If you’re anything like the majority of us, you want to know where your hard-earned bucks are going. One area that can get a little fuzzy at times is charities.
Charitable giving is not just the realm of generous humanitarians: Normal, everyday people give in big and small ways — but you have to be careful.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the best and worst veterans and military charities you can give your money to.
Where is your military charity money going?
CharityWatch.org keeps an eye on the best and worst veterans and military charities you can donate to on behalf of the brave men and women who have worn our nation’s uniform. The organization grades each charity on an A-F scale:
Top choices among veterans charities
- Armed Services YMCA of the USA (A)
- Bob Woodruff Family Foundation (A)
- Fisher House Foundation (A+)
- Gary Sinise Foundation (A)
- Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind (A)
- Homes for Our Troops (A)
- Hope For The Warriors (A)
- Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (A-)
- Mission Continues (A)
- National Military Family Association (A)
- Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (A)
- Operation Homefront (A-)
- Semper Fi Fund (A+)
- Team Rubicon (A-)
- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (A)
- Wounded Warriors Family Support (A)
Another Clark-approved charity that is not rated by CharityWatch, but has received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator four years in a row is Hire Heroes USA, which works one-on-one with veteran and military spouses to help them navigate the civilian job market, trying to minimize the impact of veteran and military spouse unemployment and underemployment.
Avoid these veterans charities
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a list of bogus charities to avoid. In some cases, the FTC says the following charities pocketed 95% of donations intended for veterans:
- American Disabled Veterans Foundation
- Foundation for American Veterans, Inc.
- Healing Heroes Network
- Help the Vets, Inc.
- Healing American Heroes, Inc.
- Military Families of America
- National Vietnam Veterans Foundation
- Veterans Fighting Breast Cancer
- VietNow National Headquarters, Inc.
- AMVETS National Service Foundation (F)
- Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation (F)
- Paralyzed Veterans of America (F)
- Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (F)
How to make your money count for any charitable donation
Before donating to any charity, you need to know the rules of the road and the precautions to take to ensure that the money will go where it’s needed.
- Don’t give cash. Legitimate charities will take a check.
- Don’t give credit card, bank account or personal information to telemarketers. In fact, you should be skeptical of telemarketers. If you want to give, you should be the one who initiates the call.
- Don’t give to Internet appeals if the cause does not look legitimate and doesn’t check out. Traditional frauds have gone electronic in recent years, giving con artists easy access to thousands of potential victims.
- Don’t give in to pressure. Anyone that can’t wait for a donation while you check out his or her organization is likely to be a crook.
- Expect specific information. Ask what kind of relief this organization is going to provide. Don’t give to a vague appeal.
- Check out the charity with national, state and local authorities. Established charities register with the Internal Revenue Service. You can search for specific non-profit organizations on the IRS website.
- Beware of newly formed organizations. If the charity is new, you may have to rely on your relationship with the company or sponsor of the organization to determine whether you trust the group.
- Report abuses to the nearest Better Business Bureau and the State Attorney General’s office. You can also report abuses to the National Fraud Information Center at (800) 876-7060 or at Fraud.org.