Friday, August 27, 2010

'Gramps the Squirrel', manga sale plus cool charities for adults and non-dying chronic children.

Thanks to Linda drop-kicking my butt out of the house today I got to see some squirrels. Most of them were skittish but there was one older squirrel I called Gramps who not only ate as slow as a peanut could be eaten but crawled up and sat on my lap. And sat, and ate, and left crumbs, and ate and then after I petted the squirrel for a bit and he had some more peanuts. He left. I don’t know what his issue was but I have never seen a squirrel try to ‘gum down’ a peanut.
Also, I am not sure how bad the inbreeding has gotten as many of the squirrels are not that bright, but they are greedy, as this squirrel tries to carry 1/3 his body size in peanuts away.
I wanted to blog for a few days to tell you that I am having my ‘need to get money for emergency meds’ ebay sale, which is a lot of the sets I have talked about. It all sells on Sat/Sun. There are about 70 sets, which I hope will help out. A heat wave made it so I could not do much but help with the listings, but I have been going round the livejournals advertising. I would recommend Vampire Dairy, as it is complete, has the best condition I have seen and is 15 volumes of total fun. There is everything from under 13 year old reading ‘Miracle Girls’ to the 2010 Eisner Award Nominations of Distant Neighborhood and Pluto (the master retelling of Astro Boy). Brand new completed sets include Kimi Kiss 1-5 and recommendations include the cute Pearl Pink, the supernatural investigative reporter in Loan, and The Missing Girl (a mountaineer goes to Tokyo to find the daughter of the man who died climbing Everest, and takes his mountain skills into the Tokyo seedy underground), the amazing series Click (a love triangle of three in love with one person but one hetero, one lesbian, one gay – read it to find out – writer of Boy Princess – yes, gender bending may occur). Rare Yaoi, Tenshi ja Nai, and well about 50 more. I recommend clicking HERE to see them and the starting bid (About $3 a volume or so). For further pictures and descriptions please go HERE to the my livejournal account description with pictures. I do recommend the unknown country which is a princess from a small country where she makes and sells baked goods to visitors (imagine a country the size of disneyland) engaged to a giant rich kingdom – can true love overcome the vast differences in status? The first book is already out of print. As is the Name of the Flower I wrote about earlier. Odd how most everything I review ends up going cult and super-expensive (I either have great taste, or odd and kinky taste the same as people who have lots of money). Take a look, I can try to recommend some manga you, your partner or family would like. This one is likely the last ‘big’ sale – as bye-bye to all my favorites.

I had a couple grand mals today, and am hammered but I have tried for 3 days to put up this blog. I continue to try. Also, I have been reading 501 charity reports, which make for dry reading. I would like to recommend two charities above others for those involved in disability and illness.

Everyone knows about the ‘Wish Foundation’ who has ‘made over 197,000’ kids dreams come true. What most people do NOT know about the ‘Make a Wish Foundation’ is of the just under $35 million in expenses, how much was spent on ‘wishes’ - $232,694 out of $35 million. Of the various organizations who rate charities, like ‘Best Independent Charity’ or ‘Charity Navigator’, Make a wish does not get 5 stars or 4 stars. Charity Navigator has a rating out of 70 at the top (and of the top 10 charities, six are food banks!), and Dream Factory rates about 67 and Dream Foundation rates at 64-65. ‘Make a Wish’ is about 50.

Why Does it matter?

Okay, here is a really quick guide to WAY too much reading. In none profit charities, particularly those for disabilities/illness, the important ratings are ‘how many people are being employed’, ‘how much of the money is going to the program’, ‘how big are the salaries’ and ‘what is the privacy agreement.’

So ‘Doctor’s without Borders’ takes in about $149 million of which all but a million are spent on programs, no one is employed and the director takes a minimal salary. That is a GOOD charity. On the opposite there is ‘Handicapped Village’ (I shit you not) who recently changed their name to ‘Village Northwest Unlimited’. The BBB (who gets the tax info on charities) notes that ‘Village’ employs 360 people PLUS a CEO who makes $122K+ (that is actually low for charity CEO’s). The problem is that this ‘village’ in Iowa boasts that in the last 35 years it has helped a grand total of….180 people with disabilities (varying). 360 people employed annually for helping 180 people over 35 years….that is one not so great charity.

