The yearlong investigation, carried out by the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting, named the Florida-based charity Kids Wish Network, which raises millions of dollars annually in the name of dying children, the worst charity, CNN reported.
Kids Wish allegedly spends less than 3 percent of the donations it brings in on kids, the investigation found.
Instead, the organization has spent $110 million over the past decade on its corporate solicitors, which seek out donors, and $4.8 million on the charity's founder and his own consulting firms, the investigation found.
The investigation also found the Top 50 worst charities spent nearly $1 billion over the past 10 years to solicitors instead of the causes they supposedly support; a diabetes foundation raised nearly $14 million over a decade and gave about $10,000 to patients.
Many charity operators who agreed to talk with investigators defended their use of donation solicitors, saying they would not raise any money without them.
"No parent has ever turned me down for assistance because we got our money from a telemarketer," said David Thelen, who runs the Committee for Missing Children in Lawrenceville, Ga., which ranked No. 13 on the Tampa Bay Times/CIR list.
However, Doug White, an expert on the ethics of charity fundraising, criticized the argument charities would have no money without solicitors.
"When you weigh that in terms of values, of what the charity is supposed to be doing and what the donor is being told in the process, the house comes tumbling down," White said.