Ending Poverty Should Be One of Society’s Primary Concerns

Psychiatric and pediatric researchers have been arguing for some time now that poverty has a variety of negative impacts on children. Now, a study published in JAMA Pediatrics in July brings those arguments into greater focus. According to the study, and an accompanying editorial, living in poverty can have serious effects on the development of children’s brains.

Children living in poverty, which includes about 22% of all American children, can face lifelong learning disabilities, limitations on their ability to cope with stress, and depression. Developmental lags in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain can result in a 20% gap in educational achievement, most often seen in lower test scores.

The good news, though, is that these problems can be mitigated, somewhat, by nurturing parents. Parents who are taught nurturing skills, especially those who live below the poverty line, can help to offset the problems that their children will face. But those problems can’t be done away with through nurturing.

22% of American children grow up in poverty, in what is probably the most affluent nation in the world, and that’s frankly disgusting. What’s worse, is that as those children lag behind their wealthier peers, they’re going to have a harder time in school, they will be less likely to go to college, and more likely to end up with lower paying jobs. The negative effects of poverty make it harder to escape poverty. And when those children grow up and have kids of their own? Their kids grow up in poverty as well.

When you’re looking for a charity to help out, consider those that are focused on alleviating or eradicating poverty. Look for charities that help homeless people, or underprivileged families. Look for non-profits who put their donations to use helping to build and support schools, or to help feed hungry children and their families. Help those groups that advocate for political change to help people who are struggling to make ends meet. Helping poor children can help their children, and their children’s children.

Ice Bucket Challenge

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Where Did The Money Go?

Unless you were living under a rock last summer, you’ve probably heard of the virally popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The very first instance of the Ice Bucket Challenge is hard to pinpoint, though it certainly started receiving major media attention in the U.S. towards the end of June 2014, when hosts on the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive program performed the challenge live, on-air.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raised a huge amount of money to fight ALS, but now, roughly one year later, how has that money been used?

According to CNN, the ALS Association reports that roughly 40 percent of the Ice Bucket Challenge funds (some $47.1 million) has been spent or budgeted towards specific purposes, and there are also plans on how the remainder of the funds will be spent.

Among these initiatives are:

  • $2.5 million to the New York Genome Center to map the genetic code of ALS patients. The leaderships of these organizations, including New York Genome Center trustee and General Atlantic CEO William Ford, took the Ice Bucket Challenge themselves.
  • $10.5 million to a group testing whether a medication can stabilize heart rhythms in cardiac patients can stabilize nerve cells in ALS patients.
  • $5 million to the Neurocollaborative, which creates stem cell lines from ALS patients that will mimic their own nerve cells.

Thankfully, it sounds like these funds are being put to good use. “We can start seeing why they’re dying. We can start putting drugs on them to start seeing if we can slow them down,” said Clive Svendsen of the Neurocollaborative. “It’s a bit like having an avatar of yourself in a petri dish.”

In total, more than 17 million people participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge, and donated a total of $115 million to the ALS Association. This challenge is the perfect example of how philanthropy can be both fun and effective!

What did you think of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Did you participate in the challenge? Let us know in the comments section below!

Housing Project

Housing Project in Oakland Fails to Start

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a long-standing attempt to build affordable public housing near the Coliseum BART station in East Oakland is all but dead. Beginning in 2003, the plan was to turn a large parking lot near the light rail station into a housing village with shops. It was supposed to house 10,000 square feet of retail space and hundreds of apartments. The most recent projections brought the plan down to 1,00 square feet of retail and only 110 apartments.

The problem stems from the failure and collapse of the non-profit group originally founded to move the project forward. Called the Oakland Economic Development Corp. (OEDC), the group was given a $400,000 grant as recently as 2013. There was no interest and they had 55 years to pay it back, which they didn’t have to start doing until the housing project started to turn a profit.

Before that grant though, the project was little more than an idea, and since then, the OEDC has not only spent all the money with nothing to show for it, but has also lost their non-profit status after failing to file taxes for three years straight.

In addition, the city received an $8.5 million dollar grant from California to get the project built, but if it isn’t done by 2017, they lose that money. And, because it came from a millage that expires soon, they can’t transfer that money to other projects.

Oakland is missing out on a huge project, which could have given hundreds of families new, affordable homes, and boosted the local economy, because of oversight and poor planning. The OEDC didn’t keep up their end of the bargain, and now the city is almost half a million dollars poorer for it.

Non-profit ventures, like OEDC was supposed to be, can be valuable, and they can do good work. But like any kind of business venture, they can also be utter failures. Most likely, the space this project would have occupied will end up being parceled off to out-of-state investors.

Human Rights

Charities Earned $1.8 Billion in Grants for Human Rights in 2012

In 2012, foundations around the world raised a total of $1.8 billion dollars in grants to promote human rights, a 6% increase over 2011. 774 foundations raised that money for 11,000 non-profits, for a total of over 19,000 grants.