Now, just going to a single cancer site will get you 31 sites for charities that supply ‘wishes’ for children who are dying or have a life threatening illness. There is only ONE charity that grants ‘wishes’ to children, who are NOT dying, who have chronic/terminal/degenerative or other illnesses. And that is Dream Factory. It is the second largest wish granting organization in the US, but gets 1/20th the income that ‘Make a Wish Foundation’ Does: Dream Factory gets $2,435,275 of which $2,266,825 goes into the program.

What are the differences?

First, Make a Wish Foundation USA has over 65 chapters, all having a paid manager (then there are the ‘Make a wish’ Overseas organizations. So paid staff is 94. And the Chief Executive, David Williams Makes 336,000+ a year. Amount into wishes: $232,000 – BBB report.

Dream Foundation has 1 branch, it has 4 employees, and Anne Bunger the CEO makes $72,000. BBB report In fact they overspent by $200,000+ last year and dipped into their savings.

Privacy: “Make a wish”, clearly tells you (and you can find out in detail on Charity Naviagtor), that they use your private information to trade, ‘rent’ (aka sell to other charitable organizations) for fundraising. So your name and information on a list is part of your donation, because that data will be sent, traded (10,000 contributors from them for 10,000 contributors from another charity), and sold to fundraise for ‘Make a Wish’. ‘Dream Factory’ on the other hand: “The Dream Factory will not sell, rent, or lease your personal information to other organizations. We assure you that the identity of all our donors will be kept confidential.” – they just don’t do that.

So, if you want to help kids who are ill get a wish, kids who have chronic conditions, then I recommend Dream Factory.

Due to visiting Gramps and the squirrels today, some of the ODD charities from previous research came to mind. Which is that in 1999, due to pressure, Make a Wish Foundation no longer funded hunting for children (nor would it buy them guns, those darn unchristian, anti-constitution charities!). This immediately created two foundations, Hunt of a Lifetime, which provides a hunt for children with less than year to live and the odd Christian charity, Catch a Dream which does the same bringing dying children, guns, and headshots together in the Master Weaver's plan of the Lord's Beauty (if you think I am being sarcastic, I am quoting the website). If you go to Catch a Dream, I recommend taking some sort of mind altering substance first because it sounds like fishing, right? Wrong. In fact, if you go to ‘What we are about’ page you get a nifty song played for you about the joys of tweens killing: “ever see a white tail (deer) running in the wild../Lord, it make you grin,…/‘ever seen a child’s smile/(when it) takes a white tail in the wild’/Ever seen its (the child’s) eye have that gleam?’..

Plus the motto: “....these children need to know that hope does, indeed, exist.”

They have provided hunting for children in over 40 states with their hunting sponsored ‘teams’, from moose, wild turkey and I guess you could apply for bear, or now even wild wolves. Beyond that, the co-sponsor, Durey, offers ‘best kills’ videos of each ‘season’ from the ‘Catch a Dream’ requests being fulfilled. It just got a little too odd for me. I mean, regardless of how one feels about the death penalty, should there be a charity to help dying children push the switch to execute criminals, then? Or maybe, there just is stuff that dying children shouldn’t be doing since, if you come from a hunting family, and you want to emulate your Dad or Mom, they will have guns and no one will stop you getting a license and hunting with them. I guess I can’t see the need to commercialize it into a TV season and DVD sets much less pay to ENSURE the kill (that isn’t hunting then is it?).

Let’s get away from that to the first, the largest and one of the VERY few organizations to ‘fulfill dreams’ for ADULTS who are terminally ill (including hospice admittance): Dream Foundation. Because dying sucks at any age, and if you are 19 or 23, or 30 or 50 you might have wishes too. ‘Because adults have dreams too.’ Serving all 50 states out of one office, founded in 1994, while Make a Wish is almost at 200,000 the Dream Foundation is trying to reach 10,000 fulfilled dreams. The Dream Foundation works with 19 year olds to 70+ year olds, they realize that at the end of a long term illness, medical costs make it very difficult for even relatives to come and visit at the end, or children to go out with a sick parent. “Dream Foundation operates on a small cash budget and relies heavily on non-cash contributions. 75% of dreams granted benefit in some way from in-kind, non-cash donations, including frequent flier miles, hotel rooms, restaurant meals, etc.”

The most common ‘dream’ is to see someone. To not be alone. And so under ‘ways to help’ donating airline miles and other point schemes make a difference, along with non-running vehicles (which you can then tax deduct!). I know the difference because someone donated a bunch of loyalty points to Linda from a pharmacy, and with those she was able to get almost two months worth of the over the counter medicines I have to take. It made a really big difference for us. I was the recipient of a hotel room in the same way. Without it, a trip wouldn’t have happened. I don’t know how to repay that quality of life improvement than to be grateful and try to pass it on.

