions and more new ones are coming in from places she had never heard of nor I. This really gets my goat. I am not going to send a donation to an organizations that continues to send needless maiings to someone who has not contributed in over a year. That’s a waiste of my money. I also just last week emailed another organization asking why they give gifts with a donation and they said it encourages people to donate who would not other wise do so. I have boxes of solicitations that I have never responded to. How big will these boxes get? I have a charity that 97% goes to programs… My biggest problem is how much does a pres or board member get paid. I found one Native American organizations pres get over $175,000.00 a year. I find this horrible. This organization solicitated my mother who’s income was under $7000.00 a year. They tell you about freezing , starving native americans and have the nerve to make that much money. I feel so sorry for the Native Americans and have contributed in the past but I can’t anymore.. As far as going to the schools (as I have thought of going to the reservations) do it by surprise, Just show up

  17. Dorothy Ehlebracht

    I also do not like the gifts in the mail but i am from S.D. and I think that some of your remarks are way out of line.I believe that the gifts,some,are made by the children,I know what it is like to be poor and one will give a lot to be successful. My recommendation to you is take a good look at your own faults and then you may not be so negative about the indian school. If some of these children become Catholic it would be the good example that they see that would lead them in that direction.Let me assure you you do not make a catholic out of anyone not wishing to be one. even knowing how the church came into existance .God bless you now and Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see and you will do better and be happier.Let the child abuse of 25 years ago be history.

    1. jik Post author

      I believe that the gifts,some,are made by the children

      No, they’re not.

      And just to be clear… you think it would be a good thing if children in an Indian school were spending their time making “gifts” to send to potential donors instead of learning or doing other age-appropriate activities?

      Please, it’s a school, not a sweatshop.

      My recommendation to you is take a good look at your own faults and then you may not be so negative about the indian school.

      Irrelevant ad hominem attack.

      If some of these children become Catholic it would be the good example that they see that would lead them in that direction…

      So you apparently support the Catholic church proselytizing Indians. Thanks for making that clear.

  18. johno

    St. Joseph’s has three issues with the BBB. First and foremost is that the President (a paid position at $75,000 PA) is also the Chair. Of note is that if the 217 paid employees the highest paid received $175,000 – the Director of Development no less.

  19. Bobbie

    How do they get our addresses – in my case – judging from the use of my entire name – the only place they could have gotten my address was from the motor vehicle dept of the state in which I live. So, is the state making money off of me by selling my info? Or is the company St Joseph’s hires to send out these bundles mining state records. That in and of itself is enough to make me trash the mailings/

    1. jik Post author

      Many states make RMV data, voter registration data, etc. available to the public in one way or another (in many cases, they are required by law to do so). There are many Direct Marketing companies that take advantage of this to build massive databases which they then rent out to charities, corporations, etc. that want to do targeted direct mailings.

  20. steve

    According to one BBB site St. Joseph’s takes in:
    $47,000,000 A YEAR!!!! No wonder they can afford the
    big guilt mailings.

  21. Anonymous

    I was raised Catholic, also in a boys’ boarding school. 1944/47 era. Never heard of any abuse; never witnessed any abuse, sexual or otherwise. Got an excellent education. I have been an atheist since age 15, whille in the boarding school. A very pereosnal decision I’ve had no reason to question since, nor actively promote. I admit to warm feelings toward those who educated me. I do not despise religion, though I do think it motivates many people to act irrationally, as shown in some of the letters here.

    I first donated to St. Joe’s Indian school several yrs ago. Maybe twice since then. I have visited a number of reservations in Montana and Wyoming. The Red Bud is appalling. Young teens at 9 a.m. drunk, sitting onold rusting cars. No jobs, no future. There are worse things that can happen to you than being converted to Catholicism. That argument is not convincing.

    The audit issue is important and does cause me to reflect. I, too, am disturbed by the volume of solicitations and what I assume is their cost. I have a long history of contact with Native American tribes, reservations, life styles, and some friends amongst them.
    I first was introduced to thissubject by a good friend, Rodd Redwing, now deceased. You can Google his name. He had an interesting career and I was happy to be a friend.

    I am disappointed with the info in these letters re St. Joe’s. It raises legitimate questions as to the use of donations. I will look more into it. I have an open mind on the subject, but will decide how to handle it later as I review some of the info provided herein.

    I have had friends that were Navajo Code Talkers in WW2. I’ve listened to many stories of growing up on reservations. The influence of various churches has had a positive effect in most instances. Religion is not an issue; results are.

    1. jik Post author

      I was raised Catholic, also in a boys’ boarding school. 1944/47 era. Never heard of any abuse; never witnessed any abuse, sexual or otherwise.

