Vietnam Veterans Of America
by Allan Ayo
Do you have a rating for Vietnam Veterans of America (the national organization)?
It's not shown on your page of charitable 501 C3
or 501 C19 organizations.
Thank you for your question about Vietnam Veterans of America.
Our research indicates that VVA was incorporated in New York in 1978. Its stated purpose, as reported to the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance (BBB): "to improve the condition of the Vietnam veteran and promote social welfare improvements in the United States, study proposed legislation which may affect the welfare of the Vietnam veteran, provide assistance to groups interested in the development of programs to meet the economic and social needs of veterans and assist disabled and needy war veterans including, but not limited to, the Vietnam veteran, and their dependents and the widows and orphans of deceased veterans."
Apparently, the statement of purpose has been updated on the VVA website and is slightly re-worded, but is too lengthy to repeat here. If you'd like to read it, you'll find it at vva.org/purpose.html.
We found an interesting contradiction between the stated purpose (above, and on the web site), which specifies "to assist disabled and needy military veterans including, but not limited to, Vietnam-era veterans" and this statement on their "who we are" page: "Vietnam Veterans of America is the only national Vietnam veterans organization . . . exclusively dedicated to Vietnam-era veterans and their families."
Further down the "who we are" page, under "special programs" it lists: "support the next generation of America's war veterans."
So it appears to us that VVA has decided to expand its programs to include the current generation of veterans, but hasn't changed its claim to be the only national Vietnam veterans organization "exclusively dedicated to Vietnam-era veterans."
The web site for Vietnam Veterans of America has a page titled "VVA Strategic Documents," where there is a link to its 2009 Annual Report. If you work your way through the annual report, you'll find a statement of revenues and expenses near the end.
VVA has done some clever accounting, which is certified by its auditing firm to be in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). But we agree with the BBB that the information appears to be presented in such a way as to deliberately disguise a large portion of fundraising expenses.
Here's what happens: Vietnam Veterans of America operates what it calls a "Recycling Program," in which it collects discarded household items that are then re-sold (in bulk) to contracted private companies. The recycling program costs shown in the financial statements are VVA's "solicitation costs for generating the items collected" (in other words, its cost to raise the funds generated by the program, or what most of us would call "fundraising expenses"). So, in its financial statements, VVA subtracts those fundraising costs first and lists "net" revenue generated by the recycling program. This is explained in the "notes to financial statements" on p. 19 of the Annual Report.
That may not seem very significant until you see the numbers, and the difference it makes.
VVA's audited financial statement for the year ended February 28, 2009 (the most recent available on its web site), shows:
Recycling Program Revenue: $18,258,434
Less Recycling Program Cost: $13,299,038
Net Recycling Program Revenue: $4,959,396
That net number is what is used to reflect revenue generated by the recycling program, so VVA lists total revenues and support of $6,970,385.
Then, when it lists expenses, it shows $5,129,994 in program services expenses, and only $726,511 under "fund-raising." Those numbers look much more respectable to potential donors, because they "hide" the $13.3 million dollars (!) spent to "raise the funds" realized by the recycling program.
When the BBB re-calculated the numbers, the picture looks very different. Here's what BBB shows:
Total income: $19,330,779
Program expenses: $5,129,994
Fundraising expenses: $14,430,184
Administrative expenses: $1,207,652
Total expenses: $20,767,830
Net loss for the year: ($1,437,051)
Thus, the BBB reports as of March 2010 that Vietnam Veterans of America spent just 25% of revenue on veterans programs, and a whopping 69% on fundraising expenses, with the remaining 6% going to administrative expenses.
The BBB sets forth 20 standards for charity accountability. According to its March 2010 report, Vietnam Veterans of America does not meet 11 of those standards. It did meet 7 of the standards, and failed to produce the information required to determine compliance with the remaining 2 standards. You can get more details by clicking the link above and reading the BBB report.
Vietnam Veterans of America was not among the organizations included in the American Institute of Philanthropy's report to Congress in 2007.
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