I just thought that you would like to know about two charity programs where you could make a difference and not have it cost you anything at all. Like we say in macabre humor, if only ambulances had frequent flier miles.

Oh, and last weekend, 36 postcards, I am slowly making my way though the list, as fast as I can, okay.


Tom P. said...

I can't comment on what happens with money donated to Make-A-Wish but I can tell you that they just sent us on a fantastic vacation to the Florida Keys to meet the dolphins. Mikey had a fantastic time as we stayed at an incredible resort on one of the Keys. All I can say is that I am very happy with the what Make-A-Wish did for us.

Tom P. said...

I just realized the problem. You misunderstood how the Make-A-Wish money is distributed. Make-A-Wish is made up of chapters all around the country. The money we received was from our local chapter. The national organization spends very little money for wishes because they give that money to the local chapters that do spend the money. As it says in the program description, "The Foundation charters local chapters to grant wishes." The national chapter gave $29,490,917 to the local chapters to grant wishes. It was the local chapter that sent my family to the Florida Keys to grant Mikey's wish.

I hope that clarifies things.

Lorna, Bob and Liam said...

1. Will check out the manga auction fer sure.

2. Wrote down all the charity info, your choices go directly to the top of our list.

3. Just about peed myself reading about the squirrels. I suppose inbreeding could be a problem...

4. Thinking of you always...

Linda McClung said...

I'm so glad we went out to see the squirrels. Gramps sure was something - he definitely took his time eating his peanuts and gumming the shells. Great picture of the two of you.

I always find it funny when a squirrel tries to fit multiple peanuts in his mouth. This one in the second photo was no exception.

Thanks for the info on the charities. I had heard from someone in the past that Make a Wish had really high overheads, but I had no idea how bad it was. More money was spent on paying the CEO's salary than on granting wishes. That's pretty bad. Iknow I won't be donating to them. And the selling of information - that should be illegal.

When you told me about the hunting charities for kids my immediate thought was 'That is just SOOO WRONG.' Kids who are dying are there to kill some other living thing?? That, I think, could really mess up a kid's psyche. And that song...

Dream Foundation and Dream Factory sound more like my type of charities. It's amazing how so few charities help chronically ill children or dying adults.

I also want to echo your sentiments, Beth, about how those 'in-kind' gifts are appreciated. Over the counter meds do add up and the points really helped out. Same thing with Air Miles points - I just cashed some of ours for gas/petrol cards. If someone doesn't want their points, I'd be happy to take them off their hands.

This was a really interesting post and I'm glad you were finally able to write it up. That means you can have fun today, right?

Baba Yaga said...

Getting out and feeding squirrels, good: definitely helps to see a bit of the world, if one can. Seizures, really not so much.

Interesting information on the charities.

& always like to see the massed postcard pictures.

Lene Andersen said...

that hunting charity is really weird...

Thanks for doing all the research for us. I've given the small amount on a monthly basis for years to MSF exactly because I know that even though I can give only a little, it will have an actual effect. On the other hand, I'm about to make a phone call to an organization for the homeless in Toronto to get taking of their mailing list. I gave them $20 last Christmas and since then, had easily received more than 20 bucks worth of fundraising material. Way to lose my support.

I love that picture of you with Gramps. It's a really great photo.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Tom P: I am glad that Make a wish made a positive difference. Indeed, I should have pointed out that the chapters I look at, Make a Wish foundation is able to fulfill every wish sent to them. And they have fulfilled almost 200,000 wishes. So honestly, if I had a child with a life threatening illness, I would probably go to them.

It is a little like oxfam and doctors without borders. In the UK, Oxfam gets lots and lots of publicity and when disaster strikes they get lots and lots of donations. However their admin structure means higher overhead and fundraising while doctors without borders uses almost exclusively volunteers, doesn't run charity shops to make money by donation (as the manager who is paid often takes a fair chunk of the total) and has a very high 'money to on the ground help' ratio.

Make a wish does distribute money to chapters but also must maintain, rent, staff, buy computers for, buy internet access for, all those chapters and pay for some of the staff in them. What you say about why that means they don't spend money on wishes makes sense if the national organization is a administrative organization of the chapters only, which I had not considered. That doesn't make them bad, but when they are number 1 and Dream Factory is number 2 and the ratio of funds is 25:1, I wanted people to know there was a children charity which could use the funds more, uses more of the funds, has a better privacy policy, and is rated significantly higher. I think Make a Wish will always be the main source of wish giving (they have a partnership with Disney due to the amount of requests regarding that, so if it is a Disney trip, go to them) for some children, for chronically ill children, there is a viable alternative which could use help.

