Protecting our veterans via responsible giving

Posted 11/8/17

As despicable as it is to even think, the ugly truth is that in today’s society there are wrongdoers who yearn to exploit one of our nation’s most beloved groups; that is, our veterans, as well …

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Protecting our veterans via responsible giving

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As despicable as it is to even think, the ugly truth is that in today’s society there are wrongdoers who yearn to exploit one of our nation’s most beloved groups; that is, our veterans, as well the thousands of goodhearted donors who believe in their cause.

With the approach of Veterans Day, many legitimate charities extend their outreach in campaigns intended to raise public awareness and needed funds, the latter of which help to keep their support work afloat.

Sadly, there are some individuals, or groups, who make it their practice to steal from contributors.

This must also be said. The efforts of some veterans support organizations, especially those with limited experience in fundraising, are well-intended but poorly managed. This, too, creates the potential for budgetary mistakes that don’t constitute theft, yet they can result in donations being misdirected, accidentally or otherwise.

Both scenarios point to the reason the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance provides several tips on how to, and how not to, donate to veteran causes.

Lisa Geren, executive director of the BBB’s Cleveland office, explains it best in a series of reminders to potential donors.

“As Veterans Day approaches, we are mindful and appreciate their many sacrifices,” she states. “Veterans Day brings out the flags, the solemn ceremonies, the heartfelt thanks … and charitable solicitations. However, the BBB suggests doing your research before you decide to give.”

Geren adds, “Donation requests from veterans and military-affiliated charities are always high around Veterans Day and throughout the holiday season. To ensure that your donations go just where you want them to, review BBB’s charity reports on give.org or order a copy of the “Wise Giving Guide.”

BBB offers these tips for giving to veterans and military-affiliated organizations:

• Mistaken identity: Watch out for name confusions. Many veterans’ charities include virtually the same words in different order or slightly different form.

• Clear program description: Look for a clear description of the organization’s programs in its appeals and on its website. If the charity says it is helping veterans, does it explain how (financial assistance, shelter, counseling) and where it is doing so?

• Telemarketing cautions: Telemarketing can be a costly method of fundraising unless carefully managed. If called, do not hesitate to ask for written information on the charity’s programs and finances before making a donation decision.

• On-the-spot donation decisions: Be wary of excessive pressure in fundraising. Don’t be pressured to make an immediate donation. Charities should welcome your gift whenever you want to send it.

• Donating used clothing and other goods: Find out how the charity benefits from the collection and resale of used clothing and other in-kind gifts. Sometimes the charity receives only a small portion of the resale price of the item or may have a contractual arrangement to get a flat fee for every household pick-up, no matter the contents.

• Check with outside sources before giving: In addition to charity-monitoring resources such as give.org, check with your state government’s charity registration agency. In Tennessee, contact the Secretary of State at www.SOS.TN.gov.

• To obtain a free copy of the 52-page “Wise Giving Guide,” send an email to give@council.bbb.org, or mail a post card or note to: Wise Giving Guide, 3033 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 600, Arlington VA 22201. Be sure to include your mailing address.

In most cases, the veteran or military-affiliated organizations seeking donations — especially those in our Cleveland and Bradley County community — are legitimate, and their cause is just. But, all it takes for a donor’s sense of goodwill to be dampened is one bad experience with an organization that claims to be something that it is not.

For these reasons, and for full transparency and future credibility, it is sound advice to seek the professional help of organizations that closely monitor fraud and its potential.

“Celebrate our great veterans, but be responsible in your giving,” Geren reminds us.

Certainly, we agree.

For more information, visit BBB.org/ClevelandTN or call Lisa Geren in the Cleveland office at 423-464-5969.

Let us keep the causes of our veterans sacred. They are the heart of America’s moral conscience.

When we safeguard our veterans’ causes, we safeguard them.

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