Marine Corps League

by Robert
(San Diego County)

What is the rating for the Marine Corps League?

The Marine Corps League, to our great disappointment, never provided the requested Form 990 (tax return), despite an IRS requirement to do so.

We made FOUR requests for the information over the past two months, one using the contact form on their website (to which we received an acknowledgment), and three requests directly to the national adjutant/paymaster (who signed the return we found online) via e-mail. Despite her promise to send the requested information a month ago, it hasn't arrived.

So we turned to GuideStar, where we found the Marine Corps League's most recent Form 990 covering the fiscal year ending 6/30/2008.


The Marine Corps League was founded in 1923 by Major General (and Commandant) John A. Lejeune. It was federally chartered in 1937, which means it is not required to register in the various states. Its national headquarters is located in Fairfax, VA.

The Marine Corps League web site lists the following Mission:

"Members of the Marine Corps League join together in camaraderie and fellowship for the purpose of preserving the traditions and promoting the interests of the United States Marine Corps, banding together those who are now serving in the United States Marine Corps and those who have been honorably discharged from that service, that they may effectively promote the ideals of American freedom and democracy, voluntarily aiding and rendering assistance to all Marines, FMF Corpsmen and former Marines and FMF Corpsmen and to their widows and orphans; and to perpetuate the history of the United States Marine Corps and by fitting acts to observe the anniversaries of historical occasions of particular interest to Marines."

So, let's get down to the details you're interested in.

The tax return filed by the Marine Corps League reports the following revenues:

Direct Public Support: $358,283

Program Service revenue:
Cards, Labels & Notepad sales: $248,809
Marine Corps League News sales: $375,220

Membership dues and assessments: $905,340
Interest on savings & temporary cash investments: $6,511
Dividends & interest from securities: $326,678
Gain (or loss) from sales of assets other than inventory: $-5,160
Net income from special events: $214,794
Gross profit from sales of inventory: $182,055

Other revenue:

Credit Card Program: $15,153
Historical Tour & MCL Log: $3,120
Insurance Admin Fees (??): $16,146
Insurance Reimbursements (from Auxillary): $4,300
Mailing Label Program: $1,480
Miscellaneous Income: $4,651

Total revenue: $2,657,380

Now let's take a look at expenses:

Grants and allocations:
To MCLFoundation for scholarships: $10,000
To Young Marines for programs: $10,000
(We'd like to see both of those numbers higher.)

Compensation of current officers, directors & key employees: $227,846
Other salaries and wages: $311,252
Pension plan contributions: $10,997
Employee benefits: $80,570
Payroll taxes: $41,382
Total employee expenses: $672,047

Accounting fees: $21,654
Legal fees: $3,275
Supplies: $26,579
Telephone: $13,685
Postage & shipping: $34,769
Occupancy: $8,435
Equipment rental and maintenance: $27,122
Printing and publications: $8,522
Travel: $13,101
Conferences, conventions and meetings: $46,784
Depreciation, depletion, etc: $35,207

Awards Program: $2,135
Bank charges: $5,705 (This seems very high, but may include credit card processing fees)
Birthday Ball expense: $32,536
Commandant's Contingency (?): $3,954
Comp Tecg Supp/Pro (?): $1,880
Condo Fees (???): $13,442
Contributions: $1,997
Dist of Card & Notepad Program: $18,771
Dist of Holiday Label Program: $58,778
Distribution of Life Mem Int (?): $257,248
Insurance: $82,608
Internet: $10,220
Iron Mike & Dickie Chappelle awards: $5,066
Janitorial Expense: $5,400
Loss on Ppty Disposal: $105
Marine of the Year: $150 (That's all?)
Membership Promotion: $55,537 ("promotion" labeled program expense)
Miscellaneous: $1,407
MOY & PNC Prog Expenses: $1,692
National Billing (?): $10,912 (labeled program expense, sounds like either management & general or fundraising to us)
Officer & Committee Allowances: $93,041 (nice allowance!)
Outside Payroll Svc: $6,380
Production of MCL News Magazine: $661,382
Veterans Day National: $35,566
Vice-President Visit: $14,364 (allocated to program services)

Total functional expenses: $2,311,466

These were allocated as $1,312,223 (49%) in program services, and $999,243 (38%) in management and general expenses, with $0 allocated to fundraising. Expenses do not add up to 100% because they ended the year with an excess of $345,914 (13%).

