America's worst charities

Our ranking based on cash paid to solicitors in the past decade

In detail#24: The Veterans Fund

Also doing business as: Veterans Fund Inc.

When Hugh Brooks started The Veterans Fund 15 years ago, he wanted to entertain America's hospitalized veterans. He said he originally planned to rely on volunteer performers but quickly realized his charity needed cash to put on shows. Brooks, now 81, turned to professional solicitors.

The decision meant Brooks would not have to spend time raising donations, but it came with a cost. He would have to pay the companies more than 80 percent of donations raised for his cause.

Brooks said there was no negotiating with solicitors, who had their choice of veterans groups for clients. "It was a 'take it or leave it deal,'" he said.

Over the past decade, Veterans Fund raised $15.7 million and paid for-profit fundraising companies 82 cents of every dollar raised. An additional $1 million went to pay salaries at the charity, including about $40,000 a year to Brooks.

The charity's next biggest payments went to a non-profit entertainment company Brooks had founded. Brooks said he left the entertainment company, Re-Creation U.S.A., four years before he started his charity in 1998.

Veterans Fund also has given grants to a California veterans group, Help Hospitalized Veterans. California's attorney general sued that charity in 2012, accusing it of fraud and financial mismanagement. The case is pending.

In an interview in February, Brooks told a reporter he decided to close Veterans Fund at the end of 2012. The final straw was a $30,000 penalty the charity had to pay to settle allegations of wrongdoing against its telemarketer in Oregon.

Though he doesn't know how his charity would have raised money without outside help, Brooks said he now regrets using professional fundraisers after dealing with complaints about telemarketers from regulators and the public.

"I'd advise charities not to fool with it," he said. "The damage it does to some individuals, especially senior citizens who can't remember, is a greater burden than a charity should take on for the purposes of growing."

In their own words: the Charity's mission

The purpose of the Veterans Fund, Inc. is to enrich the quality of life for America's veterans in VA medical centers and state veterans homes. The fund develops and supports programs that undergird their mental, physical, and emotional recovery, and encourages all Americans to become regularly involved in helping bring them a daily sense of worth, joy, and hope.

Unedited mission statements provided by the Colorado Secretary of State

The Veterans Fund

Known state disciplinary actions

Find out more about the actions in our database

States bringing actions Number of known actions Outcomes Total fines
Oregon, Pennsylvania 2 Fine/penalties $31,000

Fundraising and spending history

For years prior to 2008, cash raised from other sources might be included in the "cash raised by solicitors" column.

Year 990
raised by
was paid
Cash to
the charity
Cash to
direct aid
% cash to
direct aid
totals to
2012 pdf $3,798 $13,121
2011 pdf $104,637 $67,904 $36,733 $60,921 $0 0.00% $83,051
2010 pdf $436,379 $347,663 $88,716 $117,763 $16,225 3.72% $321,387
2009 pdf $1,322,295 $1,052,220 $270,075 $134,048 $53,225 4.03% $708,118
2008 pdf $1,452,119 $1,175,936 $276,183 $128,927 $19,783 1.36% $750,122
2007 pdf $1,226,413 $967,208 $259,205 $117,960 $69,075 5.63% $686,479
2006 pdf $1,264,388 $1,011,767 $252,621 $122,108 $25,000 1.98% $648,354
2005 pdf $1,620,786 $1,296,244 $324,542 $101,527 $37,100 2.29% $868,673
2004 pdf $1,586,932 $1,264,423 $322,509 $90,404 $24,000 1.51% $802,224
2003 pdf $3,608,357 $3,055,481 $552,876 $66,989 $64,340 1.78% $297,441
zTOTALS $12,622,306 $10,238,846 $2,383,460 $940,647 $312,546 2.5% $5,178,970

Who raised the money

Year Solicitor Cash raised Cash to solicitor Cash to charity % to charity Activity
2008 Center Stage Attractions (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) $1,452,119 $1,175,936 $276,183 19.00% conduct joint fundraising/ed
2009 Center Stage Attractions (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) $1,322,295 $1,052,220 $270,075 20.40% conduct joint fundraising/ed
2010 Center Stage Attractions (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) $436,379 $347,663 $88,716 20.33% conduct joint fundraising/ed
2011 Tele-Response Center $104,637 $67,904 $36,733 35.10% conduct joint fundraising/ed

Who got direct cash aid

Year Recipient Cash received Location
2010 Re-Creation Usa $11,125 Port Trevorton PA
2010 Help Hospitalized Veterans (Hhv) $100 Winchester CA
2010 Va Creative Arts Festival $5,000 Washington DC