LEE COUNTY, Fla. - A WINK News Call for Action investigation looks into a charity panhandling for your support. The Disabled Veterans Foundation says it is staffed by 100% veterans and that 72-cents of every dollar goes to support veterans. Chief Investigator, Melissa Yeager takes out her camera and confronts the charity about just where all the money was going.
Dressed in camouflage, the Disabled Veterans Foundation solicited for donations on U.S. 41 and Daniels Parkway over the weekend. The licensed 501(c)(3) charity says everyone soliciting for donations is a veteran. The charity's website also claims that 72-cents of every dollar goes to help veterans' causes.
While the charity does have tax exempt status, it doesn't mean all of your money goes to support the cause. Using guidestar.org we pulled the 990 forms the Disabled Veterans Foundation filed with the IRS. It showed of the $266,000 it raised last year, $134,000 went to providing housing and food for disabled veterans. That's just 50-cents of every dollar going to vets.
We spoke to charity director Jean Luc Veraguas about his foundation and whether he served in the armed forces.
"I did not. No. I say that on our website," he told us over the phone.
But we couldn't find that information on his website; only a banner that said 100% veterans.
Fundraising coordinator for the Disabled Veterans Foundation, David Bailey talked to us on camera. He agreed with us on one piece of advice:
"If you don't feel comfortable don't donate. We don't force anyone to donate. The locals who donate here have checked us out so do you due diligence."
We asked the charity for more specifics about where their money goes and they said they would call us back and never did.
Before you give money, make a habit of going to the following websites to make sure the charity is efficiently using your donation. Also, be wary of giving to charities you don't recognize who are panhandling on the streets. Instead, check them out and then send a check. Sending a check gives you a record so you can deduct the donation on your tax return.
Http://www2.guidestar.org/ - Provides charity financial forms
http://www.charitynavigator.org/ - Ranks charities by how much money goes toward their causes
http://www.irs.gov/ - Find out what the government has on a certain charity