Part III of the Form 990 is a Statement of Program Service Accomplishments. We are providing that information for you here. This is more detail regarding the expenses allocated as program service expenses:

Contributions to Marine Corps League Foundation for scholarship and the Young Marines of the MCL for programs: $20,000

Conferences, conventions and meetings: the League support and organizes two meetings throughout the year as a way to assemble the League's members: $46,784

Production of Marine Corps League News Magazine, which is distributed quarterly to subscribers: $716,446

Sale of Marine Corps League merchandise, offering an extensive selection of Marine Corps apparel and accessories: $229,025

Award Programs, Promotions and Travel Allowances: The League engages in activities to gain financial support (sounds like fundraising) through the sale of cards, labels and notepads to promote membership (is this fundraising, since membership generates dues?) and to pay officer and committees to travel to meetings: $250,036

Veterans Day national exposure expenses (sounds like promotion) for the League and to support various Veterans Day activities: $35,566

Expenses to support Vice-Presidential visit (we'd like to know what those were and how they qualified as program services): $14,364

So there are the raw numbers. What do they mean?

Well, for starters, let's give the Marine Corps League kudos for not funneling large portions of their income to for-profit fundraisers.

They generate funds through contributions from the general public, membership dues ($30/year or varying amounts for life membership, depending on age), sale of the Marine Corps League magazine Semper Fi, special events, and sale of Marine Corps league merchandise.

If we were advising MCL, one of the first things we'd want to take a hard look at is their magazine, Semper Fi. There's really not enough information about it on the Form 990, and it's hard to quantify because the annual membership dues of $30 includes a "free" subscription to the magazine, so we don't know how much of the membership dues revenue can be attributed to the magazine. It is responsible for $716,448 in expenses, and total membership dues were just $905,448. So we would think efficiency could be drastically improved and expenses reduced by switching to online publication of the magazine. However, we also realize that there may be a number of older members without computer access, and having the magazine online only would deprive them of access to the magazine. Perhaps a survey or study could be conducted to determine how many would be satisfied to review the magazine online and the production run of printed copies could be substantially reduced, thereby reducing that massive expense (at least theoretically -- we don't know if there are minimum printing requirements in the printing contract).

There is also a line item for $375,220 in revenue generated by "MCL News," yet it also reflects $-15,499 in "net realized loss - exp on financial statement." We can't be sure, but we think they are using "MCL News" and "Semper Fi" magazine interchangeably to refer to one publication.

There is an advertising rate sheet online for the magazine, but there is no advertising revenue reported. Is that what the $375,220 represents? Possibly. We can't tell if that amount represents advertising sold for the magazine, or single sales of the magazine (if there are any) in addition to subscriptions.

There are a couple of items on the Form 990 that raise our curiosity.

There is a revenue line item called "Insurance Admin Fees," responsible for $16,146 in revenue. We have no idea what that income represents.

The other line item we'd like more information about is the "condo fees" expense of $13,442. That's $1,120.17 a month in "condo fees." What is the condo used for? Is their national headquarters office a condo? We don't know, but it could be, because there's no amount listed for rent, and the $8,435 ($702.92/mo.) in "occupancy" expenses could easily be utilities (electric, gas & water) and other upkeep expenses.

This theory seems to be supported by the depreciation schedule, which lists buildings, including "office space" of $287,567, and Land "Units 4A, 5 & 6" plus Land "Zone 7" of $137,237. So that may be a legitimate expense, but calling it "condo fees" without specifying that's it's an office condo (if that's the case) raises eyebrows.

Bottom line: On the one hand, we'd like to see the Marine Corps League become more efficient and reduce those expenses for its print magazine, and we'd like a little more information on some of its other activities. We'd like to see it contribute more to the Marine Corps League Foundation for scholarships, and we'd like to see a larger percentage of revenues dedicated to true program services (not marketing or promotion).

On the other hand, we have to congratulate the Marine Corps League for raising that level of revenues without resorting to professional, for-profit fundraisers.

Whether their expense allocation meets your personal giving guidelines is a decision only you can make.