      It would seem that you were lucky. Unfortunately, many others have had very different experiences, some of them at the very school under discussion. I’m sure you are not lying, and I’m pretty sure that they aren’t either.

      There are worse things that can happen to you than being converted to Catholicism.

      There are a number of Jewish charities which provide help of various sorts to all sorts of people all over the world. These charities do not perform any sort of proselytizing as part of their charitable efforts.

      While help provided by Catholics to Native Americans may be better than no help, it would even better if it weren’t tainted by proselytizing, and I think it is quite reasonable for me to decline to support such efforts and discourage others from doing so.

  22. DannyDaSaint

    If the “programs” cost $30MM and they have 200 students, the cost per student would be $150,000 per year. Even if they were helping 1,000 children it would still be $30,000 per year. I wonder how many children even belong to the Lakota in the Chamberlain area?

  23. Barb

    Here’s what I do with unsolicited non or for profit garbage mail, specifically those including their self-addressed postage-paid return envelopes: I cut up all their materials (so they can’t be reused, including the envelope they sent the crap in, printing near the section with my name and address “REMOVE ME FROM YOUR MAILING LIST ASAP”, put it all in their postage-paid envelope and send it right back to them. They then have to pay the hefty postage due on their crap!!! They generally WILL remove me, because they can’t afford me mailing all their crap back to them!! It works 90% of the time, and those are good enough odds for the time I spend packaging their garbage back up to send out!

    1. Ray

      I do the same thing with all unsolicited offers, even those offering gutter cleaning and lawn service.

  24. Joe

    In my lifes experience in Okla. many Indians have liked me but in general don’t like white people. Wonder why? However I’m a Christian and that’s between my Lord and I. Think hard, squint your eyes and maybe you will realize that what happened to the Indians in the past is still goin on however in only a slight different way. They need help in many ways. So give to St. Joseph’s School if you want and don’t if that’s how you feel!

    1. momofstatcat

      I too live in the central/southern plains region where there are alot of reservations and even more Native Americans in the public communities. I have many friends in the Native community.
      St Josephs is a Cathlic/Cristian org. (with a name like that) and quoting the bible.CHRISTIANITY IS NOT THEIR CHOSEN RELIGION. IT IS WHAT OUR ANCESTORS FORCED ON THEM !!!! Every tribe or “peoples” have their own beliefs that have nothing to do with “our” God.
      If at least 50% of the total amount of donations were given to the the actual tribal members then these mailings just MIGHT be acceptable but that is NOT the case so in this way alone they are full of crap.
      Third: If they REALLY wanted help the Native Americans why don’t they give them all the money they spend on these mailings. The kids sure could use some school supplies and clothes thats for sure.

      1. AWms

        If the catholic church (St.Joseph’s) and any others truly want to help the Native American people, why don’t they employ some of them, or give them a higher portion of the wealth earnings, or their land, etc back? No doubt they’ve been stripped of many things, but don’t exploit them in an effort to make money off of them too! They were stripped of the breath of life from infancy to adulthood to the buffalo and left dead in the snow like slaughtered lifeless animals, then their land was stolen, and 1/8th of it supposedly given back……out of kindness%@#*&+>~?^(“{.

  25. kbbpll

    Wow, when you say “Musings of an indignant mind”, you really mean it!

  26. kbbpll

    In a most general way, I will defend St Joseph’s for filling the need to provide children a safe environment to live and be educated. Perhaps some posters here are not as aware as they should be of the desperate poverty in this area of our country. I feel that Fr. Huffstetter is doing the best he can and with a good heart.

    However, after donated very small amounts for a couple years, I became perplexed at the incredible volume of mailings. Surely they spent more mailing me stuff than I ever donated. I requested that they at least reduce their mailings to me, and they did. I inspected the annual report they sent me a few years ago, which was much worse than their current one. At that time, and to this day, it appears to me that a very large chunk of the donations goes directly to the Catholic Church. What is this “Apostolate of Prayer Programs” category? More than 6 million dollars out of 28.5 million total program services expenditures. Fund Raising and Donor Development exceeds, as far as I can determine, what they directly spend on the children by a wide margin.

    These things left me with the uncomfortable feeling that St Josephs is more cash cow for the Catholic Church than it is safe haven for children. Again, I believe in the mission of helping these children, whether it’s through a religious organization or not, and I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, but they would win back my support by being a little more clear and transparent about their financial statement.

    1. jik Post author

      I feel that Fr. Huffstetter is doing the best he can and with a good heart.

      I would be more likely to believe that if St. Joseph’s released real, complete financial statements, as opposed to the thing on their Web site which they laughably call financial statements; or if Fr. Huffstetter hadn’t deceptively claimed that they release their financial statements to anyone who asks, while at the same time he knew full well that the thing they release to anyone who asks isn’t anywhere near what they actually need to properly audit the charity’s performance; or if Fr. Huffstetter hadn’t claimed that he would respond to the questions I asked him about the operation of the school and then never did so.

