Thursday, March 21, 2013

Allied Veterans of the World: How Can We Avoid Nonprofit Scandals?

Nonprofit organizations and charitable causes make our communities stronger. They address pressing needs and issues with passion and hard work. Many people rely on charities’ services to get through difficult times, find hope and support, or just to make ends meet. But what happens when we find out that a nonprofit isn’t really doing the mission driven work they claim they are doing?

A Florida nonprofit was recently in the news for a scandal involving a $300 million gambling operation. Allied Veterans of the World ran nearly 50 internet cafes with computerized slot machines, which are legal in Florida if most of the proceeds go to charity. However, investigators found that executives of Allied Veterans of the World were spending most of the profits on themselves – using donations to purchase lavish boats, beachfront condos, and sports cars.

Nearly 60 people were arrested, and Florida’s lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, abruptly resigned due to involvement as a consultant with the organization. Hundreds of veterans are now homeless and out of a job due to the scandal, and many more individuals are left feeling cheated and lied to after supporting what they thought was a valid veteran’s organization.

At the Charities Review Council, we pride ourselves on being a nonprofit capacity building organization, rather than a charity watchdog, but it’s also our job to help protect the relationship between nonprofits and their donors. After all, when predatory organizations scam donors, it makes securing funding that much harder for mission-driven, legitimate charities. We take our nonprofit and donor education role seriously, and consider it central to our mission to bring these stories to the attention of our constituents so you can make smart giving choices.

So how do you know a nonprofit is truly focused on their mission? 
  1. Look for accreditation. Check to make sure the organization is on our list of the Most Trustworthy Nonprofits
  2. Research. Scrutinize the organization’s mission, service statistics, program components, and impact. Be sure to take note of the fine print, as well. 
  3. Reach out! Make a call and ask specific questions related to your interest area in supporting the cause. For example: 
    • How do you help veterans just returning home? 
    • What services do you provide to veterans in need of housing or food? 
    • Do you help veterans with job hunting assistance? 
  4. Engage. That’s right - you can get involved by volunteering with the organization or by digging deeper into the issue itself.
    • For Veterans organizations, try searching the County Veteran Service Officer in your county of residence at for local needs of veterans. 
It is our priority to help donors and nonprofits form strong, healthy, productive relationships that build collective impact. We can only move our missions forward when trustworthy nonprofits work hand in hand with generous, confident and engaged donors.

For more information on how to best support Veterans organizations, check out our website:

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