Altruism Today

Site facilitates donations to homeless shelters

November 17th, 2010  |  Source:



Easiest Give is a not-for-profit US site that lets consumers search online for participating local shelters, identify what's needed there, and have the goods delivered directly to the shelter's door.


However much a consumer may want to help the homeless, the process of gathering and delivering a donation — not to mention making sure it's something that's actually needed — can sometimes feel prohibitive. Aiming to make that process easier than ever before, aptly named Easiest Give is a site that lets consumers shop online for any participating shelter and have much-needed goods delivered directly to the shelter's door.

Consumers begin by searching for shelters in their area. For each shelter that's participating — for now, they're mostly in Texas, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Oregon — they can then see what goods are currently needed there. Using Easiest Give, they can order the products of their choice off of that list, and Easiest Give will ship them directly to the shelter. Neither consumers nor shelters pay a fee for using Easiest Give. Rather, the for-profit company supports itself by buying products wholesale and then marking up its prices to the level of Target or Wal-Mart, it says.

Easiest Give is currently focused on homeless shelters in the US, and it invites those not already participating to get involved. For other parts of the world, meanwhile, how about setting up something similar...? (Related: Method's mobile laundry truck will facilitate clothing donations — Recycled parking meters collect donations for Montréal's homeless — Newspaper jacket keeps homeless people warm.)


Elton John to be guest editor of 'The Independent'

November 17th, 2010  |  Source:

Sir Elton John is to guest-edit a special World Aids Day edition of The Independent and its newly launched sister paper, i. All circulation revenues from the one-off editions on 1 December will be given to the musician's charity, the Elton John Aids Foundation.

Sir Elton embraced the idea in the knowledge that it would give him an opportunity to commission news, features and commentary to highlight the World Aids Day campaign, which aims to increase awareness of HIV in the UK and globally. He will edit The Independent during a break from a major American tour with the country singer-songwriter Leon Russell.

"I was thrilled to be invited to guest edit The Independent," said Sir Elton. "I'm really looking forward to spending a day in the editor's chair, and I'm pleased to get the chance to put the subject of Aids at the top of the editorial agenda."

EARN Launches the EARN Research Institute

November 16th, 2010  |  Source:


EARN, the nation’s leading provider of microsavings for low-income workers, today established the EARN Research Institute (ERI) in order to advance the nation’s capacity to put low-income workers and families on the path to prosperity.

Drawing upon EARN’s decade-long history of success in the San Francisco Bay Area—and innovations that have begun to reverberate on the national stage—the Research Institute is devoted to the publication and dissemination of rigorously researched materials that demonstrate the behavioral dynamics of financial efficacy and access for low-income earners and the promotion of public policies that enable low-income earners to create prosperity for themselves and their children.

“San Francisco is proud to be the home of the EARN Research Institute,” said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. “EARN’s hands-on financial literacy and empowerment for people in cities across the nation builds upon the success of San Francisco’s groundbreaking investments in moving all families toward financial security. The EARN Research Institute shares national best practices, so all Americans will have the tools necessary to succeed.”

“EARN is launching the EARN Research Institute because we are uniquely positioned on the ground to provide solutions for America’s low-income families,” says EARN President and CEO Ben Mangan. “With approximately fifty million Americans currently considered working and poor, the need for this kind of evidence-based research organization is deeply felt. EARN’s asset-building solutions have helped thousands of low-income workers to save money in ways that have made substantial positive changes in their lives. The Research Institute promises to lead the field promoting financial services for low-income workers and change perceptions about how to address the plight of America’s low-income families.”

Causes Raises Another $9 Million To Help Spread Philanthropy Online

November 12th, 2010  |  Source:

Causes, the startup that helps users leverage Facebook and other social sites to raise money for charity, has closed a $9 million Series C funding round led by NEA with participation from Founders Fund, Marc Benioff, Dustin Moskovitz, Ron Conway, Keith Rabois, and Karl Jacob. Scott Sandell of NEA will join as an observer on the Causes board. Causes CEO Joe Green says that the company will be using the money to build out its team, including some senior hires (the company is currently seventeen people). Causes will also be moving from Berkeley, CA to San Francisco.

As we’ve recently reported, Causes is transitioning from living primarily as a Facebook canvas application to running off of its standalone website, with social connectivity through Facebook Connect. This change, along with some other optimizations, led to a two-fold increase in the amount of money the site raises in donations from its ‘Birthday Wish’ feature on a daily basis — $20,000 a day, up from $10,000 two months ago. It raises money though other channels, too, taking in a total of around $40,000 in donations a day.

The company has also recently landed a deal that will put Causes gift cards in every Safeway and Vons location in California. After buying one of these gift cards, users can sign onto and donate it toward the charity/cause of their choice.  Causes earns revenue (it’s a for-profit company) by asking users for tips between 10-20%. Green wouldn’t disclose revenue figures, but says that Causes has 119 million installs on Facebook and has 25 million monthly active users.

