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If You Care About Helping Vets…

KXAN-TV, Austin

KXAN-TV, Austin

House the Homeless salutes an amazing piece of investigative journalism by Brian Collister and Joe Ellis of KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas. We hope you will go to the story page first, which is the source of the table shown here. That’s a good way to avoid being too discouraged about the situation. It is important to start by knowing how many wonderful veterans groups with low fundraising expenses exist.

YES, there are plenty of organizations you can donate to, and feel confident that America’s veterans will get the large majority of the donated dollars. We can keep that firmly in mind while reading the rest of the story, which is what our grandfathers called “a real kick in the pants.”

According to the station:

KXAN uncovered millions of dollars donated to a variety of veterans charities mostly going in the pockets of fundraisers. We examined financial reports those solicitors are required to submit to the Texas Secretary of State. Professional fundraisers have collected $130,399,567 for veteran organizations since 2001, the records show. But those fund-raisers kept 84 percent of the money donated.

Air Force vet David Reyna came back from Afghanistan with traumatic brain injury and PTSD. He had a job, but was hit by a car and could no longer work. Turning for help to the Texas VFW Foundation made sense – except that it didn’t, because they gave him nothing but an extensive runaround. That is when the KXAN investigators entered the picture, and guess what:

The Texas VFW Foundation uses a professional telemarketer in Dallas called Southwest Public Relations, which raised more than $67,617 for the group in 2011 and 2012 combined… The group kept 83 percent.

Although Reyna is certain he filed all the necessary paperwork and jumped through all the requisite hoops, someone from the Texas VFW Foundation told the reporters that Reyna just plain did not qualify for help. Here is a little taste of the sort of conversation an investigator has with, for instance, the Texas VFW State-Adjutant Quartermaster:

Journalist Brian Collister:
Will you please sit down and talk to us about why so much of the money goes to professional fundraisers?

Roy Grona:
No sir, I won’t. I’ll refer you to my lawyer. She’s handling all of that.

In the context, this quotation may come as no surprise:

We also reached out to other Texas VFW leaders and those in charge of the national VFW in Washington D.C. But no one was willing to answer questions about fundraising.

The journalists, naturally, wondered how close to the norm that 83% figure was, and made it their business to find out. Down toward the bottom of their story is a roster of shame, the list of groups collecting money ostensibly to help veterans and holding on to as much as 95% of the take. The most disgracefully avaricious is Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

Good advice for all of us is to check with the informational website Charity Navigator, which maintains a page especially for charities that claim to help veterans.

Charity Navigator’s president and CEO, Ken Berger, believes that 15% is enough for any fundraising group to cover its administrative costs. When they keep more, especially when they keep a lot more, the politically correct word for them is “inefficient,” though other adjectives have been applied. His very helpful advice is to never contribute through telemarketers, but give donations directly to non-profit organizations.

TWO IMPORTANT NOTES

Please help out with the 2014 New Year’s Day Thermal Underwear Give Away Party!

Brand New! Here is a resource to share, all about other ways to truly help Americans experiencing homelessness – No Safe Place: Advocacy Manual
A Report by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

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Source: “84% of donations never reach veterans,” KXAN.com, 11/06/14
Image by KXAN-TV