A recent Google headline caught my eye. It was an article by Ariel Schwartz, Senior Editor at Go.Exist. The headline referenced $6 Million Dollars Worth Of Missing Locks Of Love Hair Donations. I was neither surprised by the headline or the article.
I was glad to see the information presented since it may trigger discussion in both the professional and consumer hair communities regarding charities which accept donations of human hair.
Go.Exist is not the first media organization to question Locks of Love and their possible loss of millions of dollars of hair donations.
ABC World News also investigated the mission Locks Of Love hair donations after a nonprofit evaluation organization - Nonprofit Investor (NPI) gave its first-ever negative evaluation to Locks of Love (LoL).
In mid-May of 2013 Kent Chao, executive director of NPI issued a 10-page report blasting Locks of Love for a lack of transparency and operational efficiency.
Most concerning about NPI's report was the discovery that LoL produced only 317 "natural hair wigs" from over 104,000 hair donations of which 80% were deemed unusable.
NPI's estimated cost for those missing hair donations? $6 million dollars. NPI's goal is to hold LoL and similar charities to a standard of transparency. NPI wants everyone providing donations in the form of money or hair to understand exactly what happens after they are donated.
Sounds like a very fair and honorable goal.
80% Of Locks Of Love Donations Go Unused
LoL President Madonna Coffman claims the charity doesn't count incoming hair donations. She told the media in response to the NPI report that "80% of hair donations go unused because they don’t meet viability criteria."
Locks of Love can't use hair which is grey, too short, moldy, wet, processed, or swept up from the hair salon floors.
"The shaft of the hair has microscopic barbs on it, and if our manufacturer doesn’t know the direction the hair was growing in and it’s implanted upside down, it creates a tangle that can never be combed out," explains LoL President Madonna Coffman.
Coffman told the media NPI's Chao only asked her two questions and from her viewpoint, he didn't understand that Locks of Loves doesn't make wigs, just full cranial prostheses which are custom-made to fit one person and only one person.
In other words, LoL can’t just make hairpieces and store them on a shelf until they’re needed. The charity made 317 hairpieces in 2011 because that’s how many were requested.
When people send in usable hair to LoL, it’s sorted into bins by color and sent to a manufacturer, which also keeps an inventory of hair, as needed. All usable hair is kept on hand until it’s needed. That $6 million in hair didn’t disappear, according to Coffman. It’s just waiting to be used.
NPI Wants Increased Transparency From Locks Of Love
NPI, for its part, only wants increased transparency from LoL. The nonprofit writes in a press release:
NPI recommends that Locks of Love publicly disclose the amount of hair donations it receives each year, how many are used to produce wigs, how many are discarded, and how many are sold. NPI views number of hair donations accepted and number of wigs produced to be the two most critical business metrics for Locks of Love to track and disclose in order to provide accountability.
In an email conversation provided by Chao, Coffman admits that LoL doesn’t keep a list of hair donations. But, she says, "I’m curious what his agenda really is."
Summary - $6 Million Dollars Of Missing Locks Of Love Hair Donations
This current question of transparency between NPI and LoL triggers many more questions than it answers.
For many years, consumer hair groups have questioned Locks Of Love on a number of issues which have never been answered to everyone's satisfaction. In the opinion of some, Locks of Love makes it very difficult to determine how much hair is really being donated, whether it's truly viable for use in wigs or not and what happens to the hair which isn't use.
Human hair, whether swept from the salon floor or cut properly and wrapped in a ponytail so it can be used as viable donations, has a variety of uses, not just wigs.
So is LoL committing fraud or are they just disorganized and unwilling to share real information? Fraud investigator Gerard Zach reviewed Locks of Love IRS 990 Form and told ABC News that the rules for gifts like hair "aren't as clear as they could be."Zack said he doubts the organization has $6 million worth of unaccounted hair, but said its IRS Form 990 was "a bit messy."