August 1, 2018

Wise Giving Wednesday: Donate With Honor - Charity Misled Donors in Appeals for Phone Cards for Troops

In our continuing Wise Giving Wednesday series about the “Donate With Honor” press conference held at the Washington DC office of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) along with state Attorneys General and state charity regulators, we take a closer look at one of the referenced veterans charities that was misleading donors: Healing American Heroes.

Healing American Heroes (which also solicited under the name Help Our Wounded) was a charity located in Round Rock, Texas.  In 2015, this organization raised $2,669,710 by distributing 5 million direct mail appeals nationwide. The office of the Attorney General in Michigan noted that these mailings stated the “urgent” need for phone cards for wounded service members deployed in the middle east and also claimed that all 50,000 soldiers stationed in that region wanted a phone card. Healing American Heroes, however, spent just $5,030 for this purpose and purchased only 1,000 cards. None of these cards were distributed to troops in 2015, they were sent to troops in 2016.

In November 2017, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that Healing American Heroes dba Help Our Wounded reached a settlement that resulted in the dissolution of the charity. The settlement was the result of an investigation by the Attorney General that found the charity engaged in deceptive solicitation and the diversion of funds raised to purposes other than the intent stated in appeals. The Office of the Attorney General stated that Under the settlement, Healing American Heroes dissolved and will pay any remaining funds to [two veterans charities specified by the state] ...Healing American Heroes' founder will pay $20,000 and agree never to serve as a charitable fiduciary again.

Prior to the November 2017 state action, BBB WGA issued a report on Healing American Heroes indicating that it sent repeated written requests to Healing American Heroes but the organization did not disclose any of the requested information.

There are steps donors can take to avoid being taken by misleading appeals, one is to verify if the charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. See this link to a previous blog for a list of 26 veterans and military service charities that meet these standards. 


Video of the Week 

To give further insight into these veterans organization issues, this week’s video features an interview with William Bloomfield, Assistant Attorney General, Corporate Oversight Division, Office of the Michigan Attorney General, Lansing, Michigan.  He discusses the Michigan's action against Healing American Heroes and how his office seeks to protect MIchigan donors from deceptive appeals.


Recent Reports 

We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit Give.org or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:

Finally, remember to let us know by going to http://give.org/charity-inquiry if you are  interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.   

H. Art Taylor, President & CEO
BBB Wise Giving Alliance