Thursday, December 6, 2012

Attorney General Charges Photographer in Scam

According to a press release issued by the Missouri Attorney General's office, local photographer Mario Antoine has been charged with ten felony counts of stealing by deceit and unlawful merchandising practices in relation to his wedding photography business, Imagine Photo KC.

Imagine Photo KC has had an F-rating with the Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City since September 2010, only a month after the business's first complaints arrived at the BBB. The Better Business Bureau provided materials and assistance to the Attorney General's investigation of the company.

According to the November 29 press release, "Antoine was arrested today by the Kansas City Police Department and is being held on a $25,000 bond.  Antoine faces up to seven years in prison and $20,000 fine for each of the four stealing by deceit counts and up to four years in prison and $20,000 fine for each of the six unlawful merchandising practices counts."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Supporting Emerging Charities


The Better Business Bureau is a non-profit focused on advancing marketplace trust and that focus extends to charities.  The BBB of Greater Kansas City Charity Review Program evaluates local charities based on a framework of 20 accountability standards that cover governance, finances, informational materials and effectiveness.   http://www.bbb.org/us/standards-for-charity-accountability/ These standards help put the information charities are providing into context and make it easier for donors to make wise giving decisions. 

Charities that meet all 20 standards are certainly to be applauded and deserve support.   We are working to promote these standards and encourage non-profits to work towards implementing any operational and policy changes required to meet them.  By contacting more and more charities that are interested in acquiring BBB charity accreditation, our reporting database will most certainly grow.   Also, the more we receive inquiries from the public about particular charities, our reporting database will grow.    http://www.bbb.org/charity-reviews/kansas/

However, there are often emerging grass roots organizations out there that may not yet be in a position to meet all 20 standards.  They may not be household names or agencies that meet the more urgent social service needs.  They may not have staff or budgets for marketing.  These are also deserving of support, whether through volunteer efforts or donation.

I found one such organization in KCVLAA www.kcvlaa.org (Kansas City Volunteer Lawyers & Accountants for the Arts.)  I am passionate about music and the arts.  I want to see artists and musicians thrive in Kansas City.   I don’t like that Nashville, New York and L.A. are considered the ‘music markets’.   Of course technology has opened up a world of opportunity for artists to become independent, but that’s another conversation.  I happened upon KCVLAA when I was doing some web browsing.  Without KCVLAA, the legal and accounting problems of many artists and arts organizations would go unresolved.

As a songwriter, I needed to know all I could about copyrights and intellectual property law so I attended an “Ask The Expert” program of KCVLAA.  I was impressed by how the program was executed and by the expertise and professionalism of the volunteer attorney that I met with.

I continued to learn more about KCVLAA and gained confidence in the knowledge and ability of the executive director and board to successfully advance the mission.  I now serve on the board of KCVLAA and my role at the BBB gives me this opportunity to shine a little light on a deserving organization. www.kcvlaa.org There are many others out there.

Learn about what makes a good, well-run charity.  The BBB charity accountability standards are a good place to start.  http://www.bbb.org/us/standards-for-charity-accountability/  Continue to check out our reports and call to inquire about charities that you’d like to have us report on.  (816) 421-8188 X112  Many times organizations are helped just by being evaluated against our standards as they identify areas where improvements can be made. 

I encourage all to engage their passions and investigate the non-profits out there that are working hard to better our community in those areas.  They can use your help and will be better because of you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

BBB Sponsored NASCAR!



For the first time, the Better Business Bureau is sponsoring a NASCAR team this year. The BBB is the primary sponsor for car #52 in the Nationwide Series, driven by Joey Gase. Gase has been racing since he was eight years old and is competing as rookie in the Nationwide Series.


NASCAR festivities begin on October 17th at the Kansas Speedway when the parking lots open at 8:00AM. The BBB will be in the Pit for #52 on October 20th for the Kansas Lottery 300 Race. The race begins at 2:30PM. You can buy tickets here or it will be televised on ESPN.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Scam Alert: Ozark Mountain Title and Escrow

The Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City is warning potential victims about Ozark Mountain Title & Escrow. The company is posing as an escrow company for a Bellevue, WA company, Event Savvy. Both companies have been registered with the Secretary of State for many years, however the BBB discovered that Ozark Mountain Title & Escrow dissolved and was reinstated earlier this year with a new address and registered agent.

