The Better Business Bureau says before giving money to charities and other organizations, there's one thing you should know: Some of these groups spend very little money on services, with much of the dough going to the professional fundraisers who run their campaigns.
In a news release, the BBB says a Springfield-based group called Veterans in Defense of Liberty is among the more than dozen organizations who sent a man from Galena donation forms.
Each of the forms asked for donations as small as $5 and featured prize packages worth up to $1 million.
The BBB adds that at the end of the mailer sent by Veterans In Defense of Liberty, the group wrote in bold letters "NO donation to Veterans in Defense of Liberty EVER goes toward paying for ANY sweepstakes prize."
But according to information filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the BBB release says very little of the money the organization collects goes to veterans either.
Fundraisers kept more than 94% of funds raised for Veterans in Defense of Liberty in 2014 and 2015, with the group keeping just $49,028 of $1.07 million.
The BBB says the best advice is to research charities and organizations thoroughly before deciding to give your hard earned money to them.
Dr. William Scott Magill, executive director of Veterans in Defense of Liberty, says "the press release provided by the BBB contained material false information, damaging but false information which they didn't take time to verify."
Magill also says their organization is in the process in getting in touch with the National Better Business Bureau.
Here's the full news release from the Better Business Bureau:
Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to research charities and organizations thoroughly before deciding to donate. BBB continues to receive inquiries from consumers about mailers and calls they receive. Some of these inquired about groups spend little on program services with much of the money they receive going to the professional fundraisers who run their giving campaigns.
A Galena, Mo., man recently turned to BBB for advice after receiving dozens of charity mailers. Many of the mailers included an opportunity for the man to enter a contest where he could receive cash or other prizes.
A Springfield, Mo.-based group called Veterans in Defense of Liberty was among the more than dozen organizations which sent the man donation forms. Each asked for donations as small as $5 and featured prize packages worth up to $1 million.
At the end of the mailer Veterans in Defense of Liberty sent, the group wrote in bold letters “NO donation to Veterans in Defense of Liberty EVER goes toward paying for ANY sweepstakes prize.” According to information the group filed with the Internal Revenue Service, very little of the money it collects goes to veterans either.
Fundraisers kept more than 94 percent of money raised for Veterans in Defense of Liberty in 2014 and 2015. Veterans in Defense of Liberty, a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, received $49,028 of $1.07 million raised in 2014 and 2015 according to the group’s IRS 990 reports.
Michelle L. Corey, St. Louis BBB president and CEO, said it is vital for consumers to know to whom they are giving their money.
“When you donate to a cause, you want to make sure your money is going to help,” Corey said. “With these mailers, it appears that the professional fundraisers who organize the campaigns are benefitting the most from contributions.”
American Target Advertising of Manassas, Va., retained $498,316 of $517,048 donated to Veterans in Defense of Liberty in 2014. The following year, the business retained $525,468 out of $555,764 it collected on behalf of Veterans in Defense of Liberty.
Dr. William Scott Magill, executive director of Veterans in Defense of Liberty, told BBB that American Target Advertising pays to produce and send the mailers. Magill defended the organization’s fundraising efforts.
“I’m afraid that is the cost of doing business,” Magill told BBB.
Established in 2010, Veterans in Defense of Liberty says its mission is “to maintain the integrity of our Republic based on correct moral and constitutional principles. Then to use these principles as a criterion of accountability for elected officials.”
In the mailer shared with BBB, the group asks for donations as part of its “Super $1,000,000 Dream of a Lifetime Sweepstakes.”
“This Sweepstakes is part of our efforts to fix the broken and corrupt Veterans Affairs Department,” the letter reads. “… we still have a lot of work to do to ensure that our sick, wounded and disabled veterans are provided with the quality health care they need and deserve.”
“We’re not an organization that buys wheelchairs or prosthetics,” Magill told BBB. “We are pushing Congress to get every vet a ‘Freedom Card,’ so that they can go wherever they want to (for medical treatment).”
The organization also offers memberships through its website – www.vidolamerica.org – with registration costs varying between $30 and $45. Magill would not tell BBB how many registered members the group has, but said they are not close to their goal of 2 million members. Because Veterans in Defense of Liberty is a 501(c)(4) group, none of the donations made to it are tax-deductible. Magill said the organization has no paid staff.
Veterans in Defense of Liberty has an “F” rating, the lowest on BBB’s scale. It has received two consumer complaints, both of which centered on unwanted mailers being received by the consumers.
“We’re out here trying to do the right thing,” Magill told BBB. “If people don’t want to help, they don’t have to. Just throw the damn mailer away. If you don’t want us to mail it to you, we won’t mail it to you.”
BBB spoke with the family of a St. Louis woman who filed a complaint against Veterans in Defense of Liberty with BBB in October 2017. The family asked the organization to quit sending mailers to the elderly woman, who has a number of health problems. The organization replied that it had taken the woman’s name off its mailing list. The woman continues to receive mailers from Veterans in Defense of Liberty. The most recent one was mailed in January 2018.
The woman’s daughter said her mother “has become the target of various predatory charitable organizations.” The woman said the family has sent letters to more than 125 organizations asking that their mother’s name be taken off their mailing lists.
All of the mailers received by the Galena man contained a disclaimer that said a donation was not necessary in order to win the prize. All of the mailers included an entry deadline.
BBB offers the following tips for potential donors here.
BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice,BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information.