In 1947, Major Bill Hendricks, USMCR (United States Marine Corps Reserve) and Lieutenant Colonel John Hampton began to collect toys for those in need. It was after Hendricks’ wife could not find a charity to donate a handmade Raggedy Ann doll to a child at Christmas. Mrs. Hendricks suggested that the USMCR begin a toy drive to connect donated toys with those in need. Their initial toy drive resulted in 5,000 toys being collected for underprivileged children. Toys for Tots was nationally launched in 1948 and has had momentous growth since. Currently, Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is headquartered in Triangle, Virginia.
In 2015, the Marine Toys for Tots program collected and distributed 18 million toys to 7 million children in 782 communities. Marine Toys for Tots Literacy Program, in a partnership with The UPS Stores, raised over $319,000 and distributed over 3 million books to public schools and children in financially-depressed areas.
- Financial information is accessible
- Inexpensive administrative expenses
- 97 percent revenue is spent on program delivery
Whenever possible, the Review Team uses information which was reported to the Internal Revenue Service on Form 990. Many organizations do not publish past years of their IRS Form 990. Marine Toy for Tots Foundation has published several past years of this form online.
As with most organizations, annual revenue and donations for Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is affected by economic fluctuations. Donations to the organization have varied year-by-year, but the general amount collected over the last four years, according to reported income on IRS Form 990 are reported as follows:
- 2015: $268,663,846
- 2014: $276,619,072
- 2013: $238,112,361
- 2012: $249,036,694
According to Marine Toys for Tots Foundation’s 2015 Form 990, their CEO, H.P. Osman, has a reported annual salary of $270,500. The organization has a surprisingly low number of paid employees, with less that 20 reported on its 2015 IRS Form 990. Those working to implement the program are members of the United States Marine Corps Reserve and other volunteers. The total administrative expenses reported in 2015 is $4,288,004.
Marine Toys for Tots Foundation reported fundraising expenses of $6,177,547 on its 2015 IRS Form 990. The fundraising budget was .02 percent of their total income for the year. Marine Toys for Tots benefits from the widespread familiarity of their organization by not having to dedicate significant resources toward public relations and fundraising. This percentage places the organization among the top tier of charities as far as the company’s income-to-fundraising ratio.
The percentage of revenue which goes back into the program for Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is outstanding in comparison with many other organizations. For every dollar raised, 97 cents is used for program costs. As a reference point, watchdog Charity Watch considers an organization a Top Rated Charity if an organization uses 80 percent of its income to provide its service. Marine Toys for Tots is very effective in program delivery and fiscal responsibility.
Accessible Financial Information
Marine Toys for Tots published their annual reports for the last two years, which at the writing of this review is 2014 and 2015. The organization also published their IRS Form 990 for 2012–2015. While not considerably significant, the organization’s publication of annual reports for the same timeframe would improve their transparency.
Marine Toys for Tots Foundation has been recognized for its outstanding fiscal responsibility and the above-average ratio of total annual revenue to program delivery. Many of these have been annual recognitions. Among Marine Toys for Tots’ achievements which have been recognized are:
- Charity Navigator, an independent charity watchdog organization which rates charitable organizations on their financial transparency, program percentage, etc. awarded Marine Toys for Tots with four stars (out of four).
- Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked Marine Toys for Tots as Foundation #267 on their Philanthropy 400 list
- DMA Nonprofit Federation named Marine Toys for Tots “Outstanding Nonprofit Organization of the Year.”
- Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked Marine Toys for Tots as Foundation #341 on their Philanthropy 400 list.
- Starburst ranked Marine Toys for Tots’ website as #9 in its “Top 100 Toy Website.”
- Readers Digest (November, 2003) named the organization as “America’s Best Children’s Charity.”
- Forbes Magazine included Marine Toys for Tots on its “Gold Star List” of charitable organizations.
Many of these awards have been repeated on an annual basis.
- Negative press
- Donor communication issues
There is little/no reliable negative press stories about Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. Two exceptions are a satirical piece as well as an op-ed written about the organization.
The satire was published stating that Michelle Obama’s support for Toys for Tots included the executive (i.e. Presidential) requirement that all gift packages delivered by Marine Toys for Tots include a copy of the Koran, which resulted in the resignation of the CEO of Toys for Tots. This story is false in that while Mrs. Obama did support the organization, there was no such Executive Order by President Obama, nor did the CEO resign. This story has taken many forms, one of which included the allegation that the organization did not accept donations of Jesus dolls from a Christian church (unnamed), stating that religious items could not be distributed.
An op-ed piece about Marine Toys for Tots Foundation was published on December 22, 2010, by Open Media Boston, wherein the organization was criticized for their apparent hypocrisy in that members of the military routinely kill children during operations overseas, yet act as Santa at home. This piece was strictly opinion, and offensive to many members of the military and their families.
Online donors receive a receipt for their tax-deductible organization as well as newsletter announcements. Some report that the communications coming from Marine Toys for Tots in further years are excessive and irritating. This cannot be substantiated, but as the organization’s fundraising budget is such a low percentage annually, this anecdotal evidence is questionable.
Those who support Marine Toys for Tots by donating toys do not receive a tax-deductible receipt, but can claim the gift on their taxes. The Review Team does not give tax advice, and anyone with questions should consult their tax professional.
Most of the FAQs on Marine Toys for Tots Foundation involve what they can/cannot accept in donations. Some of the top questions are summarized below.
How does one request toys for their children or someone else’s children?
To request toys, one should visit the website and click the “Request Toys” button. When that page loads, they must select their city and state to receive contact information for their site. Email is the preferred method of contact. Requestors need to email ages and genders of children to the site coordinator, who will, in turn respond.
How can a business become a toy drop off location?
Those interested in becoming a drop off location should visit the “Toy Drop Off” page on the website, select their city and state to receive information about the closest coordinator. Email information about the business to the coordinator.
Can someone make a cash donation to Marine Toys for Tots?
Marine Toys for Tots can accept donations online or by mail. For mail donations, donors need to mail a check made payable to Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to:
Marine Toys for Tots Foundation
18251 Quantico Gateway Drive
Triangle, VA 22172
Are there lists of needed toys online?
Marine Toys for Tots does not publish a list and asks donors to consult with their inner Santa Claus and be creative. Gifts for teens are usually more in demand. Ideas have included backpacks, art supplies, electronics, personal grooming items, etc.