At first glance, The Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF), had an admirable mission of “providing critically needed support to disabled and at-risk veterans who leave the military wounded—physically or psychologically.” Many Americans also seemed to believe the DVNF was providing critical support to disabled veterans. The group raised over $115 million in donations just six years after its founding. But less than 15% of donations were spent on program expenses. Manufactured veteran testimonials were used in mail and phone solicitations.
In their solicitations, the group falsely stated that for every dollar donated to DVNF, the organization would be able to supply nearly $10 worth of goods and services to disabled veterans around the country. In actuality, DVNF spent 90 cents of every dollar it raised on direct mail costs, amounting to over $104 million paid to fundraisers. This gross financial mismanagement resulted in a debt of $13.8 million to direct-to-mail services companies like Quadriga Art—a fundraising consultant that agreed to pay $25 million to settle an investigation by the New York Attorney General.
Additionally, the group claims that they donate “badly needed goods” to smaller veterans charities and other organizations. In reality, the few tangible goods sent are often unnecessary and rendered useless. For example, the small veteran’s charity St. Benedict’s received 11,520 bags of coconut M&M’s, 2,600 bags of cough drops, 2,200 bottles of hand sanitizer and 700 pairs of Navy dress shoes, which the group could not use and were given away during a yard sale.
In another example, the group sent chef coats, pillowcases and cans of acrylic paint to a small veterans charity in Arizona, reporting the fair market value of the donation to be $834,000, significantly greater than the actual amount of $234,000.
As part of the $25 million settlement with the New York Attorney General’s Office, DVNF had to cut all ties with its fundraisers, replaced and reorganized its entire board, and ended all solicitations with falsified materials of veteran stories.
Sincere donors thought their money was going to help disabled veterans. Instead, it was used to pay off solicitors, enabling a wasteful cycle.