The new registered agent does not have anything to do with the old company located in Springfield, MO. Their current address, 435 Nichols Rd, Ste 200, Kansas City, MO is a virtual office.

The BBB also discovered that this company is related to a previous timeshare resale scam in the area called Diamond International Escrow DBA Premiere Properties, Capital Closing Services and others that the BBB has warned about in the past year.

Any timeshare resale company that charges any fees before you are paid in full and have the money in your possession is a scam. Contact the BBB or your state attorney general immediately.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Google Fiber's Big Impact

Google made big announcement after big announcement concerning their new product line, Google Fiber. Since the announcement that Kansas City, MO and KCK would be the first communities in the U.S. with Google Fiber, Kansas Citians have been anxiously awaiting more information from the mega-business. Google didn't disappoint.

The company made several key announcements about the new product that will change the very fabric of the city. So far, the company has unveiled the following:
  • Google Fiber TV. Television including major networks, special channels and on demand content. It comes with a TV box that can hold up to 500 hours of recorded HD video, a Nexus 7 tablet, which functions as a remote with voice command, additional TV boxes that double as wifi routers/bridges.
  • Google Fiber Internet. This is all anyone expected and we already knew the basic plan. It will have internet speeds of up to 100 megabits per second. That makes it almost 100 times faster than today's average broadband speeds and 20 times faster than top tier business class speeds.
  • They've bundled together competitive packages. $70/mo for just internet and $120/mo for internet and TV, which is about par with current internet/cable packages.
  • Google announced that they would give many schools and area libraries free internet. They also announced that for an installation fee of $300, they would install fiberoptic cable into homes and provide free regular broadband speeds for up to seven years until the homeowner upgrades to full speed access. This should be a cause for great concern among current Kansas City internet service providers, who haven't updated their infrastructure to meet current consumer needs.
  • One 1000mb/s isn't the fastest they think it will go in the future. They announced that there would be more announcement in the months and years to come.
My favorite part about the whole experience was that I watched the announcement on Youtube, listening to all the smart people talk about fast internet, while my internet constantly buffered to keep up with the strain of streaming video in HD. It was ironic.

Google Fiber went live in a small community in San Francisco and they were getting confirmed speeds of 438mb/s in the Beta stage, so it looks like it will live up to the hype. This changes everything for ISPs who have been skating along the last few years without new innovations to threaten their business model. Current ISPs will now have to fight for their customers, rather than aiming an increasingly dissatisfying status quo. Now, Kansas City will reap the rewards.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

DirecTV vs. Viacom

In a titanic chest-bumping contest, 20 million consumers have been gypped out of some popular channels operated by mega-company Viacom, such as MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon. Now, the bright side is that Jersey Shore is unavailable to DirecTV customers. You don't have to worry about your brain cells being drained if you inadvertently land on the show while your remote dies.

Both Viacom and DirecTV have launched campaigns blaming each other for the loss of channels. DirecTV claims that Viacom wants way more money than its channels are worth. Viacom claims that its content is in demand and is a major selling point for DirecTV, and are therefore owed some more compensation for their content.

This business-to-business dust up is common enough, and normally, if DirecTV didn't want to pay for content, that's their right. However, 20 million consumers are caught in the middle of something they have no control over, are getting the short end of the stick and are stuck in contracts. Consumers signed up for a service that is now lessened by a feud that they weren't informed of. Now, they may be gypped out of their favorite shows.

Customers are looking for someone to blame. As much as DirecTV would like to redirect ire to Viacom, it's not working. Customers did not sign up for services with Viacom. They have a contract with DirecTV and expect it to be upheld. DirecTV must believe they are doing what is economically viable. They must really believe that Viacom's programming is simply not worth what they were demanding, otherwise, this situation would not have come to pass. They probably did the right thing for their business. It doesn't matter to DirecTV customers, and it shouldn't. They were gypped.

