August 8, 2018

Wise Giving Wednesday: Donate With Honor - Veterans Charity Misspends Funds and Is Permanently Closed

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 another one of the referenced veterans charities that was the subject of government action: National Vietnam Veterans Foundation. This organization was accused of mismanagement and misspending funds.

National Vietnam Veterans Foundation (which also solicited under the name American Veteran Support Foundation) was a charity formed in Washington DC in 1992.  The organization operated primarily out of the Alexandria, Virginia home of its president and founder who also served as the chair of the charity’s three-member Board of Directors. In 2014, this organization raised $8,657,816 from nationwide campaigns using telemarketing and direct mail. Professional fundraising companies received $7,736,171 or 89% of the total amount received. The New York Attorney General’s office found that the amount that was left over for the Foundation was used inappropriately. For example, the president allegedly used funds for personal use such as expensive food and drink at top restaurants, visits to night clubs, parking for two private automobiles in downtown Washington, DC, foreign travel, home security services, and expense reimbursements for fictitious meetings.

In November 2016, then New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman took action against the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation that resulted in the organization being permanently closed.  As part of the settlement, the former president paid $100,000 to the Attorney General, most of which was to be re-directed to charities actually helping veterans.  He also repaid his severance pay received from NVVF; will cooperate with ongoing investigations into others associated with NVVF and its fundraisers; and will also be subject to a permanent nationwide ban on access to charitable assets or decision-making.

Prior to the November 2016 state action, BBB WGA issued a report on National Vietnam Veterans Foundation which indicated that the organization was sent repeated written requests but 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 Yael Fuchs, Co-Chief, Enforcement Section, Charities Bureau, New York State Office of the Attorney General.  She discusses New York's actions against National Vietnam Veterans Foundation and one other entity and how her office seeks to protect New York 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 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