CHARLESTON - A small Bluefield charity intended to benefit Vietnam veterans spent just a fraction last year on veterans, instead devoting most of its dollars to professional fees and fundraising.
Published reports indicate that of every dollar spent last year by the West Virginia Vietnam Veterans Foundation, a little more than a penny actually went to veterans-related activities. The spending totaled $37,700.
National charity watchdog group Charity Navigator says no more than 25 percent of total expenses should be for fundraising and administrative costs combined.
Representatives of the foundation founded in 1997 defended its operations, arguing that many organizations give large percentages of the money they receive to professional solicitors.
The foundation's mission is to provide West Virginia veterans with "emergency funds" for housing, food, utilities, clothing and medical expenses, according to tax forms. The organization has supported youth anti-drug programs, programs that provide gifts to local foster children and other activities, the tax forms state.
The tax forms show it received more than $630,000 from 2002 to 2012.
Treasurer and CFO David Simmons said the foundation gives veterans wheelchairs and drives them to the hospital, among other charitable activities.
Simmons and President C.E. Ball said the foundation doesn't pay salaries.
"Yeah, everything we spend goes toward the veterans, except for our basic office fees." Ball said.
Those fees account for more than 86 percent of the money the foundation spent during the same 11-year time frame. More than two-thirds - $423,000 - covered fees that included the cost of a professional fundraiser.
From 2002 to 2006, the foundation spent an average of 43 percent of its money on actual veteran-related activities. The rest went to fees, rent or other expenses. At no point during that period did the organization raise more than $22,000 or spend more than $10,000 on programming.
The foundation raised $144,275 in 2007, with a little more than $10,000 going to charitable activities. More than $105,000 went to professional fundraising costs.
During the next five years the foundation would spend more than 10 percent on actual veterans' programs only once - 12.5 percent in 2009.
From 2007 to 2012, it spent more money on rent and fees than donations to veterans.