DirecTV's response to Viacom's campaign for the hearts of customers is bad. Claiming that Viacom's demands directly result in an increase in cost to customers is nonsense. That argument is always nonsense. Companies aren't forced to "pass along costs to customers." They have to make a choice between a dent in profits and passing along costs. They always seem so innocent in the fact that they raise costs, like they're utterly helpless to prevent it. DirecTV's profits increased last year. They made $1.21 billion net profit last year. They don't have to pass along the extra costs to consumers. They would choose to do so.

Was it worth it to Viacom to demand more money? They made $2.25 billion net profit last year, almost twice as much as DirecTV. Did they think this maneuver would force DirecTV into agreeing to a bad deal because customers would hold them responsible? Maybe. But, now their shows aren't even available to millions of people. That's not good for them.

DirecTV doesn't need to placate Viacom, but they do need to placate their customers, who are locked into contracts they don't feel don't reflect what they were sold. Even if DirecTV could outline, in abundant and convincing detail, why Viacom is wrong, unethical, money-hungry and terrible, that won't change the fact that DirecTV has done little to prepare its customers for the drop and nothing to comfort them during their frustration. Now, we wait and see how many complaints the Better Business Bureau will receive against them.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to Obtain Absentee Ballots in Missouri and Kansas

Many people do not know how to get an absentee ballot and often do not know if they're even eligible. In Kansas, all one has to be is a registered voter and 'e can participate in what the state calls "Advance Voting."  A Kansas voter needs to apply for advance voting by July 17 by filling out the application form. Return the application to the county election officer. The ballot will be mailed to the voter twenty days before the election. Fill it out and return it.

Missouri has more rules about absentee voting. The registered voter must be either away from his or her designated voting location, incarcerated, ill or physically unable of making it to the polling station, an election authority, or reticent to vote at a polling station due to religious belief.

The application for absentee ballot must be obtained by fax or in person from the local voting authority. To determine the appropriate office to file the application with, you can click here. A family member within the first degree (parent or child) can fill out the application in person. Active military personnel may fill out a Federal Post Card application and can dictate where to receive his or her blank ballot by mail. The filled out absentee ballot must be received by the local voting authority (via fax or mail) no later the Wednesday prior to the election.

If you have received voting or balloting materials without following the steps above, contact your local voting authority to determine the legitimacy of the documents.

Read more about Missouri voting exceptions here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Future of Advertising Has Passed.

This morning, the BBC posted an article about innovations in the films Blade Runner (1982) and Minority Report (2002) that have come to pass. Both films are based on sci-fi legend Philip K. Dick's novellas. Some advancements from the films are far away from reality. Others came to pass years ago. Still others are on the cusp of everyday use.

Advertising innovation has accelerated the fastest, so it's no surprise that Blade Runner's futuristic representations of advertising in 2019 are now commonplace.

In an iconic moment from Blade Runner, Harrison Ford's vehicle is seen flying past an animated billboard on the side of a building.

By the Early 2000s, Tokyo already had these animated advertisements, as seen in Lost in Translation (2003) when a Dinosaur walks across the side of a building.

However, Blade Runner accidentally downplayed how dominant animated billboards would become in metropolitan centers. For instance, look at the absurd amount of animated ads in the following photograph of Times Square by Raindroppe.

Thus far in Kansas City, billboards are not allowed by city ordinance. However, a current push by advertisers to ease Kansas City billboard regulations is being duked out in City Hall right now. We may yet end up with advertisements covering the sides of our building
Another way ads were displayed in Blade Runner was by an "Ad Blimp" hanging low over the city streets, advertising vacations and residencies off world.


So far, we don't have blimps with the navigation capability to maneuver between skyscrapers, but we do have ad blimps hovering over sporting events and outdoor concerts.