  27. Lizzy-Tish

    I’m of the same mindset that it is wiser to give donations locally where you have the ability & opportunity to see where your dollars go. An additional bonus to giving to your local charities is that you have opportunities to volunteer your ‘free time’ which seems to be on all of their ‘wish lists’

  28. inquisitive

    thanks. I think this was a great site and thanks for sharing all the comments. i will not donate to this orginazation.

  29. SandyG

    My sister got one of those “guilt mailings” a couple of months ago and sent in $10. Two weeks ago she sent them another $10 and today she received an envelope with the usual “guilt” items. There was one pamphlet in the mailing that finally opened her eyes. They suggested that she put St. Joseph’s in her Will.

    I felt bad for my sister because her heart was in the right place, but I am very happy that she finally got her eyes opened. I suggested that from now on give to local charities such as the food bank. That way she can see first hand where her hard earned money is going.

  30. Anonymous

    I live in Chamberlain (pop. 2500) and because of its small size, I would like to remain anonymous.
    Unfortunately, there have been many accusations of child sex abuse at St. Joe’s over the years. In fact, the attorney for St. Joe’s got legislation passed this year in SD to try to limit the liability. I believe Fr. Steve has tried to do a good job and to put the children first. However, until the Catholic Church changes …

  31. Quantum Mechanic

    We quasi-regularly give money (several hundred $) to The Nature Conservancy (pretty much the only enviro org I’ll even remotely consider giving money to). Each time we’ve donated we’ve told them “We’re just giving a donation. We don’t want any newsletters, we don’t want to be on any mailing lists. We don’t want to be sent any membership cards or receive any phone calls. If any of those ever happens we’ll never give you another dime.”

    So far it’s worked. Aside from the “No goods or services were received by the donor” letter we’ve never heard a peep from them.

  32. Catrina

    I too am sick of getting mailings asking for money, all the while they are
    sending (stuff) and wanting reimbursement for what they sent and asking for money at the same time
    Save your mailings and “stuff” as WILL NOT BE SENDING ANY MONEY.
    TAKE ME OFF YOUR LIST NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. Maureen

    Thank you for the information provided here. I have known about St. Joseph’s since visiting the school in 1995. At the time of my visit I wondered about the lack of Native American adults involved with the program, other than the artists who were selling things through the museum. I have never contributed any money to the organization, choosing instead to donate to Ogala Lakota College in hopes of providing Native American families, not just children, with the means to improve their lives and preserve their culture. I have been dismayed at the tactics used by St. Joseph and found my way here today because of the mailing I received yesterday, probably the same one that Anthony received. I also received the mailing that Jonathan received last fall. I am thankful to everyone who has posted here–this conversation has helped me understand more about St Joseph’s Indian School. I plan to return the items I received and ask them to stop sending me stuff. I’ll let you know if it works.

  34. Anthony-oops

    I was wondering how they had my address and everything.

    Also why and how they could afford to send out such things as NWbiker also wonders.

    I do not like things sent to me in the mail and generally put other stuff in the envelopes and send them on their way (if postage is paid) (sometimes other coupons sometimes shredded paper. Hey I get tired of people sending me paper that I have to throw away. It is like someone is handing it to me saying “get rid of that–OK”
    LOL—relax though people-do what you will–I am sorry for the people that get “duped” if that is the way you feel.
    We are all here for such a short time—Try spreading a smile or two instead of smart “ss comments, trying to prove you are smarter than each other.
    We should all be nicer to one another.
    Take care and have a great week!!!

  35. Anthony

    I am by no means a saint and I am here because I received a “package” and thanking me for my contribution.

    I was wondering how they “had”

    1. Bill carreo

      A waste of postage sending those incorrect labels to me. Spend postage on kids

  36. NorthwestBiker

    Well, hasn’t this been entertaining! I received an unsolicited mailing from St. Joseph’s today and decided to do a bit of web research. I concur that it is a bit unnerving to receive such a full package of goods as a solicitation for charitable contribution: my mailing included a small ‘dreamcatcher’, mailing labels, notepad and other trinkets. I can’t help but wonder how an alleged charity can afford such apparently random ‘cold call’ mailings.

    I also note that the ad hominem attacks in this thread have been by defenders of St. Joseph’s against those who have raised legitimate concerns about the nature of this organization. Gee, that speaks well for St. Joseph’s!

    In sum, I will continue to direct my family’s charitable giving to organizations whose legitimacy is not in question. There’s plenty of need to ‘go around’, so if you want to give to St. Joseph’s, knock yourself out. It smells funny enough to me that I don’t feel an overwhelming need to go out on a limb here.

