Hey, a big congratulations to all the Teams who participated in the Veterans Charity Challenge over on CrowdRise. As many of you know, I gave $50k to the challenge and the Rahr Foundation gave $50k. I don't see this as altruism, it just feels right.
A total of 95 Teams signed up. The Teams were from across the country, in 26 states and 77 cities. Teams participating raised a total of $348,393 throughout the duration of the Challenge, and with the Funder's donations, we raised a total of $448,393 for Veterans and Military families. Almost half a million dollars. Folks, I can't thank you enough for all the good work you're doing.
It was really close in the end, and an exciting finish. I was able to call and chat with (or leave messages for) each of the big winners, and really thank them for all they're doing for our service members and their families. I figure if someone's willing to risk their life for me, this is the least I can do to give back…
And throughout the Challenge, there were 5 Bonus Challenges, and we had 13 teams win.
There are good, effective nonprofits and similar groups all over the world, really helping people out. As part of my twenty year craigconnects.org thing, I'd like to help scale that up so that everyone on the planet gets a hand.
Specifically, there are many nonprofits, NGOs, and government groups which are really good at getting stuff done without spending a lot. However, there are also a number of such groups which waste a lot of money in overhead, and there are a lot of nonprofits running outright scams, and making bad situations even worse.
I already support a bunch of honest, ethical nonprofits directly with the few resources I have at hand, specifically cash and social capital/trust, the latter via social media. (Keep expectations low, public estimates of my net worth are vastly overstated.)
How does a person of good will work with others, across the planet and across the years, to scale up to help out everyone?
I've realized, in the past few days, that a solution could involve nonprofits which focus on vetting on-the-ground nonprofits, making sure they're effective and honest, and then getting funding for their clients.
Seriously, that already helps my nonprofit dollars and social media presence go a lot farther.
Funding networks can themselves be operating scams, I've considered that, but so far I got a good base network of such groups going, including:
I think I need to expand this network, over time, but first, need to use social networking to make this existing networking more effective.
That means getting the funding networks to encourage their clients to be more effective in social media. For example, the clients of a particular nonprofit might encourage the people they help to post social media status updates. The nonprofits would share the posts with their funding networks… who would share a few with folks like me.
We'd Share or retweet those updates with our own networks, which affirms the work of all involved, and generates a little buzz, and maybe more funding, for people and groups who need it.
I guess that's a "leadership by example" thing, and maybe a "leading from below" thing, which is the only approach I understand.
Well, you can use something like TurboTax to do your own taxes. You get the right records, and use their software to submit an entire package.
Sometimes a CPA has to get involved, and they can use their own expert software to get the job done. In either case, getting the right docs can be a pain, and then they need to be scanned in and sent to the right place. Once docs go electronic, they're easier to get to the right places, and harder to lose.
Veterans Affairs is now deploying something real similar. Looks like it's decently user-friendly, adjusted for the way that vets and veteran service orgs (VSOs) really operate. The software also accounts for all the laws and regulations, the rules that VA has gotta follow to write checks.
A vet would start up eBenefits, online, click on "Apply for Disability Compensation" and start filling in forms. In many cases, data fields get filled in automatically.
VA employee helps an Army veteran apply online for benefits at recent Association of the US Army conference.
Hopefully, the vet can get some help and file a Fully Developed Claim, verifying that there's not more info to submit. Fully Developed Claims (FDCs) get done relatively fast, and even if something's missing, the claim is queued up fairly quickly.
A vet can get help from a VSO, they have the Stakeholder Enterprise Portal. A VSO officer can check out the claim and move it along the process.
Benefits to this stuff mean that the right evidence and documents can get to the right places much faster, resulting in way faster processing. With some luck, the huge stacks of paper at VA Regional Offices will start to shrink.
Web-literate vets should find that the online part of this is much like stuff they already use. Gathering the right data maybe still be a challenge. VA's on it, getting VSO like Disabled America Vets and also the Legion. I'm following up to the extent a nerd can do.
A lot of work should've been started the middle of the last decade, but only since 2009 has VBA been able to start catching up at an impressive rate. That means developing new systems, and means that currently, claims processors are putting in five months worth of mandatory overtime.
It's not easy, requiring a lot of culture change, and moving to new systems while providing continuous veterans support via the old systems. This is difficult under the best of conditions, and worse when taking the verbal equivalent of friendly fire. That's like trying to remodel the plane you're flying on while your own side's shooting at you.
However, that story isn't being reported, so VBA workers get a lot of unfair crap, and that's not right.
I bear witness to the good work these guys are doing, first hand.
In 2009 I participated in a VBA employees' competition, where they suggested business process changes to expedite claims processing. In particular, I voted up what's become Disability Benefits Questionnaires, DBQs. I'm now quietly working with VA folks to improve their use.
A nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do, so, for the record, I bear witness to the good work VBA people are doing, and will continue to follow through.
Hundreds of charities claim to help those in need. But of the millions of dollars raised each year, how much goes to cancer patients, disabled vets, and dying children? For some charities, almost nothing goes toward direct aid. CIR and the Tampa Bay Times worked to create a list of the 50 worst charities in America.
It's important to be aware that you're not giving your hard earned money to bad actors.
The nation’s 50 worst charities have paid their solicitors nearly $1 billion over the past 10 years that could have gone to charitable works.
Some of the findings that CIR released include that:
The 50 worst charities in America devote less than 4% of donations raised to direct cash aid.
Some charities give even less than 4% to direct cash aid.
Over a decade, one diabetes charity raised nearly $14 million and gave about $10,000 to patients.
Six orgs spent nothing at all on direct cash aid.
There are a lot of charities out there who really have their boots on the ground doing good work and spending their donations wisely, but you need to make sure to do your research before you give. Bad actors are out there to take your money, and the cause you were donating to may never see the actual money.
The Center for Investigative Reporting shares a CNN report that will air tomorrow, 6/13, at 8pm EDT. They'll show you what happens when a reporter tries to confront the executives of some of the charities on the list above. And you'll find out how one charity network spent nearly 70% of the millions they raised on fundraisers.
This is a really big deal, and very important. Don't get fooled by bad charities. Here are some tips that CIR gives for making sure that your money is actually going to a worthy cause: http://cironline.org/reports/dont-get-fooled-bad-charities-4631 There are many resources to make sure that you choose a good charity to give to, orgs who are the real deal.
Please help me spread the word by sharing this across your social platforms, and help to stop these bad actors.