The state and lives of many of the veterans in the United States is very distressing. Many veterans suffer from trauma, addiction, and homelessness issues across the nation with little relief or support. Increasing the aid our country provides to help veterans is a hot topic right now with no clear outcome in sight. But at least there are charities to support our veterans like the Foundation for American Veterans, right?
Unfortunately, some charities aren’t all that altruistic. While many charities claim to support veterans, among other issues, an alarming number of charities actually fall so far short of this goal that their actions are actually questionable and suspicious.
Foundation for American Veterans (FAV) is one such charity.
Fortunately, the Foundation for American Veterans has since been dissolved in recent months, though that does nothing to make for the funds that were likely misplaced and abused. If you hear of anything going on or receive contact from the Foundation for American Veterans in future, be wary of this group and protect your funds.
Foundation for American Veterans’ Stated Mission
The stated mission of the formerly Michigan-based Foundation for American Veterans is somewhat of a catchall when it comes to addressing hot-button veteran issues.
They supposedly aimed to make the hospital stays of veterans more comfortable, aid homeless and disabled veterans by providing clothing and toiletries, provide financial support to those in extreme situations, and offer counseling and rehab to those struggling with addiction.
While an admirable mission, there is a record of little funds actually being allocated to help these issues.
The Dissolution and Illegitimacy of the Foundation
One of the main tip-offs to those approached by the Foundation to make a donation was the uncomfortably pushy forms of their solicitations. According to testimony gathered by the Better Business Bureau, recipients of unsolicited phone calls were heavily pressured to make a donation.
Upon requesting information about the charity be sent to her home before donating, one target of the Foundation was surprised to later find in her mail, not information, but rather a statement that she had already pledged a donation and a request to send it as soon as possible.
Such forward pressure to donate without being willing to provide reasonable information about the charity is a key sign that something isn’t quite right.
Failure to report
There is very little information available about the actual financial information of the Foundation for American Veterans. This is due to their failure to publish any information on their own (now discontinued) website, as well as failure to report information to the Better Business Bureau, which is in charge of evaluating Standards of Charity Accountability.
There is some information about there financials available, gathered through the IRS and a Charity Navigator report.
Is this charity charitable?
No, it is not.
While the Foundation for American Veterans has made some verified donations to different funds to support veterans, still more of their claims to donations are actually falsified or can’t be confirmed. The funds that have been donated are shockingly small compared to donations received.
According to the report conducted by Charity Navigator back in 2006, the Foundation donated just six cents for every dollar raised to actually support veterans. It is believed that this rate may have even dropped in more recent years.
According to the Better Business Bureau, using information compiled by the IRS, the Foundation received $12.2 million in donations in 2013-2014, $10.5 million of which went directly back into fees, fundraisers, and solicitation campaigns. This leaves just 14 percent of their funds to actually support the cause they were raised for — but between further fees, salaries, and contractors, the actual percentage that went to veterans was much, much smaller.
One incident of a fraudulent donation claimed by Foundation for American Veterans came about in this same 2013-2014 fiscal year. It reported granting $12,000 each to both Paralyzed Veterans of American and the Women Marines Association of Oaks, PA.
The first of these groups, however, reports that it only ever received $1,000 from the Foundation in 2011. The Women Marines Association likewise reports only receiving $1,000 in 2013.
These misallocations of funds and the miniscule percentage of donations actually used to benefit veterans has earned it an “F” rating by Charity Watch, as well as disparaging reviews on other similar sites. It’s even been listed as one of the worst veterans charities by clark.com.
Foundation for American Veterans financial details
Tax-exempt organizations, nonexempt charitable trusts, and section 527 political organizations are required to file a Form 990 or 990EZ with the IRS. This financial statement can give you a clearer picture of how they use their resources.
The following financial data was extracted from their last publicly available tax return from 2016.