    And for God’s sake, people, you can disagree without calling each other names.

    1. Bill bear

      What the heck is a dream catcher. A fly sweater may be more practical. And what up with the crazy cards. Spend your money on the kids

  37. jik Post author

    I just love people who jump to conclusions without knowing anything at all about what they are saying.

    For your information, my wife and I give thousands of dollars to charity every year. We reserve our limited charitable funds for organizations which have a history of doing work we respect in an open, transparent fashion; of successfully using the vast majority of the donations they receive for their work rather than for overhead; and of allowing independent third parties to audit their finances to confirm that they are doing so. These are the metrics which I believe any responsible person should use when deciding whether to donate to a particular charity.

    My wife and I do many hours of volunteer work for local charities every year.

    As for whether the director of SJIS is “ten times the adult” I am, I would point out that he lied about releasing his organization’s financial records to independent third parties for review, and he lied about giving me the answers to the questions directed at him which I posted above. He sent me private email on January 14, in which he said, “I saw you posted a response to my response on your blog. I do have answers for you and will post them as quickly as I am able; however, it may be tomorrow.” It is now almost two months later; do you see the answers he promised? Using lies to defend his organization against legitimate criticism does not seem particularly adult to me.

    My family does not have an X-Box or any other game console. Neither I nor my wife drinks or smokes. I have been faithful to my wife since the day I met her almost 20 years ago. As a parent of five young children, I rarely have the time or energy to have a “good night on the town,” and I would imagine that the seven of us would have a tough time fitting in my parents’ basement.

    In short, you’re an idiot.

  38. Hankmeister

    mark, your mother will be generously blessed even if the money she gives isn’t entirely used for its intended purposes. I bet your the kind to refuse to give money to a homeless person or the street “bum” because you fear they might blow it on alcohol. If you’re really that concerned about crooked charities and they people they are alleged to serve, why don’t you start your own charity? I mean, after all, you seem awfully concerned about what other people are doing wrong, why don’t you and others of your “concerned” mindset show the rest of us how it should be done? Not up to it yourself, then quit your self-righteous complaining!

    Hey, Jonathan, what are you doing to help the plight of Native American children? Sounds like you’re the kind of self-righteous, fingerpointing jerk who would rather blindly criticize those who are trying to help in the most difficult of situations than doing anything yourself to help those you cleverly feign concern about. We call anti-Christian, secular bigots like you bleeding heart tightwads because all you typically do is complain about what others are doing in the name of their faith while you do nothing in the name of your faith … except complain and point ignorant fingers of judgement. At least the director of SJIS sounds ten times the adult you do so when you get finished playing with your Tonka toys in the sandbox how about illuminating the rest us as to what you do with the thousands of dollars (like our family does each and every year) otherwise intelligent, middle-class American like you must be giving to help Native American children, Central American children or South American children have a better life that they otherwise wouldn’t have because of YOUR generosity … or do you generally blow your loose cash on the latest X-Box releases, smokes, drink, loose women, or having a good night on the town? Or do you prefer to blow it on redecorating your mother’s basement to make your sweating over a keyboard a little easier?

  39. mark

    Does anyone know if you can stop these places from soliciting one’s parents. My mother keeps getting duped by these places and giving them all kinds of money.


  40. jik Post author

    As promised above, I sent to email to St. Joseph’s and asked them to mail me their financial information. I received a response from Fr. Huffstetter, in which he referred me to I wrote to the American Institute of Philanthropy and asked why, given that St. Joseph’s publishes financial information on their Web site, they claim to be unable to evaluate the organization. They responded:

    AIP’s ratings are based on in-depth analyses of charities’ IRS Form 990 and Audited Financial Statements. Some groups that have religious exemption with the IRS do provide AIP with their full audits, which are often sufficient for evaluations.

    Audits on average include 10 or more pages with detailed breakouts of charities’ expenditures and revenue; an auditor’s letter; and accompanying notes. St. Joseph’s Indian School’s annual report provides a very condensed snapshot of its finances, and does not provide nearly enough detail of the overall financial picture. In addition, the audit is performed by a Certified Public Accountant; AIP requires the complete audit for both accuracy and legitimacy of reporting.

    Often we can obtain audits of unresponsive charities from a state attorney general’s office – but in the case of St. Joseph’s Indian School, we cannot. Unfortunately, groups that are exempt from reporting with the IRS are also exempt from providing providing materials to state AG’s offices as part of the charitable registration process.

    In other words, while it may indeed be true that the annual report published by St. Joseph’s is a condensed version of more detailed audited financial statements, it is not nearly enough for the AIP or any other watchdog organization to properly evaluate the organization, and St. Joseph’s apparently refuses to release more detailed information to those organizations.

