Watchdog dings veterans charities after Center for Public Integrity investigation

'Concern advisories' follow revelation that telemarketers pocket vast majority of donations

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A watchdog organization that rates charities is warning donors about two nonprofit veterans groups  because of a Center for Public Integrity investigation published in December.

Charity Navigator has placed “concern advisories” on the Circle of Friends for American Veterans and the Center for American Homeless Veterans, which are run by retired Army Maj. Brian Arthur Hampton in Falls Church, Virginia.

Hampton’s nonprofits use telemarketing companies to raise millions of dollars each year, but the fundraisers-for-hire are keeping 85 to 90 cents out of over dollar they raise, according to an analysis of annual tax filings and state government records. Very little goes toward veterans.

Charity Navigator’s warnings about Hampton’s charities sprung from a meeting of Charity Navigator employees, who decide whether to  issue public advisories about various charities when potentially concerning information arises, whether through government agencies, the media or other sources. The Charity Navigator employees consider the credibility and timeliness of the information, as well as the nature, scope and seriousness of the allegations and whether the allegations have been proven.

“Concern advisories” are labeled “low,” “moderate” or “high.” Hampton’s nonprofits received “low concern” advisories.

The Charity Navigator committee typically issues “low concern” advisories when news organizations publish investigations about charities — as the Center for Public Integrity did in December about Hampton’s nonprofits.

The committee issues “moderate” and “high” concern advisories typically when government authorities, such as attorneys general, allege fraud against people associated with charities or secure convictions against them, said Katelynn Rusnock, advisory system manager for Charity Navigator.

Low concern advisories are prominently displayed on Charity Navigator’s website for at least six months, while moderate and high concern advisories are displayed for at least 12 months. Afterward, they’re archived, but potential donors still have access to the information.

“We try to be a way for donors to gather all of the information they need when making a gift,” Rusnock said. “If we put up an advisory, it’s because there’s something we’ve been made aware of that donors should look into before they make their donation.”

Charity Navigator contacts nonprofits before issuing concern advisories and gives their representatives time to respond. Rusnock said Hampton’s organizations haven’t responded to Charity Navigator after they were notified about the advisories.

In an email to the Center for Public Integrity on Wednesday, Hampton said hiring professional fundraisers frees up his time to work on his charities’ goals, which include educating the public and politicians about the plight of veterans.

“We respect Charity Navigator and other such charity watchdogs, however their criteria is based mostly on the cost of fundraising, because they could not be expected to be able to gauge how an individual charity makes a difference in people's lives,” Hampton said.

READ MORE:

Veterans charity raises millions to help those who’ve served. But telemarketers are pocketing most of it

Charities employ controversial telemarketers to tug on heartstrings — and loosen purse strings

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