In our community when most folks hear the words, American Veterans.... they don't hesitate to donate.
But we believe you shouldn't give a dime to the group, American Veterans Coalition. One of its phone solicitors called a Colorado Springs woman who was appalled by what she heard.
Rita Wiley says she won't forget this conversation. "I said please feel free to send me the information and I would be happy to make a donation once I've read about your organization. Then he said, 'so you really don't want to help the veterans do you.' Then he hung up on me."
Wiley was furious. Her husband's a Vietnam Veteran so she was genuinely interested in helping until she was treated so rudely.
Since she used to work for a local non-profit she decided to do some checking and found most of the group's donations don't even go to veterans.
Rita says, "To me what that is... is fraud. Just like if it was a for-profit. So that needs to be addressed."
The latest financial information the American Veterans Coalition submitted to the I.R.S. Is alarming.
In 2004 and 2005 the group made more than a million dollars, but reported it used 99 percent of the money.
In fact, 81 to 82 percent paid the phone solicitors, with the rest going toward the founder and his wife's salaries. The remainder covered overhead costs like postage, printing, and supplies.
Only 1 percent... 7-thousand dollars in 2004 and 98-hundred dollars in 2005... actually went towards the Coalition's stated program... educating the public about the needs and ability of vets and providing financial and educational assistance to veterans.
I tried to find out why American Veterans Coalition pays so much for fundraising.., but was told "no comment.... no good will come of your article."
Earlier... a spokeswoman apologized for comments made to Rita by a telemarketer.
Just remember... before you give to anyone, request written information first.
Financial experts tell me you should always check to see how much a charity spends on its' programs, versus how much goes towards expenses.
If a non-profit spends 30 percent or more on expenses you may want to consider someone else.
Several websites are good resources, breaking down the numbers for you. They are the Better Business Bureau's www.give.org and www.charitynavigator.org