Some charity solicitations do little but enrich professional money-collectors. That's the disturbing conclusion of a study by the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Tampa Bay Times, augmented by the Charleston Daily Mail.
Here's a sorry example: The West Virginia Vietnam Veterans Foundation, based in Bluefield, claims that it gives veterans wheelchairs, drives them to hospitals, helps them with food, clothing, utilities and medical bills, etc.
However, the foundation collected $37,706 last year -- and spent only $506 on veterans, a measly 1.3 percent. Most of the money was gobbled up by telephone solicitors.
So, if you gave $10 to help troubled veterans, only 13 cents of your money actually went to the vets, and the rest was consumed by charity operators (even though officers of the foundation get no pay). This is disgusting.
The veterans foundation uses a commercial collection outfit called Associated Community Services of Michigan, whose contract allows it to keep 80 percent of all donations. It has been cited or fined for violations at least 16 times in nine states.
Deputy sheriff groups around West Virginia likewise use professional fundraisers to beg donations by telephone -- and the vast majority of the cash is pocketed by the professionals.
Next time someone calls and begs money for veterans or police Christmas aid, ask the caller: How much goes to help people in need, and how much is kept by solicitors?
These dismal examples illustrate the value of honest charities -- especially United Way, which is operated by community volunteers under strict oversight. All donated money remains in the home locale, instead of being carried away by out-of-state operators. And local volunteer watchdogs examine all spending by member agencies to guarantee there's no profiteering.A sensible strategy when professional collectors call is to reply: "No, thank you."