Comments for Marine Corps League

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Feb 21, 2016
Support the Local Detachments!!
by: Sgt. Jack

Whatever might be said- or thought- about the MCL National Organization, the same is far from true with the local Detachments.

My Detachment raises funds using only volunteers. We are reimbursed ONLY for our direct expenses. All of our "profits" go to local veteran supportive organizations and to veterans and their families that are in need.

We have donated to provide Christmas wreaths on vet's graves, emergency heat, travel and other family expenses.

We volunteer at the local VAMC and support homeless vets and the training facilities that help them off the streets. We put in many person-hours (our wives help out a lot).

And none of our funds go to National. They are all used here in the Greater Asheville (NC) veteran community.

We do NOT solicit by phone. You will see us doing our work on the streets of the community and we are proud to identify ourselves to you.

Sgt. Jack Albright
USMC 1966-1969

Mar 28, 2015
Telemarketer Statements don't add up
by: Rob E

Wrentham, Mass - 3/28/2015 10:00

I got a call today from a man that came in on a "blocked number" or "Private" meaning they blocked the caller ID.

They said that they were looking for another $25 "family support" for the Marine Corp League and that we had supported them in the past. I asked how the donation was made and they said they picked up a check up at our home.

I was aware of another group raising money for the town police department in our town and I called the Chief of Police to ask if it was legit and he was clearly not comfortable in his answers. He only answered direct questions so I got to the point with him and asked how much do they pay them for this service? He said they keep 75% of the donation and the police get 25%.

He was uncomfortable because they need every dollar - really, even if it is obtained under dubious or even fraudulent means? I said I'd drop off the check to them directly if they would use the entire amount and pay nobody for fundraising, and he said that is their policy and they would not pay any fundraiser for direct donations.

Following that, I'm much more careful about telemarketing calls; particularly when they come in on a blocked number and want to collect a check at my home to present. That's how they "justify" their expenses by taking a huge cut.

In the case of the Marine Corp League I asked the caller if he was a professional fundraiser and he answered "no", I work for MCL.

I asked how much of their donations go to the target group; the Marines and their families? He stated "87% of every dollar goes directly to the Marines and the organization uses 13% for overhead and expenses."

That just seemed too quick of an answer and as a business owner, it didn't add up to me so I told him I would look to verify the information on their website and I found NOTHING. No 990 form, no financial statements, no nothing. They are a 501C4 organization and must by law provide this information on request so when I did an internet search for Marine Corp League Form 990, and MCL Financial statements, it brought me to this website which has verified exactly what I suspected.

Thank you to the founders and people who maintain this website!

To use the Marine Corp name in this way is a disservice and it is only a deception to to use a valid proud name in order to simply line personal pockets. It's despicable and the MCL needs have their buttons cut off for allowing this in the name of the USMC.

Semper Fi to all REAL Marines, and "Ooh-rah, let me catch you in an alley" to the phony fundraisers.

Nov 03, 2014
Paid Solictors? Oh Yeah
by: Anonymous

The Marine Corps League uses for-profit telemarketers that call unsuspecting donors in the Boston area from Naples, Florida. These use Magic Jack so that the incoming calls appear local.

They keep most of the money for themselves (about 85%) and routinely advise potential donors that all the money donated goes to the Marines. Shameful and deceptive practices are the order of the day.

Anon, on what basis do you claim 85% going to the telemarketer? If you can provide documentation to back up your claim, I'd like to publish it.

Apr 28, 2013
by: ken lloyd

Bunch of lance corporals acting like generals.

Nov 29, 2012
MCL at the local level
by: Jack K., member - MCL

As an active member of the Marine Corps League, I know that the national organization of the MCL exists primarily to provide the glue to hold the local and state organizations together as a cohesive entity and to interface with the rest of the world.

At the local level, each detachment raises funds and attempts to help active duty Marines and veterans with money and hands-on support. We operate as 501(c)4 organizations and can raise a few hundred $ or tens of thousands of $ to help wounded warriors integrate back into the civilian world, help their families through the recuperation process, help homeless vets, or help vets through a difficult patch.

The Detachments have very little, if any, admin expenses and spend their funds and time helping Marines in their local areas. If you want to help the MCL, find a local Detachment and donate.