I am sorry if it seemed I was attacking Make a Wish. I was making a comparison on the 4 main points of charity evaluation and the scope of who gets wishes. I honestly can't quite get through the entire financials of Make a wish as they are so incredibly complex and world wide, and the chapters also seem to file independant 501's - it is not anywhere near the 'not great' charities like 'handicapped village' or other ones I looked at where CEO salaries were $460,000 and other salaries went to $650,000 for 'employees'. yikes!

Lorna, Bob, Liam: THanks, I don't want to slam other charities, it is just both of those charities fill a larger need, and do it with a higher acknowledged standard, for both children and adults. That was one slow eating squirrel.

Baba Yaga: "Hunt a dream?" - when I was in the UK, they closed down two welsh charities for having over 90% admin costs - they were run by two brothers who matched their "CEO" salaries to what the charity shops would bring in. The charity I worked with for asylum seekers post lost appeals had one cost which was paying the lawyer's rail fare - the facility donated, all volunteers, including prep work, food and drink (donated) for those waiting, and baby sitting (for those in with the lawyer). I'm not even sure if it had a name.

I've worked for charity or registered non-profits all my life and know there is a wide varience in them. Some, like...erm Beacon, or my previous doctors who booted me when I sent the board a letter noting no treatment had been initiated in over a year (for anything, even bruising), exist because there is no one to fill the gap, so they can lose sight of the original objective knowing that they will never have their 'non-profit' or federal money taken away. Dream Factory recieves no Federal grants.

It was nice to see the outside, which is a lot more complex than inside. More animals too.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Linda: Now you know why we get all those calls, we gave and that was sold on and the group it was sold onto was sold on - or often there are third party groups which have lists and you can sort of 'order a list' of potential people. I think your bank sold yours.

As Tom P points out, it may be that the national organization is an administrative organization, which would mean examining each chapter to find out the admin/expenditure ratio - also, because Make a Wish is so famous, and has many high profile corporate partners, I think the actual cash needed to buy stuff is low.

I was shocked by the range of CEO or Executive Director salaries, and the amount of employees paid, it seems like 'handicapped village' that some exist to give jobs - if they had just paid 360 people with disabilities to go to uni and then employeed them, they would have doubled the number they helped over 30 years. There are over 50,000 charities in the US, and some seem to be very limited (one person going to give bibles in one country) to more global or world wide - Make a wish has national chapters around the world, this is only the US group and not the individual chapters within the US. I think with my memory problems and not having a forensic accounting degree, I can't say for certain what some of the large charities do - which is why I turned to the two charity rating groups (which also happen to be Charities!)

cheryl g said...

I am so glad you got to go out and visit with the squirrels. Gramps probably appreciated a safe place to enjoy a peanut without some young punk like Psycho taking ot from him.

That is some great information about charities. I always do research into overhead costs and dollar allocation when making a decision to give to a charity. I also like to give to groups filling needs that aren't commonly addressed. For example I recently gave to a breast cancer organization who doesn't use the money for research or improved screening. They use it to assist men and women who have breast cancer with things like rent, utilities and groceries.

I am from a family and culture of hunting and the Hunting Charity creeps ME out. The song is especially skeevy. Weird...

tinarussell said...

Short thoughts!

You might like the Wronging Rights blog, it has thoughtful criticism of specific charities (international aid projects, in particular) and macabre humor.

I wish I had more money, because Sunshine Sketch sounds like fun >_< I liked Azumanga Daioh and I’m a girl who likes girls...

You look really pretty in the first picture!

tinarussell said...

Ooops, Wronging Rights is here:

wendryn said...

I'm really glad you got out to see the squirrels!

Thank you very much for the suggestions of places to donate. We have a list of places we will donate to again sometime soon, and now I have a couple more to add.

I hope it's starting to cool off there!

Jejune said...

I love squirrels! We don't have them in Australia, but we loved watching them when we lived in Colorado.

I support Medicins sans Frontiers and Amnesty ... very interesting to read about the state of Make-a-Wish.

Raccoon said...

I think that grandpa squirrel is actually Psycho, from two or three years ago.

tim @ said...

hmmm i really like squirrels. and on a wish foundation maybe they use the money in an good ways.