Some Nonprofits Shortchange Troops,Watchdog Group Says
By Philip Rucker, Washington Post Staff Writer
Americans gave millions of dollars in the past year to veterans charities
designed to help troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, but several of the
groups spent relatively little money on the wounded, according to a leading
watchdog organization and federal tax filings.
Eight veterans charities, including some of the nation's largest, gave less
than a third of the money raised to the causes they champion, far below the
recommended standard, the American Institute of Philanthropy says in a
report. One group passed along 1 cent for every dollar raised, the report
says. Another paid its founder and his wife a combined $540,000 in
compensation and benefits last year, a Washington Post analysis of tax
Richard H. Esau Jr., executive director of the Military Order of the Purple
Heart Service Foundation, based in Annandale, said the cost of fundraising
limits how much his group can spend on charitable causes. 'Do you have any
idea how much money it costs to advertise? It's unbelievable the amount of
money it takes to advertise in the print and electronic media,' he said.
'I'm very proud of what we do, and we certainly do look after everybody.
The point is we do the right thing by veterans.'
Borochoff said many veterans charities are 'woefully inefficient,' spending
large sums on costly direct-mail advertising. 'They oversolicit. They love
to send out a lot of trinkets and stickers and greeting cards and flags and
things that waste a lot of money that they get little return on,' said
Borochoff, who plans to testify before Congress today.
The philanthropy institute gave F's to 12 of the 29 military charities
reviewed and D's to eight. Five were awarded A-pluses, including the Fisher
House Foundation in Rockville, which the institute says directs more than 90
percent of its income to charitable causes.
One group received an A, and one received an A-minus. Jim Weiskopf, spokesman
for Fisher House, said the charity does not use direct-mail advertising. 'As soon as
you do direct mail, your fundraising expenses go up astronomically,' he said.
One egregious example, Borochoff said, is Help Hospitalized Veterans, which
was founded in 1971 by Roger Chapin, a veteran of the Army Finance Corps and
a San Diego real estate developer. The charity, which provides therapeutic
arts and crafts kits to hospitalized veterans, reported income of $71.3
million last year and spent about one-third of that money on charitable
work, the philanthropy institute said.
In its tax filings, Help Hospitalized Veterans reported paying more than $4
million to direct-mail fundraising consultants. The group also has run
television advertisements featuring actor Sam Waterston, game show host Pat
Sajak and other celebrities.
Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the Better Business Bureau, said
the agency has 20 standards for reviewing charities, including that a
charity's fundraising and overhead costs not exceed 35 percent of total
The American Institute of Philanthropy, a leading charity watchdog, issued a
report card this month for 29 veterans and military charities. Letter grades
were based largely on the charities' fundraising costs and the percentage of
money raised that was spent on charitable activities. The charities that
received failing grades are in bold type.
Air Force Aid Society (A+)
American Ex-Prisoners of War Service Foundation (F)
American Veterans Coalition (F)
American Veterans Relief Foundation (F)
AMVETS National Service Foundation (F)
Armed Services YMCA of the USA (A-)
Army Emergency Relief (A+)
Blinded Veterans Association (D)
Disabled American Veterans (D)
Disabled Veterans Association (F)
Fisher House Foundation (A+)
Freedom Alliance (F)
Help Hospitalized Veterans/Coalition to Salute
America's Heroes (F)
Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (A+)
Military Order of the Purple Heart Service
National Military Family Association (A)
National Veterans Services Fund (F)
National Vietnam Veterans Committee (D)
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (A+)
NCOA National Defense Foundation (F)
Paralyzed Veterans of America (F)
Soldiers' Angels (D)
United Spinal Association's Wounded Warrior
USO (United Service Organization) (C+)
Veterans of Foreign Wars and Foundation (C-)
Veterans of the Vietnam War & the Veterans
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (D)
VietNow National Headquarters (F)
World War II Veterans Committee (D)
Please circulate this message.