Poppy Money: Little known about how poppy money helps Canadian veterans through the Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Fund
November 2, 2016
It’s poppy time. We pin a scarlet poppy on our lapels to remember all those who served and serve. Always have, always will. Yet when you put your money in the poppy boxes, do you ever wonder where the poppy money goes and how it helps veterans?
Naturally Charity Intelligence does. Each poppy box supports the Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Fund. Each box has a Royal Canadian Branch number. The CRA’s Charities Listing has 241 Canadian legions as registered charities. Canadian Legion reports 1,400 branches across Canada. The Poppy website also reports that RCMP are included as veterans in receiving aid.
Looking at random Poppy Funds and Legion Branches on the CRA Charities Listing shows diverse Royal Canadian Legion activities. “Poppy money” is spent on an array of programs. As such, Charity Intelligence can’t answer your questions about where the poppy money goes, how much is raised, and how much is spent on veterans. It all depends which legion branch box you put your money into. And, as I experienced, I can’t figure out if the legion box I bought my poppy from is even a registered Canadian charity.
So don’t feel guilty about only putting a loonie in the poppy box. It will allow you to instead give more meaningful support to veteran charities that are transparent and accountable.
Here are a few examples of different legion poppy funds:
Edmonton: Royal Canadian Legion Greater Edmonton Poppy Fund - $368,322 in “other revenues” - assuming this is sales of poppies, of which it spends $152,973 (42%) on its charity programs providing direct assistance to veterans, ex-service persons and dependent spouses and children.
Kelowna: Royal Canadian Legion Branch 26 registered as a charity in 2002, receives $131,639 in poppy sales in 2014, of which $70,647 (54%) is spent on its charity programs aiding ex-services personnel and their dependents based on financial need, providing bursaries to veterans’ children and grand-children, and prizes for children for Remembrance Day literary and poster contests.
Moncton: Royal Canadian Legion Branch 6 received $105,837 in poppy sales and spends $67,238 (64%) in bursaries and money to winners of Remembrance Day Contest, youth leadership, help to vets health care and cadets and others in need.
Toronto: Royal Canadian Legion Branch 210 Poppy Fund – received $62,946 from poppy sales. It is volunteer run with no staff, no administrative costs or fundraising costs reported, and granted $68,000 (more than 100%) to 3 veteran charities: Royal Canadian Legion Ontario Command, Tony Stacey Veteran’s Care Centre, and Canadian Legion Toronto Holmes.
Following the money, the Royal Canadian Legion Ontario Command receives $1.6 million (legion branches and donations) and grants $365,868 to 68 hospital foundations and health care charities and spends $294,851 on its own charity programs - 41% is spent on grants and charity programs. In 2015, no grants were reported to Sunnybrook's veterans, but $5,961 was given to SickKids Foundation.
Charity Intelligence has only one report on a Royal Canadian Legion, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch Poppy Fund in Calgary.
The only other Canadian veteran charity analysed by Charity Intelligence is True Patriot Love Foundation. True Patriot Love does not receive poppy box money.
Charity Intelligence contacted Wounded Warriors Canada in May 2016 and is waiting to receive its audited financial statements. Wounded Warrior’s charity return reports $2.4 million in donations, none of this from the poppy campaign. We hope to have this information and a report for donors within the year.
 If this wasn’t complicated enough, I “bought” my poppy from a box supporting Royal Canadian Legion Branch 344. Nothing comes up doing a CRA Charities search of “Legion Branch 344”. Using Google, Branch 344 is the Queen’s Own Rifles.
The Queen’s Own Rifles website page says: “the Annual Poppy Campaign is always well received locally and enables the branch to assist both our veteran members and local veterans either at home or in hospital. The funds raised enable the branch to contribute a great deal of support to much needed veteran’s assistance programs that are within the local community the district and nationally thus making the branch a great asset to the community.”
That’s all the information posted. No charitable registration number, no disclosure on how much money comes in, how much money goes out, and no idea on how many veterans get helped.
I of all people put my poppy money into a legion box that I can’t figure out if it’s a registered charity!
Interesting to know: Canadian Lieut-Col. John McCrae wrote the epic poem “In Flanders fields the poppies blow ….” in May 1915 at Ypres. From this poem, the scarlet poppy quickly became the universal symbol of remembrance. The lapel poppies were initially made in 1922 by disabled veterans providing them with a small source of income and allowing them to take an active part in maintaining the tradition of Remembrance. The Royal Canadian Legion took over poppy production from Veterans Affairs Canada. Today’s poppies are produced by a private company.