Sham Veteran Charities: What You Should Know

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There are few things more shameful than dishonest hucksters taking money from unsuspecting donors for what appears to be a worthwhile cause.  Our small staff at SFTT goes “ballistic”  when we learn that telemarketers and “spin-masters” use deceptive and misleading advertising to raise money for Veterans.

telemarketing scams

Just this week, Sarah Kleiner of Politico wrote an article for Politico entitled “Veterans Charity Raises Millions to Help Those Who’ve Served. But Telemarketers Are Pocketing Most of It.”

In this most disturbing article, Ms. Kleiner reports that telemarketers raising funds for the Center for American Homeless Veterans kept the vast majority of funds:

  • Outreach Calling, the telemarketer representing the Center for American Homeless Veterans, kept $3.7 million, or 90 percent, of the $4.1 million it raised for the nonprofit in the 2014 and 2015 tax years, according to the charity’s annual IRS tax filings. Records filed by Outreach Calling in Utah claim the telemarketer has kept $7.9 million out of $8.7 million it raised for the charity from 2011 to 2015.
  • Since 2015, Outreach Calling has raked in $2 million from the Put Vets First! PAC, the political action committee Hampton runs out of the same Falls Church office as his nonprofits. That’s 89 percent of the $2.3 million in donations the PAC has received in the same time period, according to Federal Election Commission filings. 
  • Charitable Resource Foundation, the telemarketer working for Circle of Friends for American Veterans, kept $6.4 million, or 85 percent, of the $7.5 million it raised from donors between the 2011 and 2015 tax years, according to IRS filings.

This is just another disturbing example of how unscrupulous operators pocket a good percentage of the funds raised for Veteran causes.   The mother of Veteran con jobs was perpetuated by the Wounded Warriors Project, but they are back in business some 18 months later raising money by pulling “heart-strings” with their traditional splashy infomercials featuring celebrities on behalf of WWP.

While some might argue that any residual amount that gets through to Veterans is a good thing, it would be nice to know that a large part of YOUR CONTRIBUTION will find its way to a needy Veteran and his or her family.

Make Sure Your Contribution Goes to a Worthy Veteran Cause

  1. Money is fungible and there is little one can do to monitor your funds once it is surrendered to a third party.  As a rule of thumb, THINK LOCAL and do what you can to support Veterans in your community before contributing to National fundraising efforts for Veterans.
  2. HANG UP ON ANY TELEMARKETER.   Their goals and yours probably don’t coincide.
  3. Don’t be swayed by flashy infomercials such as those regularly sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project.   They are rarely genuine.
  4. While Veteran charitable organizations need an active membership to fund ongoing administrative expenses, seek to contribute (or co-invest) in specific projects sponsored by the Veteran charity.  Focus on charities which channel your funds to specific Veteran programs:  education, homelessness, job search, substance abuse, vocational training, etc. are a far better use of funds than a “media-hyped” day at the ballpark.
  5. Sure, due-diligence is important, but many fine people lack the financial resources to run through the regulatory hoops to become an accredited charity.  In fact, the sheer size of the charity may be an inhibiting factor in getting your funds to the right Veteran cause.  THINK SMALL and LOCAL to channel your funds in the “right” direction.