This information comes from a new report by the Foundation Center and the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG), who have been working on such reports since 2013, when their first report focused on the year 2010. Their goal is to collate as much information as they can, in order to help charities focused on human rights issues. That data can help foundations figure out what kind of grants to write for, or find new partners to work with.

Some of the most impressive and easiest to parse data presented by the report are the total dollars of grants received in different parts of the world. In North America, for example, foundations received $821 million, the largest amount by far. The second highest, $237 million, went to Sub-Saharan Africa. Asia and the Pacific received $141 million, followed by Latin America and Mexico with $132 million. Western Europe received $110 million in grants, while Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Russia received a combined total of $79 million. The Middle East and Africa received $56 million, while he Caribbean received $17 million.

The largest portion of those total dollars, about 24%, went to foundations focused on equality and freedom from discrimination. General human rights groups received about 15%, while groups focused on sexual and reproductive rights, health and wellness rights, social and cultural rights, or labor rights each earned at least 5%.

Groups working with and for women and girls earned 27% of the grants and 26% of the money. Children and youth focused groups received 21% and 19% of the grants and dollars, respectively.

US giving

American Giving Exceeds Pre-Recession Levels

According to the annual Giving USA report on charitable donations in the United States, in 2014, for the first time in seven year, donations in this country exceeded pre-recession rates. In 2014, adjusting for inflation, Americans gave $358.38 billion.

That was a 7.1% increase over 2013, and giving was up in several categories. Individual giving increased by 5.7%, which may not sound like a lot, but was responsible for 58% of the growth of giving in 2014. Foundation giving increased by 8.2%, while corporate giving saw the largest single increase, with 13.6% more than in 2013.

The report tracks a number of different charitable categories, including religion, education, human services, health, arts and humanities, environment, public-society benefit, foundations, and international affairs. Currently, and historically, the frontrunners for amount of donations received are religious organizations, which made $114.9 billion in 2014. Despite these big numbers, religious donations are actually decreasing, as other kinds of donations increase. The report notes that this is a byproduct of fewer Americans identifying with a particular religion, or donating at houses of worship. The remaining faithful seem to be contributing their fair share though.

Why have donations seen such an increase? The report maintains that it is due to the generally healthier American economy. As the economy improves and unemployment rates come down, more Americans are able to give, and it seems like they’re willing to do that. It stands to reason that the wealthiest Americans, who have traditionally dominated charitable giving, are giving the most, but they’re certainly not alone.

Beyond the obvious benefit of having more money with which to accomplish their goals, the increase in donations helps charities do their work better. Namely, as the non-profit sector seems to have fully recovered from the recession, charities and non-profits can finally start focusing more of their energy on using that money, instead of spending all their time getting it in the first place.

Cancer Research

MSK Center to Open New Lung Center

The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) announced Thursday, July 9th, that it is opening a new Lung Cancer Center—The Fiona and Stanley Druckenmiller Center for Lung Cancer Research (DCLCR). The DCLCR was made possible by a $25 million donation from MSK board member Stanley Druckenmiller and his wife, Fiona.

“Dramatic advancements have been made in the treatment of and screening for lung caner, but it continues to be the most deadly form of cancer,” said MSK President and CEO Craig B. Thompson, MD. Thompson notes that, in 2015 there are estimated to be more than 200,000 new cases of the disease in the U.S. alone. “It is a critical time to be on the forefront of fighting this disease, and now, thanks to the generosity of Stanley and Fiona Druckenmiller, we can amplify the work we’ve done to fight lung cancer both in the clinical setting in the lab.”

MSK is accustomed to receiving large philanthropic donations that create fantastic opportunities for them. For example, in 2014 the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology (CMO) was opened, thanks to a $100 million donation from, you guessed it, philanthropists Henry R. Kravis and his wife Marie-Josée Kravis.

The DCLCR, according to MSK, will promote the development and testing of novel strategies to treat lung cancer through several overlapping initiatives.

The DCLCR will allow MSK to do even more good for the ill. Lung cancer especially is a potent killer. In fact, it is the leading killer in both men and women in the U.S.! While smoking is a main cause of lung cancer, contributing to between roughly 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer, it is possible to have lung cancer even if you have never smoked—this can occur through exposure to second-hand smoke, or for many other reasons.

Looking to learn more about philanthropy in the world of lung cancer research, or do you feel moved to make a donation? Click here to visit the Lung Cancer Research foundation’s website.

Private Concert

Rock Legends Hold Charity Raffle for Private Concert

Eddie Vedder, lead vocalist of Pearl Jam, is teaming up with Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey, guitarist and lead vocalist (respectively) of The Who, to help raise money for two charities. Using the crowdsourcing website Crowdrise, the musicians are selling raffle tickets for $10 each. The winner gets a private concert featuring Townsend, Daltrey, and Vedder, as well as accommodations in Santa Monica. The concert is scheduled for September 12th, so there’s still plenty of time to buy a raffle ticket. And, like most raffles, more money buys exponentially more chances to win. $10 gets one ticket, while $25 gets three, and $50 gets seven.