Blade Runner was a critique of capitalism and classism and had a more pessimistic view of our opssible future than Minority Report. For Minority Report, the future was a backdrop to the story about choices, fate, responsibility and inevitability; therefore the fate of capitalistic prosperity in the US was not under attack. Steven Spielberg simply wanted to portray future advertising as accurately as possible. He hired futurologists to help map out how advertising would likely be used in the moderately near future of 2054. The road to all the advertising tactics in the film have been long underway.

Early in the film, Tom Cruise is jogging as an advertisement bounces from wall to wall as he passes them. It is following him. We learn later that his retinas are being constantly scanned and custom tailored ads for his character pop up around him. While scanning retinas is not yet used for advertising, custom ads that follow people around are alive and well on the internet and cell phones. It's called behavioral advertising. You can see it in use by visiting sites like Amazon, which keeps a log of your browsing habits and then recommends items that may be of interest. Google, Bing, Facebook and other megacompanies have already created complete profiles on us, our browsing and buying habits, our location and in some cases, our relationships. All of this is used to advertise to you more efficiently. If Google knows you like skiing, you will notice as you visit sites with Google ads ski vacation deals and skiing equipment. Currently, facial recognition software is more advanced than retina-scanning, so we may soon enough have advertisements following us around city streets and that's not creepy at all.

Holograms are on their way too. CNN already has a weirdly unnecessary one on set. Some TV companies aren't pushing their 3D TVs because holographic television is being developed and is only 5-10 years from realization.

The time in which Blade Runner is set is closing in and we already know many things it got wrong (namely people being allowed to smoke inside in Los Angeles).  But the advertising has outrun reality. Soon, we'll find out how accurate the predictions in Minority Report will be.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Watch Out For Father's Day Scams

Anytime a big spending holiday rolls around, scammers try to claim a piece of the pie. Because Father's Day revolves around spending money on Dad, everyone will be inundated with ads and emails for deals on power tools, oil changes and golf clubs. Scammer try to slip in a few enticing, but ultimately fake, offers into the mix.

Some scams want your personal information to steal your identity. When the Father's Day email deals come pouring in, don't click on any links within the email unless it comes from a trusted source. Some scammers use those links to load computers with viruses and malware that targets personal banking information. More complicated email scams may ask the recipient to provide his or her name, address, phone number, credit card number and more to apply for deals or coupons.

Watch out for suspicious emails that make it through your spam filter and for more information on other BBB Father's Day spending advice, click here.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

How Can All Gold Buyers Pay the Most?

In the past six months or so, The KC BBB has ceaselessly sent ad-reviews/advertising challenges to Gold Buyers. It's mainly due to the fact that multiple gold buyers in the Kansas City area are claiming to pay more than all their competitors. How can several pay the most?

The BBB has noticed the following phrases from all different Gold Buyers in the area:
"Kansas City's #1 Buyer and Seller of Gold and Silver!"
"Come See Why We're The Busiest Jewelry Store In The Nation"
"Get the BEST DEAL for your Gold and Silver!"
"We Won't Be Beat. Bring in a competitors offer and we'll beat it by 10%"
"Top Dollar Paid!"
"Nobody Pays More... Nobody!"
"We've shopped the competition and we have the proof that most of them are simply RIPPING YOU OFF!!"

The good news is, some of the above phrases have been modified after ad-reviews from the BBB. Area gold buyers have been receptive and mostly cooperative. Even the companies who ignore our letters sometimes change the ads anyway.

Some companies follow their superiority claims with the appropriate information on how to obtain the "best deal." Most don't, or didn't before we contacted them. We've often wondered what stops people from going to six or seven gold buyers and asking all the companies to top the previous offers until the price is so high, the companies could not pay it.  Any company who advertises that they will pay more than their competitors must do so, no matter the cost. If they ever say "no," they could face legal action.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Charity Wednesdays - Why Administrative Costs Don't Tell a Whole Story


This recent Op-Ed piece in the Los Angeles Times touches on an issue we see a lot in charity review work.  People want to give to a charity that will put all of its money toward programs, and not 'waste' it on administrative expenses.  There is a popular myth that the less money a charity spends on its own management, the better it is. 