    While Fr. Huffstetter claims that St. Joseph’s isn’t trying to hide anything and provides financial information to anyone who asks for it, the information they provide is inadequate to actually evaluate the work of the organization. This is in contrast to the vast majority of charities listed in the AIP’s rating guide, many of whom, like St. Joseph’s, are exempt from reporting requirements, who do provide to the AIP and other watchdogs adequate information for evaluation.

  41. jik Post author

    Fr. Huffstetter,

    Thank you for your response.

    I wonder if you could answer a few questions for me.

    Are there crucifixes on the walls at St. Joseph’s? Any statues of saints?

    Is there a daily mass? Do students attend? Are they required to?

    What percentage of students who graduate from St. Joseph’s convert to Catholicism?

    We do not submit our financial information to every watchdog group out there. Doing so would require more staff and hours than we can spare. However, we do not hide our information. Our financial information is mailed to anyone who requests it, and we make our annual report available online each year.

    No one ever suggested that you should mail your financial information any watchdog groups who have not requested it. That is a red herring.

    The American Institute of Philanthropy says they requested financial information from you and you did not provide it. How do you reconcile that with your statement that your financial information is mailed to anyone who requests it?

    Although you are exempt as a religious organization from filing charity reports with the government, there’s nothing saying you can’t file such reports if you want to. If, indeed, you are not trying to hide anything, then why don’t you file those reports?

    Are you aware that if you were to post your financial information on your Web site, which would take maybe an hour per year with a scanner to produce a PDF of the relevant documents, it would not cost you any “staff and hours” at all to provide it to as many people as want it?

    I will send you under separate cover my mailing address with a request for you to send me your most recent detailed financial report. We’ll see what comes of it.

    1. Bill carreo

      I am distraught by these unwelcome mailing. I give to local charities.. E.g. Sisters of Mercy, dimitry home for the homeless, house of mercy, Jesuits, catholic diocese, school of holy child hood to name some. all use 90percent of my money for services to the needy. If I send. The 5 dollars for cost of mailing ,I would only be promoting this sad practice. Please stop. God bless your services, but not this well meaning but very wrong method of wasting dollars. Better used for services. God bless , please stop and think why you are getting posts like mine. You are being taken advantage of by whoever is having you do these mailings. Ps this is long, but I feel strongly that you must stop and work out another method. I suggest you contact Senecas who rub billion dollar casinos to help. Good luck

      1. ann Sprayregen

        I agree with akl these sentiments. Father Steve has nt real responded to why they find it necessary t send all these gifts. I wuld think that sending a copy of their newsletter would serve as well.

  42. Fr. Stephen Huffstetter


    We appreciate your views and the feelings you have about our fundraising tactics.

    After reviewing your original post, I felt it important to comment.

    The boys and girls in our care are our top priority. Their parents and guardians have entrusted them to us; it is our responsibility to make sure the children have a safe, stable, loving home and the highest education possible.

    These children come from this nation’s poorest, most needy families. Their families seek us out. In addition to the 200 boys and girls in our care, another 150 Native American children are on our waiting list.

    As the school’s director, I take the task of caring for the children seriously. Because I’m charged with such a huge responsibility, I work closely with my team and our partners to ensure funds will continue to be raised for these children in need, not just for today but also for years to come.

    We do not submit our financial information to every watchdog group out there. Doing so would require more staff and hours than we can spare. However, we do not hide our information. Our financial information is mailed to anyone who requests it, and we make our annual report available online each year.

    Putting more of each dollar raised toward programs and children is important to us; it’s a goal my team and I have every year. But, our central South Dakota location, private status and program expansions make cutting our fundraising efforts back challenging – even irresponsible.

    The package you received from us was produced by Reproducta – a subsidiary of Quadriga Art – as you indicated. However, it was created under our watchful eye. We control our marketing efforts internally and make every effort possible to ensure what we’re sending in the mail yields the strongest return possible … all so we can continue providing much-needed services to Lakota (Sioux) children. The story in the letter you received is real; as we say in the letter, the children’s names are not in order to protect their privacy.

    At St. Joseph’s, we work extremely hard to make sure the children in our care understand, respect and appreciate their culture. Native American Studies is a regular part of our curriculum for all the boys and girls; in the class, children learn their native language, stories and traditions. The lessons are infused throughout our school.

    We also integrate the children’s culture in to their homes and daily activities. We firmly believe the children we serve will be prepared to better achieve their life’s goals by embracing their culture. I assure you honoring and respecting the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people and cultures is important to all of us.

    Our invitation to visit our campus is genuine. Our purpose is not to turn American Indian children in to Catholics. Our mission is to provide Lakota (Sioux) children in need with the basics of food, clothing and medical care while we put special emphasis on the spiritual, emotional and educational development of each child as we respect their culture and heritage.