Causes has now raised over $16 million, including a previously unannounced $5 million Series B round led by Case Foundation and philanthropist Ray Chambers’s MCJ Foundation, with participation from Founders Fund. That round closed in March 2008.

Navy Veterans charity may have been front for pumping money to politicians

November 11th, 2010  |  Source: St Petersburg Times


Was the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, which operated as a tax-exempt charity from a Tampa duplex, really a front that siphoned cash donated by the public and pumped it into the campaigns of politicians?

The evidence compiled by investigators fanning out across the country in search of the Navy Vets’ fugitive founder, “Commander Bobby Thompson,’’ suggests the answer is yes.

In Ohio, the Attorney General’s Office has uncovered a series of money orders sent to political campaigns from individuals who don’t exist. The contributions, to the campaigns of presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, list phony donors with addresses that turned out to be mailboxes rented by the Navy Veterans group.

In St. Petersburg, political blogger Peter Schorsch says he witnessed Thompson stuff $2,000 to $3,000 in cash into an envelope to be delivered to a Tampa Bay area politician. Schorsch says he told his story to agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation last month. He said he doesn’t know which politician was to get the illegal cash.

In Tampa, Thompson set up a political action committee called U.S. Navy Veterans for Good Government, or NAVPAC. It reported receiving $146,228 and sent contributions to the campaigns of Giuliani, George W. Bush, Elizabeth Dole and other conservative office-seekers.

Federal Election Commission records show the only donor to NAVPAC was Thompson, who investigators say stole his identity from a Washington state man named Bobby Thompson.

Using the man’s name, Social Security number and date of birth, “Thompson’’ made political donations at a rate that steadily increased after he established the Navy Veterans charity and hired telemarketing firms to finance its operation. By April 2010, Thompson’s name had been used to make contributions totaling $208,829.

That included $55,500 to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in 2009, and $14,800 this year to Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, head of the tea party caucus — contributions made after a St. Petersburg Times investigation exposed the Navy Veterans charity.



November 10th, 2010  |  Source: Washington Post promo


Ben Bradlee shows Bob Woodward how to get chilly with an iPad: "Swipe it - like THIS!"

(Kids, that thing Bob's using at his "desk" is a "typewriter.")

Shreveport, LA: Pardon the housing - it's a mess

November 9th, 2010  |  Source: Shreveport Times



When it comes to providing low-income and affordable housing, Shreveport's got serious cracks in the foundation.

The latest head shaker is a just-released federal audit that found the Shreveport Housing Authority had "inefficiently and ineffectively managed more than $1.5 million in Recovery Act (stimulus) funding." The inspector general's report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends the authority be required to repay $1.1 million in funds spent at Wilkinson Terrace on Southern Avenue, citing improper changes in contracts and the scope of work in the "scramble to meet the Recovery Act obligation deadline."

And in an echo of last year's home repair scandal at Shreveport's Community Development Department, the inspector general also found shoddy and incomplete work at some of the Wilkinson Terrace units. Additionally, the audit questions the "prudency" of focusing so much of the stimulus grant at Wilkinson Terrace when the Housing Authority has considered demolishing the facility within the next few years.

The Housing Authority has filed written rebuttals that the inspector general, in turn, rebuts. Reached by phone late last week, Housing Authority officials had no comment as they talked among themselves and waited for guidance from their attorney.

As for the taxpayer comment: Good grief. Not again.

In a community with waiting lists for housing for the poor and working poor, with even moderate-income families in need of affordable housing, our blueprints for solutions consistently leave out any common areas for coordination, let alone an alcove for efficiency or a utility closet for system integrity.

Our litany of dysfunction:


  • Fraud. A year ago, Caddo sheriff's investigators arrested Shreveport Community Development contractors and inspectors for sloppy or non-existent home improvements. Soon after, Lola May, the grande dame of Queensborough and longtime executive director of that area's neighborhood association, was accused of misspending $10,000 on meals, trips and loans to her friends. Among the Queensborough organization's initiatives were a publicly funded model block program and training for first-time homeowners.

  • The brain is their business

    November 8th, 2010  |  Source: Cape Cod Online


    Former banker and part-time Martha's Vineyard resident Jeffrey Morby has always had passions beyond the financial field.


    So, after he retired in 1996, he decided to pursue a long-held fascination with the human brain, revising a book on the subject that he had written years before but never published.

    His research led him to Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, a neurology expert and Alzheimer's researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital.

    "Tanzi told me that new genetics are yielding all sorts of possible cures for Alzheimer's, but he couldn't get any money out of the (National Institutes of Health)," Morby recalled. "Potentially good research projects were not being funded."

    Morby and his wife, who had already been doing charitable work through their family foundation, decided to take on the cause.

    "We had the arrogance, I guess you'd say, to say, 'We're going to solve this problem,'" Morby said.

    Alzheimer's disease currently affects 5.3 million people in the Untied States, according to numbers from the Alzheimer's Association, the country's largest group focused on the disease. As the Baby Boom generation ages, that number is expected to triple.

