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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Give money to charity but......

do a little homework first. Here is an article from the Tampa Tribune. Some charities spend up to 90% on overhead. From my telemarketing experience, I know how little some charities get from the companies they hire who do their calling. That's before their own overhead. Do your homework, and if any of you could here is a charity that touches close to home for me. I knew the founder Diana Ashby and some of its current board(All unpaid). MRF helps support research in a field of cancer that needs it.

Open Post- Is it just me?, Third World County, Adam's Blog, Bright & Early, Right Wing Nation, Jo's Cafe, Basil's Blog,

TAMPA - During the past eight years, a charity for needy veterans has raised more than $2.1 million and spent about $1.9 million on its own fundraising and management costs.

The Florida Veterans Assistance Association operates out of a small office in northwest Hillsborough County. Dozens of thank-you notes are posted on the walls.

"I do agree our overhead is high," said John Sutton, director of the organization. But Sutton said raising the money "is very difficult."

He said he believes other charities are exaggerating when they claim to direct a higher percentage of their collections toward direct program services.

There's nothing illegal about spending such a small portion of the proceeds - just 10 percent - on services, said Terry McElroy, a spokesman for the Florida Division of Consumer Services. But the story of the Florida Veterans Assistance Association demonstrates the challenge people face - at holiday time and year-round - in choosing a charity.

"You really need to know about an organization and its activities," said Tom Pollack, a charities expert at the Urban Institute in Washington.

Like other spending choices, that means doing research to decide among the 317,000 public charities registered with the IRS nationwide, 13,973 of them in Florida.

3% Of Proceeds In '97 Went To Vets

The financial records of the Veterans Assistance Association have experts scratching their heads. According to the Division of Consumer Services, the most successful year of fundraising for the charity came in 1997 when it pulled in $372,397 and spent $10,968 - or about 3 percent - on direct program services that help vets.

Fundraising ate up $201,437 of the money, and management expenses $116,447.

Joel Markman, president of the Florida Veterans Assistance Association, received $6,850 in salary in 2003, according to documents that charities file each year with the IRS, called a Form 990.

Overhead may be high, Markman said, but no one is getting rich: "We're proud of everything we do."

Asked about $123,530 in "other salaries and wages" that are listed on the same Form 990, Sutton said that didn't sound accurate.

Eight full-time employees and volunteers work from a back room at the Veterans Assistance Association offices, where the sounds of Johnny Mathis and Frank Sinatra flow from a stereo. Along with the Marilyn Monroe photographs and calendar, they show Markman's penchant for the 1950s.

Markman said the organization sponsors music events for veterans once or twice a month, delivers gift packages, and makes small cash gifts to vets in need. There's also a toll-free 800 number.

Markman expresses confidence about the organization's future. In a Web site message he calls it "the fastest growing Veterans Service Organization in the United States. By 2010, we expect to open offices and serve Veterans in five more states."

It's Best To Visit Charity

Pollack of the Urban Institute said 80 or 90 percent of donations going to overhead didn't seem plausible, unless such spending has a major public education aspect. To find how much of each charity dollar goes to services, he advised anyone considering a donation to seek out an annual report or other financial statement on the charities they choose.

Many groups post those online now. Disclosure is required for groups like Veterans Assistance Association, registered with the IRS as a 501(c)3 organization. Even better, Pollack said, visit the organization and talk to people: "You certainly can't use any real simple measure."

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