    I respect your opinions and thoughts. In turn, I hope you will respect the work we are dedicated to carrying out for Native American children in dire need. I personally have been serving Native American children and their families – regardless of their faith – for over 20 year. St. Joseph’s has been supporting American Indian people since 1927 … all at no cost to them.

    Without the support of friends from around the country, the children in our care would have nowhere to turn. Parents, grandparents, guardians and former students tell me all the time how grateful they are for the opportunities, love and education we give their children.

    If you would like to learn more about the children at St. Joseph’s or our programs, I hope you’ll visit our Web site,

    God bless,
    Fr. Steve
    St. Joseph’s Indian School, Director

    1. James in Oklahoma

      I grew up in the shadow of St. Gregory’s in Shawnee, which was first Sacred Heart some mile south, founded to convert and help Indians.

      I respect your reply Fr. Steve, but I will return my contribution in an unmarked envelop to stay off your mailing list which you sell.

      That is quite and industry. Someone feeding of you and me.

      Such is life today. I do like the dreamcatcher, but can I trust it unless I send it to you. And what would the Pope Think.

      Yat ta hey

    2. Bill bear

      Are you truly a Jesuit? Where we’re trained. I see no record of you. Jesuits in rochester ny never heard of you? Please clarify!

    3. Bill bear

      You are wasting good money. Please ,again it ask you to clarify the credentials that back up yor affiliation with the catholic Jesuits. Thank you., bill

      1. J90

        SCJ is not SJ. The Jesuits are SJ: Society of Jesus. SCJ is French: Sacre-Couer de Jesus (sorry, no diacritics), i.e. Sacred Heart of Jesus. Two orders use this. The school’s website even says that it is run by the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.

  43. angry about abuse

    I first received such mailings from St Joseph’s nearly 20 years ago. I felt insulted that the “pitch” maintained that the children were better off away from their homes and families.

    That has always been the attitude of Indian boarding schools. The intent was to “kill the Indian but save the man” (or woman). It was asserted by the first superintendent of the first Indian boarding school that in everthing but skin color, he could turn the Indian into a White man.

    As for abuses, I know people who were abused in religious boarding schools. These were not merely isolated incidents. At most of these schools, it was the norm. It was part of the institutional mindset. These were helpless children, under the complete control of adults who were corrupted by the absolute power they had over these children’s lives. And these adults were protected by their church leaders.

    Abuses like these are not uncommon in residential institutions. I recall seeing a news report just a few years ago about abuse in a home for mentally challenged adults. A video was turned in to a TV station that showed the abuse. Periodically, one hears of abuse in senior care homes. And prison abuses are common but unreported and largely ignored.

    When twenty individuals (not a small amount) to report abuse at the same institution for a span of thirty years, one has to admit that the chances are good that it’s no coincidence nor conspiracy.

    People must be aware that abuses, especially sexual abuse, are so devastating and shameful that the victim may have blocked the memories of the trauma or may not have been willing to deal with the issue. I admire the man in his seventies who was willing to bring the case to a public forum. I know someone in his fifties who has dealt with boarding school abuse on a personal level but has not joined a lawsuit. Many of his peers are dead. They died young, often from alcohol-related issues. He completely understands the pain and trauma they were trying to numb, as he went through the same thing.

    At the government boarding school nearby, which has been closed for over 25 years, children’s bones were found in what used to be a field. The elders and other former students don’t speak much of the abuses that occurred there. But there can be no doubt that children were abused and even killed there.

    Even Oprah’s school had abuses, and that was a place where the founder herself was very conscious of child abuse. The biggest part of the problem is that, especially in residential settings, adults know that they have complete control over the lives of the students. “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    In my opinion, residential schools for children ought to be obsolete. I will not support any such school, even if it were within my church’s denomination.

  44. Jim C

    “You seem to know an awful lot about this lawsuit for someone whose only relationship with the organization is that you have been supporting them through small donations. Can you provide links to public information which confirms the facts you’ve asserted above?”

    umm… just google “St. Joseph’s Indian School” and “lawsuit” you’ll find all you need to know. You do know how to google. don’t you? Of course, then you may find something that is contrary to your position.

    I am not going to get into a pissing war with someone whose mind is made up that St. Joseph’s is a sham. To assume that I am a Catholic (that was your intention, was it not?) and that I am somehow affiliated with this organization is typical of someone with an agenda. You, I am afraid, have a very narrow mindset as to what truly works in America and what is a fraud.

    I, for one, am sorry I stumbled across your soapbox. Please, do contribute some of your time (of which you seem to have a lot on your hands), and some cash to the charity of your choice as you see fit.

