CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For every dollar the West Virginia Vietnam Veterans Foundation spent last year, a little more than one penny actually went to veterans-related activities.
Most of the $37,700 spent by the Bluefield-based organization instead went to professional fees, including a telemarketing company paid to solicit donations, according to tax filings.
The Better Business Bureau says a charity shouldn't spend more than 35 percent of the money it receives through fundraising on fundraising expenses. National charity watchdog group Charity Navigator says no more than 25 percent of total expenses should be for fundraising and administrative costs combined.
But representatives of the foundation said tax documents don't tell the whole story, and plenty of other organizations give large percentages of the money they receive to professional solicitors.
The foundation began in 1997.
"We're more or less a granting organization. We take care of a lot of veterans needs," President C.E. Ball said in a November phone interview.
Tax forms indicate the foundation exists to help provide West Virginia veterans with "emergency funds," described as money needed for housing, food, utilities, clothing and medical expenses. Forms also say the organization has supported youth anti-drug programs, programs that provide gifts to local foster children and other activities.
Treasurer and CFO David Simmons said the group does everything from giving veterans wheelchairs to driving them to the hospital.
People give thousands of dollars every year to support the foundation: Tax forms show it received more than $630,000 from 2002 to 2012.
Ball and Simmons were quick to point out the foundation doesn't pay any salaries.
"Yeah, everything we spend goes toward the veterans, except for our basic office fees." Ball said.
Those fees account for more than 86 percent of the money the foundation spent during the same 11-year time frame.
More than two-thirds -- $423,000 -- covered fees that include the cost of a professional fundraiser.
From 2002 to 2006, the foundation spent an average of 43 percent of its money on actual veteran-related activities. The rest went to fees, rent or other expenses. At no point during that time period did the organization raise more than $22,000 or spend more than $10,000 on programming.
In 2007, the foundation raised $144,275. A little more than $10,000 went to the program services Ball and Simmons describe as the purpose of the foundation. More than $105,000 went to professional fundraising costs.
During the next five years the foundation would spend more than 10 percent on actual veterans programs only once -- 12.5 percent in 2009.
The actual dollar amount spent on programming never surpassed $12,600.
From 2007 to 2012, it spent more money on rent and fees than donations to veterans.
In 2008, it spent nearly $20,000 on "travel, meeting, computer, software, furniture, supplies" and $3,700 on rent, utilities and maintenance.
It spent $12,500 on veteran-related program services that same year.
In 2012, it spent $33,386 on fees, including fundraising costs. It also spent $5,200 on rent, utilities and maintenance costs, according to tax records.
It donated $506: $491 in emergency funds for veterans and a $14.95 grant to the National youth Anti-Drug Education Program.
Simmons was reluctant to name the organization's fundraising company. Eventually, he told a Daily Mail reporter the foundation uses Associated Community Services, Inc.
According to a copy of a 2007 contract obtained by the Daily Mail, ACS gets to keep 80 percent of the money it raises. The contract is effective for two years and renews automatically every year thereafter unless either party gives written notice to terminate.
The Michigan-based telemarketer solicits donations for organizations all over the country. It's also in trouble all over the country.
From 2002 to 2013, ACS had at least 16 disciplinary actions in nine different states, according to an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Those states -- not including West Virginia -- issued $155,000 in fines against ACS specifically in connection to questionable actions, according to the investigation.
In 2008, the state of Missouri issued a $100,000 fine against ACS for "engaging in manipulative and high pressure fundraising on Missourians who asked not to be called."
The company solicits for at least seven of the 50 organizations that made it onto the investigation's "America's Worst Charities" list. One of the seven, and several others on the list, use the word "veterans" in their names.
That's common, said Sandra Miniutti, vice president of marketing and CFO for Charity Navigator.