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Vietnam Veterans of America's 'Recycling' Program, Debunked!

   Jul 21, 2023

This article was updated on July 21st, 2023 to reflect data about the charity's newly analyzed 2022 fiscal year. 

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Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) reports reasonable overhead and program spending in its annual financial documents, but a closer analysis by CharityWatch reveals a different picture of how efficiently this nonprofit operates.

Vietnam Veterans of America reported spending 62% of its expenses on programs in fiscal 2022. CharityWatch's analysis of VVA's tax form and audited financial statements for that year shows that VVA spent 41% of its expenses on programs.

Why the difference?

In its audit, VVA refers to the costs associated with collecting "discarded household items and automobiles from the community" to be a "Recycling Program." It subtracts these costs from the revenue it generates from selling these donated items to "contracted private companies." Therefore, these costs do not show up in VVA's reported fundraising and total expenses. A donor who takes VVA's reported operating expenses at face value would think VVA is operating more efficiently, and spending a higher portion of its budget on programs, than it actually is.

CharityWatch disagrees with VVA's reporting. The expenses a nonprofit incurs to raise contributions, whether the contributions are in the form of cash or non-cash items like donated household goods, are fundraising expenses and should be reported as such. In fiscal 2022, VVA reported spending approximately $4.7 million on "solicitation costs for generating the items collected and sales costs for selling the items" in connection with its "Recycling Program," according to its audit of the same year. For this reason, CharityWatch adds this amount to VVA's reported fundraising expenses so that all of its solicitation costs are reflected in its rating.

Unlike many other sources of charity information online today, CharityWatch does not simply repeat information that charities report about themselves. Our in-depth analysis of charities is what has set us apart for more than 30 years as the smart source for independent charity ratings and other information. Thank you for caring enough to give wisely!

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