    1. jik Post author

      To assume that I am a Catholic (that was your intention, was it not?)

      No, it was not. I meant exactly what I said.

      … and that I am somehow affiliated with this organization

      Yes, it seemed to me, and continues to seem to me, that your knowledge of the school and zeal to defend it are greater than one would typically find in someone whose sole relationship to the school was as a small donor.

      Other readers of my blog can, of course, draw their own conclusions.

      umm… just google “St. Joseph’s Indian School” and “lawsuit” you’ll find all you need to know. You do know how to google. don’t you? Of course, then you may find something that is contrary to your position.

      I did the search you suggested and found nothing to support your assertion that the lawsuit “was all tied to a Federal lawsuit regarding Federally run Indian boarding schools.” What I found, instead, was that the lawsuit was dismissed in Federal court on a technicality — the plaintiffs were required by law and treaty to take such complaints first to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which they did not do. I also found other instances of allegations of abuse against St. Joseph’s, and even instances where St. Joseph’s essentially admitted to abuse having taking place at the school in the past. It is furthermore worth noting that there were many documented instances of abuse at Indian schools of the type described in the lawsuit we’re discussing around the time of the abuse alleged in that lawsuit.

      It is certainly your right to give the school the benefit of the doubt, but the preponderance of available evidence suggests to me that the abuse allegations are credible.

      I am not going to get into a pissing war with someone whose mind is made up that St. Joseph’s is a sham.

      I have never said that they are a sham.

      What I said was that their fundraising practices are wasteful and offensive, that they do not meet objective standards for charities as measured by third parties such as the AIP and the BBB, and that anyone with an iota of common sense knows that the reason why Catholics run schools on Indian reservations is to convert Indians to Catholicism.

      I think it’s interesting that you focused on the last two sentences in my comment and ignored the rest (and indeed the most substantive portions) of it. I assume that this is because you have no response?

  45. Jim C

    I have been supporting St. Joseph’s through my small donations. What I have researched shows that they do not meet BBB standards on 3 of 20 counts – mostly to do with who is the President, and that 59% rather than 65% goes to the institution – not surprising in that, unlike many charity organizations, it has a staff of teachers, a medical staff, etc to compensate. While I too do not care for the flood of materials I receive from this organization (I feel that more could be saved should they cut this back), I am of the opinion that your level of indignance is a bit high and heavy for the matter. There are far worse organizations in the charity game. Also, there exists a standing invitation to visit the campus and see for ourselves what is being done. Perhaps someone should take them up. I also feel that your mentioning of a lawsuit is disingenuous; as is typical in these cases, a small group (20) allege abuse occured 50 to 20 years ago (1955-85) – it was all tied in to a Federal lawsuit regarding Federally run Indian boarding schools – of which, St. Joseph’s was not considered and the case dismissed. Of course, the 20 accusing St. Joseph’s in particular are still free to have their day in court regarding these, at the moment, allegations. To date this has not occured to my knowledge. I hope this information is found useful.

    1. jik Post author

      I have been supporting St. Joseph’s through my small donations. What I have researched shows that they do not meet BBB standards on 3 of 20 counts

      Every one of the twenty criteria used by the BBB to evaluate charities is important. The point of these twenty criteria is that if a charity fails even just one of them, there is probably something wrong. Furthermore, many of the charities evaluated by the BBB pass all twenty criteria. Therefore, to suggest that the BBB’s failing grade for St. Joseph’s should be disregarded because they fail on only three of the BBB’s twenty criteria is disingenuous.

      – mostly to do with who is the President,

      No, actually, that’s not correct. The problem is not who is president of the organization, but rather that the president, a paid position, is also the chairman of the board.

      Paid officers of any organization are supposed to be employed by the board, which is supposed to have the power to tell the paid officers what to do and to hire and fire them. When the chairman of the board is one of those paid officers, then at best that power is compromised, and at worst the entire board is a sham whose sole purpose is to rubber-stamp decisions the officers have already made on their own. This is a very significant issue, which is why it is one of the BBB’s criteria.

      and that 59% rather than 65% goes to the institution – not surprising in that, unlike many charity organizations, it has a staff of teachers, a medical staff, etc to compensate.

      First of all, there are many charitable organizations with much, much larger staffs than St. Joseph’s which still manage to satisfy this criterion.

      Second, “a staff of teachers, a medical staff, etc.” are all program expenses and therefore are included in the percentage of expenses spent on program service activities. For this organization to spend only 59% of its budget on program expenses even including wages for a paid staff of 217 (according to the BBB Web site) is very, very bad.

      On the other hand, it’s not surprising, since according to the information on the BBB Web site, 30% of their annual expenditures are related to fund-raising. That’s a very bad percentage for a reputable charity. Which, again, is why this is one of the BBB’s criteria.