    "Certainly, this is an issue that's going to have a profound effect on this region in the coming years and decades. We have significant numbers of older people who are going to be hit by this disease," said Sean Corocran, news reporter at public radio station WCAI, which will be airing a two-part series about Morby and his partners on Monday and Tuesday.

    To kick off his charitable endeavor, Morby recruited three philosophically minded partners: Henry McCance, former chairman of venture capital firm Greylock Partners; the Rappaport family, which runs a Boston real estate investment firm; and Joshua and Anita Bekenstein. Together they founded the Cure Alzheimer's Fund.

    From the beginning, the group's approach to the problem was somewhat unconventional.

    "Since we're all venture capital types, we decided to run this as a start-up," Morby said.

    In practice, he explained, this strategy means that the foundation, like a venture capital investor in the business world, takes a targeted approach and often funds projects that might never have gotten the attention of more traditional funding sources.

    To begin, the founders gathered a group of well-regarded scientists and laid out a road map for finding a cure for Alzheimer's. Then the scientists — known as the research consortium — began hunting down the most promising research in the areas within that road map.

    "We find the best individuals in the field to address those topics," said Tanzi, who heads the consortium. "It's similar to how a venture capital firm would find mavericks, real cutting-edge people."

    The researchers present candidates for funding to the foundation's scientific advisory board, which then offers its opinion on the project. Then the board of directors decides whether to fund the research.

    The whole process can take as little as a month, Morby said.

    Attorney General Slaps Credit Counseling Firms Claiming to Be Nonprofits

    November 8th, 2010  |  Source: West Virginia Record


    West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw announced on Thursday the recovery of $169,400 in a settlement with debt management company Amerix.

    The multi-state agreement resolves the attorney general's complaint that Amerix offered, sold and performed debt management services without the required state license and without first determining whether the services met consumers' financial needs.

    Debt management services are provided when a credit counseling agency receives monthly payments from a consumer for the purpose of distributing the funds to the consumer's creditors.

    The monthly rate is negotiated by the agency through a debt management plan, also referred to as a DMP.

    In West Virginia, businesses that offer, sell or perform debt management services must be licensed by the state.

    McGraw alleged that Amerix, a for-profit subsidiary of the Maryland-based AscendOne Corporation, misled customers to believe that they would receive debt management services from a nonprofit credit counseling company.

    In fact, according to McGraw's office, many customers had little or no contact with a credit counselor, while others who enrolled in the company's debt management plans enjoyed no financial benefit.

    The attorney general's complaint also alleged that Amerix hid behind a network of "shell" nonprofit agencies to charge consumers the higher rates allowed by state law for nonprofit agencies -- a 7 percent monthly maintenance fee, instead of the 2 percent allowed for-profit agencies.

    With Thursday's agreement, Amerix agreed to halt the unlawful offer and sale of debt management services in West Virginia and will pay the settlement amount in installments over four years, according to McGraw's office.

    The settlement further prohibits Amerix from misrepresenting its services as being performed by a nonprofit agency and directs it to reveal to customers the purpose of fees charged and the potential negative impact that entering into a DMP could have on a consumer's credit history.

    McGraw's office said Amerix also may not enroll consumers into such plans unless the consumer can afford it and is provided with "meaningful" credit counseling.

    In consenting to the court order filed Thursday, Amerix and AscendOne both denied they had violated any laws.

    West Virginia was part of action by 19 states and the District of Columbia, led by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, that will result in a total payment of $4.5 million by the AscendOne companies to the states' attorneys general.


    Nova Scotia Husband & Wife Go On A 11 Million Dollar Donation Spree

    November 5th, 2010  |  Source:


    An elder couple in Nova Scotia, Canda went on a $11.3 million dollar donation spree.  Stress and headache from strangers calling, asking for money, brought too much anxiety to the couple and they decided to donate it.

    Allen and Violet Large decided they will not miss what they never had.  They kept 2 percent of the money, saying it was for a 'rainy day' and the rest went to family and other charities.

    Is this a good decision?  With the money gone will people treat them like normal?

    "That money that we won was nothing," her tearful husband, Allen, told Patricia Brooks Arenburg ofthe Nova Scotia Chronicle Herald. "We have each other."

    Where did the money go?  The took care of their family and than delivered to local groups, including their fire department, churches, cemeteries, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, hospitals where Violet underwent her cancer treatment and some non-profit organizations that research cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes.  That is just the beginning of the list.

    "It made us feel good," Violet told the Chronicle Herald. "And there's so much good being done with that money."

    The Canada seniors haven't spent a penny of the money.  At 74 and 78 years of age they say they are happy.  They have been married for 35 years, adding to their own savings before retirement, and have no need for the extra money.

    What about traveling and seeing the world?  Violet said they are country people and are proud of that. They have no interest in travel.

    What is important to them?  Health and happiness.  They are happy to just have each other.

    This is such an amazing story of generosity and love.  The couple clearly has everything they need with each other and saw their good deeds as something that made them feel good.

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