Percentage of donations spent on services
- Total donations and grants: $13,724,044
- Spent on services and grants: $4,340,169
- Percentage of donations toward grants and services: 31.62 Percent
Percentage of revenue spent on fundraising
- Total revenue: $13,724,044
- Fundraising expenses: $6,008.025
- Paid to professional fundraisers: $6,008.025
- Percentage of total revenue spent on fundraising: 43.77 percent
Administrative and overhead costs
- Overhead expenses: $3,658,477
- Property assets: $1,639
- Investment assets: $5661809
- Paid to officers/directors: $283,482
- Highest paid officer/director: President $113,167
- Percentage of total revenue spent on officers/directors salaries: 2.06 Percent
Surely the Foundation for American Veterans couldn’t possibly be any more sketchy, right? Unfortunately, it can.
It appears that FAV also had some dealings with other companies that likewise don’t have shining reputations. These companies include three local Michigan companies that all have ties to the same families in the area, the largest of which is Associated Community Services (ACS).
The Foundation directed their calling and soliciting services through ACS over the course of a 10-year contract. They paid ACS over $6 million in 2013-2014 alone.
The actions of the ACS have been incredibly suspect over the past decade. The state of Michigan has accused the ACS of over 400 separate legal violations, and it has been involved in multiple lawsuits against fraudulent charities that misallocate their funds.
Given the reputation of Foundation for American Veterans, it’s no surprise that they’ve had intimate dealings with likewise corrupted organizations in the form of the ACS.
The call to end the Foundation for American Veterans
Many targets of the Foundation for American Veterans have been able to sniff out the illegitimacy of the organization, saving their money for legitimate charities. The millions of dollars raised by the organization, however, proves that many more have been sucked into the Foundation’s scam.
Those targeted began to call for the exposure and dissolution of the Foundation. One vocal advocate was even a former veteran himself, who had been vehemently accosted on the phone by someone seeking a donation who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Though the Foundation was active at the very least in 2016 and likely some of 2017, FAV has since fortunately been dissolved.
While this organization is no longer up and running, however, you should still be wary if you hear of activity from it again. General wariness should extend to other charities whenever they attempt to solicit you — always have your guard up and request information, and be sure to do your own research before committing any pledges.
How to Spot an Illegitimate Charity
The Better Business Bureau offers key tips for determining whether or not a charity is legitimate.
Check the BBB Charity Review
The BBB’s charity review reports provide extensive information on different charities, providing financial information as approved and supported by the IRS as well as verified with other organizations.
Know your telemarketer
They next suggest that if you’re solicited for money by a telemarketer to ask for direct information to determine if they’re legitimate. Ask for the name of the telemarketer, the charity, and further ask how your donation will be spent — what percentage actually goes to charity and what goes to other sources.
The same goes for solicitation via mail.
Don’t immediately commit
Legitimate charities will understand your need to verify information and see just exactly where your money is going. Ask for a website or contact the charity directly.
If the person you’re speaking to comes off as overly pushy, this is a key sign that they might be part of a scam.
Never give out credit card information
Don’t give out credit card information before researching a charity, and especially not over the phone. If you’re not going through an accredited website, it’s best to donate through cash or check.
Making Your Donations Count
Just because some charities are sketchy, however, doesn’t mean that they all are. There are many legitimate charity organizations out there doing their best to champion and help the causes they believe in. Veteran support is no exception.
So, don’t let a few scam charities leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Rather, find a legitimate alternative that will actually put your money to good use and make your donation count.
In looking for legitimate charities, be sure to do your research online and also take care to ask how your money will be divided up and used. You want to be sure that the charities you support are actually supporting the causes they claim to.
There are lots of great charities out there to help support veterans specifically. Clark.com provides a list of A+ through A- rated veteran charities that you can be sure to trust your donations with, such as Bob Woodruff Family Foundation, Hope for the Warriors, and Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.
While the Foundation for American Veterans may not be an organization that you should invest your money in, there are plenty of charities out there that you can donate to in confidence. Our nation’s many struggling veterans will thank you.