May 12, 2011; Source: Nonprofit News | At the Cruisin’ the Coast Spring Bike Rally in South Carolina, one booth is devoted to local nonprofits, but the rally sponsors don’t want the Veterans Support Organization (VSO) in the tent. In late April, VSO was hit by the South Carolina Secretary of State for a variety of fundraising violations.
The rally organizers were caught unawares by the complaints levied against the VSO, which included: failing to register its fundraising solicitors as such, misrepresenting to the public the proportion of contributions that get used for veteran programs, and using printed materials from a different organization for its own fundraising purposes.
VSO acknowledged that it had been hit with these fundraising violations but claimed that it had since been remedied. However, the South Carolina Secretary of State action only took place in late April, making VSO’s remedial actions still generally untested and unseasoned. In charge of the rally, Harley-Davidson wasn’t sanguine with VSO’s overnight turnaround.
Isn’t it a sign of the times that an increasing part of the public views veterans nonprofits with a jaundiced eye? The number of veterans organizations that have been news items in AGs’ reports on commercial fundraising solicitation practices has harmed the image and credibility of those veterans groups that do things the right way. The continuing revelations about the U.S. Navy Veterans Association run by a scam artist who called himself “Bobby Charles Thompson,” and the politicians and regulators turning a blind eye to the drip-drip-drip of evidence that this was one absolutely phony organization, haven’t helped the image of veterans nonprofits.
It is high time for the nonprofit sector to clean up its 501(c) wing that claims to be helping veterans and their families. NPQ has covered lots of good veterans nonprofits and not just a few seedy, scummy, rotten ones. To use veterans as a cover for screwing around with people’s charitable goodwill is simply heinous. Too many of these groups get a pass on their lousy charitable and fundraising performance because of the “veterans” moniker. Can anyone blame Harley-Davidson for thinking that the instant improvement in VSO’s compliance with charitable regulations needs to be monitored a bit before they are allowed back into the motorcycle rally’s nonprofit vendor tent?—Rick Cohen