Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Name Them and Shame Them- Veteran's Charity (again)

There is not much that pisses me off more than a charity that sets themselves up as one who takes care of Veteran's but in reality only take care of themself.  If that doesn't piss you off too, then you just aren't paying attention. As a rule, I think many Americans want to donate some of their hard earned money to support the troops and Veteran's issues.  Since most people aren't touched by the war/s, it's one way that people can feel that they are involved and that they "Support the Troops".  The downside is, it seems that someone can form a non-profit, slap either "troops" or "Veteran's" in the name of the charity and they can be off and running with well intentioned donor's money. So, when people take advantage of the good nature and good intentions of others, it kind of pisses me off.

It's not that Roger Chapin is new to this scam; he's been at it for 4 decades and the mere fact that he has been at it for 4 decades puts him in the Hall of Shame for Charities.  Back in January 2008, I wrote in this blog about Chapin's reluctance to testify to Congress about his charities, Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV) and the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes Foundation.  25% of the money donated went to the charities; the  balance went into the pocket of the administrator's.  At the time, The Army Times reported that lawmakers pushed Chapin and two executives of fundraising companies on the question of whether solicitations should disclose information about the percentage of donations that a group spends on fundraising. By far, the best exchange of the 3 hour hearing was this response to that question. "If we disclose, we'd be out of business," Chapin said. "Your words are wonderful, because if the public knew, they wouldn't donate," said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. Touche'! If you want to hear the testimony, go here.

Now, one year later, Chapin and his charity, the Coaliton to Salute America's Heroes Foundation is back in the spotlight again and I don't mean that in any good way.  Forbes is reporting  "on its Web site the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes Foundation, the veterans charity run by controversial, self-described "nonprofit entrepreneur" Roger Chapin, says flatly that 75% of contributions received "goes directly to programs that help service members."  But the Ossining, N.Y., nonprofit’s own data from its latest, just-filed financial statements--issued under penalty of perjury--tell a far different story. Thanks mainly to high fundraising costs from sending junk mail, the Coalition’s actual level of charitable commitment was just 51%. That’s one-third less than 75% and a percentage that leading charity watchdogs consider unacceptable. The average charitable commitment on the annual Forbes list of America’s 200 largest charities, which uses a slightly different methodology and includes different kinds of nonprofits, is 86%. 

Roger Chapin is one of the bad guys, no doubt. This is his story, this is his life and if you believe in karma, he will get his, but he's not the only one.  Do not be fooled by slick websites or shiny pamphlets. There are alot of good charities that do support the troops and veteran's issues and sadly, there are many bad ones, too.  In the meantime, before you donate to any charity, please check them out.  Charity Navigator is a good source to check out verifiable data on many charities, including those that "Support the Troops".

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