Earlier this year, Townsend and Vedder donated autographed guitars, unique recordings, and other items to a charity drive for Teen Cancer America. Teen Cancer America helps cancer patients who are making the transition to adulthood. They work with hospitals across the country to help develop specialized centers for teens and young adults who are dealing with cancer. They work to improve collaboration between pediatric and adult-care specialists, and help to provide spaces for teens where they won’t feel so out of place.

The concert raffle will help support Teen Cancer America, but the proceeds are also going to help Foundation To Be Named Later. Foundation To Be Named Later works to help raise money for other charitable groups, specifically those focused on urban youth and families. The name is a reference to the baseball trade term “player to be named later,” and grew out of a desire to harness the goodwill of Boston Red Sox fans after that team won the World Series Championship. Since 2005, the organization has been working with others to raise money, donating over $6 million to other organizations, and sending over 3,200 kids to Red Sox, Cubs, and Celtics games in Boston and Chicago.

Charity Regulations

Following Cold Calling Investigation, UK Charities Face New Regulations

In the United Kingdom, the Telephone Preference Service allows people to opt-out of being cold-called, or contacted via phone by unsolicited parties. Cold calling has been a prominent tactic by which British charities have raised money in the past, but recent events have led to an investigation of that practice, and some changes in the guidelines that charitable organizations must follow in order to be allowed to operate.

The Institute of Fundraising, a self-regulatory body that keeps the charitable community in line, has changed its code to reflect more strict policy concerning cold calling. For example, charities may not knock on doors with a “no cold-caller” sticker. Charities must ensure that any telephone fundraising companies they contract with are complying with the Telephone Preference Service. Charities may not accept donations from anyone without the legal capacity to donate, such as people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. These new parts of the code, and others, are now mandatory, and the language of the code has been changed from “ought to” to “must.”

The government has called for charities to do more to ensure that they aren’t harassing donors, potential or otherwise. Minsters have stated that, if charities cannot bring their policies into line, the government will act to legislate new guidelines for charitable organizations. Potential legislation would require that charities and fundraisers outline exactly how vulnerable potential donors will be protected from fundraising practices, and would require all charities which earn more than £1 million a year to publish the details of their fundraising activities each year.

In light of recent investigations into the actions of charities in both the United Kingdom and the United States, new requirements seem like an obvious choice. Change seems more likely in the UK though, as charities there are under significantly more public and governmental scrutiny than they are in the United States.

Charity Fraud

Couple Who Ran Fraudulent Charity Face 20 Years in Prison

The founders of a charity based in San Diego were convicted of fraud and theft on July 10th, and could face up to 20 years I prison. Kevin Lombard and Judith Paixao ran the Wounded Marine Careers Foundation from 2007 to 2009, which purported to train wounded veterans for jobs in the movie industry. A 10-week course was supposed to train them in new job skills and get them membership in the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees for a hefty price tag of $88,000. That’s about as much as accredited film schools charge for a three-year program. Dozens of marines had their courses paid for with a $1.2 million grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

However, it turns out that the charity wasn’t delivering. They failed to provide some of the training and equipment, which left some trainees without the skills they went there to learn. Some of the trainees had to go so far as to bring their own equipment. Instead, it seems that they used that money to pay for personal items. The couple used these funds to pay for a trip to Bermuda, expensive meals, and a sailing trip around San Diego Bay.

In addition, Paixao also defrauded another charity, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, of $100,000 dollars. She claimed that the money was going to help a marine who had already dropped out of the program.

The issue came to light in 2009, when several veterans who were in the first graduating class filed complaints against them. Among other things, it turns out that the $88,000 came primarily from veteran’s benefits, and that the purported price for a course was only $10,000. Needless to say, a number of trainees in the program felt betrayed. Three veterans took the stand during the trial.


UK Charity Under Investigation by Charity Watchdog

United Kingdom charity Kids Company is under investigation by that country’s Charity Commission following yet another request for money from the government. The charity has received several large grants from the British government, up to £4 million, and has faced allegations of favoritism from charities with similar goals.

The Charity Commission investigates charities and oversees them on behalf of the British government, and they have required Kids Company founder, Camila Batmanghelidjh to step down from her role as chief executive. In exchange for her giving up day-to-day control of the charity, the government has provided the group with another £3 million lifeline.

Batmanghelidjh maintains that she is being silences for voicing criticism of government cuts that affect poor children, but the fact remains that Kids Company, a charity popular with celebrities, has received a great deal more aide from the government than others. ChildLine, a 24 hour hotline that operates throughout the UK and helps children, received one large grant some years ago in order to stay operational, but Kids Company has been getting grants on the regular. What’s more, Kids Company operates just in South London, and while London is the largest city in the UK, there are plenty of children around the nation not being helped by the charity. It is for these reasons that the Charity Commission has begun to question whether or not Kids Company is putting taxpayers’ money to good use.

The Charity Commission has received a number of reports about Kids Company’s financial stability, and has ordered an audit of the group. It is as yet unclear what the Commission plans to do with the information they get from the audit. The first step, or removing Batmanghelidjh from her position is a common first step when organizations, charities or otherwise, are under investigation in these kinds of situations.