Veterans Charities – Exploitative Scams or Supportive Non-Profits?

An article posted today on Forbes.com brings to light something that I’ve been concerned about for a while now – a surge in veterans “charities.” Whether it’s at a busy intersection or a crowded mall filled with holiday shoppers, I’ve noticed an increase in “charity” workers asking for donations for veterans organizations I’ve never heard of before. While some of these new non-profit veterans organizations may have the best of intentions, others are undoubtedly taking advantage of Americans desiring to support their troops and veterans.

The article in Forbes describes one organization called “Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes Foundation” which was founded by a self-proclaimed “nonprofit entrepreneur.” The Coalition’s founder, Roger Chapin, is somewhat of an expert on non-profit organizations, having reportedly founded 30 nonprofits over the last 40 years. Mr. Chapin’s organizations have successfully raised approximately $400 million for causes ranging from disabled veterans to afterschool programs and antidrug efforts.

The question some critics and members of Congress are asking is “just how much of that $400 million has benefited the intended recipients of the donors contributions?” According to the Forbes piece, the Coalition’s website states that 75% of contributions go directly to programs that help service members. However, the actual charitable contribution is closer to 33% if the cost of junk-mail sent by the organization is excluded.

For comparison, guess what the average charitable commitment is by America’s 200 largest charities? 50%? No. 65%? No. A whopping 86%, my friends.

In addition to the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes Foundation, Chapin has also started these veterans/military orgs:

  • Help Hospitalized Veterans
  • Help Wounded Heroes
  • Make America Safe Foundation

In 2008, Roger Chapin was summoned to testify before Congress and an investigation was initiated into his organizations by the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

If you would like to donate to an organization that supports veterans consider well-respected organizations such as the American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, or Disabled American Veterans. Or research the organization that is asking you for a contribution. There are a number of websites dedicated to vetting nonprofit organizations that you can find on the internet, or simply call the organization and ask for information regarding their average charitable commitment.