By the way, we are a primary force in the Toys For Tots Campaign at Christmas, collecting toys for the Marine Reserve to donate to local charities for every needy local child. In our area, my Detachment collects 7000-8000 toys every year.

Nov 15, 2012
Marine Corps League
by: John R.

As I search for an organization dedicated to aid Marine Corps veterans and active Marines, I found your report on the MCL to be very informative.

I am guessing by the ? in this item (Distribution of Life Mem Int (?): $257,248) that it is a mystery, but other than that, I can't find much that they do that helps Marines. Sure hope that I am wrong, tho.

Thank you for what you do.

Nov 08, 2012
Local & State
by: Thomas K. Reichard, GySgt (Ret)

What you don't see on the tax return at the national level is the many thousands of dollars raised and distributed by State Departments and local Detachments.

Things like local scholarship programs, donations to Marines in need on the spot. Fundraisers for assistance of the Families of Wounded Warriors.

I could go on and on but there is no need.

Semper Fi...

Apr 13, 2012
I appreciate your work!
by: Sue K.

Your informative and thorough report enabled me to make an informed decision about where to allocate my charitable funds.

Thank you for all your work on this site, and for your service to this country!

Thank you, Sue, for your kind words. I believe that helping donors choose veterans charities that actually help our veterans is one way I can thank those veterans for their service.

Jun 09, 2011
Past Department (non paid) Commandant
by: Sgt. Reyes


"Perhaps you should take that into consideration the next time you feel inclined to take an ill-considered and ignorant swipe at someone. No wonder you chose to be anonymous. I'm certain you're not a Marine, because Marines are taught better manners than that."

Jan 01, 2011
Are you kidding?
by: Anonymous

I received a solicitation from the MCL with the assertion that MCL families of our veterans and US Marines who have been wounded or paid the ultimate price.

Where are the these type of expenses listed abov? I see nothing but $20,000 in scholarships and a whole lot for officer and employee payroll and benefits and the publication of a magazine.

The fact that this web site is endorsing this organization leads me to believe that this web site is also a joke!

We're not really sure what you're saying, because your first sentence isn't one.

And perhaps you should read a little more closely. We have not endorsed the Marine Corps League. We have merely provided the information we were able to obtain from their tax return (which isn't nearly enough information), since they failed to provide us with any other information despite four requests.

"Whether their expense allocation meets your personal giving guidelines is a decision only you can make" does not constitute an endorsement.

For an organization of its size, its expenses for wages & salaries is not outrageous. Not everyone can afford to work for free.

Which bring me to your final point. This site is definitely not a joke. It is a labor of love to which I have dedicated my time, without being paid, for almost four years now.

Perhaps you should take that into consideration the next time you feel inclined to take an ill-considered and ignorant swipe at someone. No wonder you chose to be anonymous. I'm certain you're not a Marine, because Marines are taught better manners than that.

When was the last time YOU dedicated four years of your life to helping other people, without getting paid?

Aug 01, 2010
Take Back Your Compliment.
by: Mikal Bloom

The Marine Corps League DOES rely on professional, FOR-PROFIT fundraising to generate revenue. The cards and label program revenues are the NET-proceeds from fundraising by Barton-Cotton. The GROSS-revenue that it takes to generate this income for the Marine Corps League is never reported at the annual shareholders meeting - the convention held in August each year.

The focus of the fundraising is the membership roster of the Marine Corps League. In 28 years of attending these meetings I've never even seen a standard financial report - just a proposed budget for the following year. No balance sheet. No P&L. Nothing that you normally see for this type of disclosure. I've always thought that odd, especially now that the MCL is a $2,600,000 a year operation.

It is my opinion that this organization has gotten very top-heavy and the finances are being manipulated by a very small number of people (5 to 10) That small group is dominated by those drawing salaries and benefits. They, in turn, seem to dominate the board which rubber-stamps the budget. Failure to do so results in the paid staff excluding errant board members from significant events and percs. By the time the budget hits the floor of the convention it rarely meets with significant opposition because the "elite few" in power marginalize the opposition by explaining that they "just couldn't possibly understand" the finances.

No wonder. As little as we're told. I doubt anyone could figure out what is going on.

Jun 28, 2010
by: Robert

Your review of Marine Corps League is very informative and generally coincides with what I was familiar with from past years.

As you say, could be more detailed.


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