Giving to military charities

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Through colorful brochures, heart felt stories and pictures of wounded soldiers, military charities are working hard, especially now, to solicit your money. Before you write that check, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says check it out.

"Take a little minute. Take two minutes. Take five minutes to check on where your dollars are going. The people you're trying to give them to, deserve them," said Hosemann.

Armed with the financial reports of charitable organizations allowed to solicit in Mississippi that's just what WLBT did. Random mailers from military charities were examined to see how much actually goes to a charitable purpose and how much doesn't.

Disabled American Veterans, with almost $8 million in revenue was one of the highest in terms of how much goes directly to charity, at 95 percent according to it's 2008 fiscal year.

AMVets spent almost 80 percent on charity.

On the other end are organizations like the National Veterans Services Fund which took in more than $7 million during its 2008 fiscal year, but only spent $1.6 million or 22.4 percent on their charitable purpose and it's perfectly legal.

"Once they've registered with us and solicited the money, it's clearly up to them as to how to spend it as long as it's done along the purposes they solicited for," said Hosemann.

The numbers were similar for AdoptaPlatoon which in fiscal year 2008 had a total revenue of $5.2 million and only spent $1.2 million on their charitable purpose which breaks down to about 27.6 percent. More than 70 percent went to fundraising and administrative expenses.

"If you see 60 or 70 percent on management, they probably don't deserve your charitable dollar," said Hosemann.

"The more information you can have, the better," said Bill Moak with the Mississippi Better Business Bureau. Moak recommends at least 65 cents of every dollar to be used directly for charity.

"That's a bare minimum. Good charities will spend usually in the eighties or ninety percentages on programs," said Moak.

Mississippi is one of the leading states in the country in terms of charitable contributions, a position held for years and with the nation at war the solicitations keep coming, making it even tougher to figure out where financial support should go.

"To be a good donor, you need to be an informed donor," said Mark McCrary with the Center for Nonprofits. McCrary says being cautious will ensure the biggest bang for you buck.

"If a charity is using a lot of their money just for overhead, that would be a question. You begin to wonder if they're really set up to met their mission," said McCrary.

It's a mission which can sometimes be better laid out on paper and stuffed in an envelope.

To check charities before you give, visit

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