      I note that you did not mention the third criterion which the BBB failed St. Joseph’s on, i.e., “Standard 18: Privacy for Written Appeals & Internet Privacy”. This, of course, is exactly what we’re talking about here, so it’s not surprising that they fail to live up to this standard, which is also not a minor issue.

      While I too do not care for the flood of materials I receive from this organization (I feel that more could be saved should they cut this back), I am of the opinion that your level of indignance is a bit high and heavy for the matter. There are far worse organizations in the charity game.

      Hmm. I thought Catholics weren’t into the whole moral relativism thing? The fact that there are worse sinners than St. Joseph’s does not reduce the magnitude of their sins. Furthermore I’ve been receiving charitable solicitations in the mail for, literally, decades, and this is far and away the worst guilt mailing I’ve ever seen. So sorry, but I don’t think my “level of indignance is a bit high and heavy for the matter.”

      Also, there exists a standing invitation to visit the campus and see for ourselves what is being done. Perhaps someone should take them up.

      Oh, I’m sure the dog-and-pony show they put on for visitors will give much more unbiased, objective information about the quality of the charity than their financial statements and BBB evaluation. Not!

      I also feel that your mentioning of a lawsuit is disingenuous; as is typical in these cases, a small group (20) allege abuse occured 50 to 20 years ago (1955-85) – it was all tied in to a Federal lawsuit regarding Federally run Indian boarding schools – of which, St. Joseph’s was not considered and the case dismissed. Of course, the 20 accusing St. Joseph’s in particular are still free to have their day in court regarding these, at the moment, allegations. To date this has not occured to my knowledge. I hope this information is found useful.

      You seem to know an awful lot about this lawsuit for someone whose only relationship with the organization is that you have been supporting them through small donations. Can you provide links to public information which confirms the facts you’ve asserted above?

    1. jik Post author

      I don’t need to visit the school to know what kind of school they are — I can know that from the offensive tear-jerker mailing they sent out, essentially portraying the Indians (and yes, they called them “Indians”, not Native Americans) as poor, backwards people who need to be rescued by the church.

      I also don’t need to visit the school to know that the reason why Catholics run schools on reservations is to convert kids to Christianity.

      This is not an institution I would support even if they hadn’t sent the most obscene guilt mailing I’ve ever seen.

      1. Mary

        jik, you make the most sense, it’s amazing people don’t realize the obvious. Why do native Americans have to be rescued from their heritige in the first place, that alone is a sin. Some Catholics are living off the sad story of these people, and I was a catholic who woke up as soon as I grew up. I’ve looked into these “schools” including the ones in Utah, run by another religious cult. They live off of others problems. Big deal, they helped some kids, but where is the majority of the money going? I bet they have great retirement benefits while the money raised by the sob stories never went to help one of these kids later in life. They make the money off of them while they are young and their stories are touching. I would donate money to a legitimate fund for American Indians if I knew they were the ones getting the money. I believe the abuse allegations, I’ve talked to many kids abused in places like this. Why take away who they are from them just to help them? Why is becoming Americanized or Catholicized so much better for anyone?
        Whats wrong with their own culture? And their own religion? Maybe nothing, only that they got their land and lives taken away so they are stuck on a reservation and are now poor and have to take the charity of this group in the desperate hope it might help their kids.

        I don’t know what I can personally do to help the Native Americans but I know supporting this organization is not the answer. I’m sorry that some of these kids may be troubled forever from their experiences here.

        Don’t think I have no idea what I’m talking about, I lived a similar experience with a group based on religious guilt.

        1. Cyn

          After living in Phoenix for a number of years and becoming acutely aware of the issues surrounding “Indian Schools,” I can certainly appreciate the feelings written here. The loss of native culture, loss of family ties, native religion and language are all concerns.

          However, I also know that alcohol abuse, child abuse, spousal abuse, and sexual abuse are rampant on reservations. It does not matter to me so much why (there are others far closer to the issue dealing with that), but what does matter is that some children do indeed need to be “rescued” from terrible circumstances that would otherwise scar them for life. I can only hope and pray that they are not going from the frying pan into the fire at schools such as this one. But the idea of this school has merit to me.

          1. carol maciel

            Finally some one who gets it, some kids need to be rescued from their parents/guardians as drugs, alcohol and gangs are there on the Rez as it is in the “white” world , I am what was once called a half breed , but I have my mothers coloring so I look white, I wish someone would have put me in a school instead of adopting me out to a family of pediphiles and welfare rats…my adopted father was a good man but his wife was abusive as where my uncles!

  46. Chuck

    well documented. let’s figure out who sold them this marketing package. I doubt they put this package together themselves.


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