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May 11, 2022


Where Does $100 to Paralyzed Veterans of America Go (2020)?

by Anne Paddock

The Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501 (c) 3 based in Washington, DC (although the organization has 73 offices and 33 chapters throughout the country). Established in 1947, PVA has a core mission of vets serving vets, funding spinal cord research, and advocating for disability rights, according to their website. So, the question most donors want to know is:  How much of my donation goes to the organization’s core mission?  The answer:  about half because the organization spent more than $47 million on a mail program to raise funds.

Key financial information reported by PVA to the IRS on the Form 990 (for the year ending June 30, 2020) include the following:

$98 million in total revenue was reported (compared to $92 million in 2019), most of which ($89 million) came from contributions, gifts, and grants.

Expenses totaled $89 million (91% of revenue) and can be categorized as follows:

  • $47 million (48% of revenue):  Mail Program
  • $23 million (24% of revenue):  Compensation
  • $ 5 million (5% of revenue):  Grants
  • $ 4 million (4% of revenue):  Fees for Services
  • $ 3  million (3% of revenue):  Office-Related Expenses
  • $ 3  million (3% of revenue):  Travel and Conferences
  • $ 2  million (2% of revenue):  Advertising
  • $ 2 million (2% of revenue):  Other Expenses (interest, printing, etc)

Using the above information, every $100 in revenue was spent as follows:

$100:  Revenue

-$48:  Mail Program

$ 52:  Revenue Remaining

-$ 24: Compensation

-$  4:  Fees for Services

-$  3:  Office-Related Expenses

-$  3:  Travel and Conferences

-$  2:  Advertising

-$ 36:  Subtotal: Compensation, Fees, Office, Travel and Conferences, and Advertising

$ 16:  Revenue Remaining

-$  5:  Grants

 $  9:  Revenue Remaining:  To General Fund

As illustrated above, the largest expense for PVA is an expense called “Mail Program” which is the primary way the organization raises funds. So, right off the top, $48 out of every $100 in revenue is spent on the mail program by Edge Direct, of Baltimore Maryland.  Specifically, the Form 990 reveals:

  • Edge Direct raised $61 million for DVA and retained $1 million in addition to receiving $39 million from DVA, which means Edge Direct raised $61 million and was compensated $40 million, netting DVA $21 million or $34 out of every $100 that was donated.
  • Heartland Direct International, of Tulsa, Oklahoma also conducted a fundraising mail program for which they were compensated more than $3 million.  It is unclear how much Heartland Direct International raised. It is also important to point out Heartland Direct International is the second highest compensated independent contractor but is not listed as one of the 10 highest compensated fundraisers on the Form 990.

The second largest expense is compensation for the 287 employees who received $23 million, or an average compensation of $80,000.  33 employees received more than $100,000 in compensation with the most highly compensated employee, William Blake, the Executive Director receiving $236,567 in compensation.

$4 million was spent on fees for services provided by non-employees and most of these fees ($2.7 million) are described as “other” with no further detail provided. $8 million was spent on office-related expenses, travel and conferences, and advertising while $5 out of every $100 was spent on grants (compared to $7 million in 2019). Most grants were awarded to local chapters of PVA for sport or chapter grants.  Of the grants listed on the Form 990, only about $400,000 was awarded in research grants (or less than 1% of revenue).

PVA spent about 89% of the revenue received in 2020, which allowed the organization to increase the net fund assets by adding the unspent revenue to the general fund even though the organization had $3 million in unrealized losses on investments. At year-end, the net assets toiled $66 million compared to $61 million in 2019.

The bottom line is that DVA is paying a lot of money to raise money.  Edge Direct raised $61 million for the organization but was compensated and reimbursed $40 million, netting DVA only $21 million.  The financial information on the Form 990 (2019 for the year ending June 30, 2020) shows that $43 of every $100 in revenue received – and that’s assuming every expense except “mail program” is considered an expense that helped vets help vets, was allocated to spinal cord research, and supported the advocacy of disabled veterans, went to directly helping the vets (the remaining $57 was used to pay fundraisers ($48) and increase the general fund ($9).  Commendable is executive compensation which is very conservative.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2019 for the year ending June 30, 2020), click here.

  1. Dan Gaubas
    May 11 2022

    Thank you for your insightful feedback on this organization. As you highlighted it’s unfortunate that so much money is spent on mailing, especially since the compensation side seems relatively low. If you have reviewed any other veterans fundraiser companies recently, such as DAV, Healing Waters or Wounded Warriors Project, I am interested in what percentage of their funds are going directly to the veterans vs here. Thanks again for your diligence and best wishes for a blessed rest of your 2022.

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