But do successful businesses 'waste' their money when they pay high salaries to talented executives who know how to churn out profits, instead of settling for the guy who barely completed business school and just wants enough money to move out of his parents' basement?  Do corporations waste resources if they take time to re brand and adjust to a changing market? Is investment in technology and infrastructure pouring money down the drain or creating a platform for growth and new services? We would never ask for-profit companies to constrain their own growth to fit the ideals of people who don't know their business.  Why do we ask that of charities?  To quote the article:
[B]ecause we are intuitively inclined to believe that the nonprofit sector is filled with soft, amateurish executives, we latch on to the pseudo-science of administrative costs as a measure of excellence. It's hogwash; there is absolutely no way of telling that an organization with 5% administrative costs is superior to one with 20% costs based on that criterion alone. In fact, the exact opposite may be true.
The truth is, you can't judge an organization based on what it claims to not spend on administrative costs.  Nonprofits and businesses compete for the same pool of managers and while it's nice to think that people who work for charities should be satisfied in being paid in 'good vibes,'  the fact is that we have student loans, mortgages, and kids who need braces just like everyone else. If we can't meet those needs alleviating hunger or saving the environment, we can just as easily peddle information technology, financial services, and anything that comes from a factory in China.  And if you want us to do our jobs well, and actually meet the needs of those we've pledged to serve, you won't mind if we invest in technology, good HR programs, and clean facilities.

For the BBB's part, we don't focus on one number.  Of  the 20 Standards For Charity Accountability, one - Standard 8 - addresses what percentage of total expenses is allocated to programs (to meet, it must be at least 65%).  And we do not directly address what an organization spends of administration.  More importantly, our reports on charities provide a balanced look that encourages donors to consider all aspects of a charity's operations. 

Charities, like people, are complex and have unique stories to tell.  Donors do best when they look at multiple aspects of a charity's operations and appreciate that good management and effective program implementation is an art.  What's spent on administration simply doesn't tell you everything you should know.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Charity Wednesdays - 5 Words that Can Increase Donations

This is interesting.  The results of an experiment conducted during a radio pledge drive in Indiana suggest that women give more when their charitable action is described as caring, compassionate, helpful, friendly, or kind

While those words do not have the same affect on men, I think I know why it works with us ladies.  We always hope that what we do for others is appreciated, and that it does actually help them.  Words that express that mean something.  In the same way that I'll spend more on a toy I know my son will play with, I'll give more to a charity if I'm assured that my $50 or $100 gift is actually something they can use.

And I have no idea why that doesn't work on men. Any thoughts on that?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Charity Registration Requirements in Missouri - Corrected


This is a correction to my Feburary 17, 2010 post about charity registration requirements in Missouri that you no-doubt read and put to memory. In it, I summarized my interpretation of the registration requirements for charities in Missouri as spelled out here. At first glance, they seemed really straightforward, but the kind folks at the Missouri AG's office read that blog post and regretfully informed me that I gave Missouri too much credit. Turns out, charity registration requirements in Missouri are not that simple.

First, professional fundraisers (people who make a living fundraising for nonprofit organizations) are required to register. But that definition does not include employees of a charity who are not primarily employed by the organization for the purpose of soliciting funds. As anyone who has ever worked for a charity can tell you, there are times when the whole staff must participate in fundraising or risk not eating the next week. But unless it's an employee's primary job, s/he does not have to register with the State of Missouri.

Second, the requirement that all charities must register has several exemptions:

1. Any organization exempt from paying federal income taxes by the IRS under sections 501(c)(3), (c)(7), or (c)(8) of the Internal Revenue Code so long as no part of the organization's net earnings inure to the benefit of any private party or individual associated with such organization.
2. Religous organizations
3. Educational institutions and their associated foundations
4. Fraternal, benevolent, social, educational, alumni, and historical organizations, and any auxiliaries associated with any of such organizations when solicition of contributions is confined to the membership of such organizations or auxiliaries.
5. Hospitals and auxiliaries of hospitals, provided all fundraising activities and solicitations are carried on by employees of the hospital or members of the auxiliary and not by professional fundraisers.

The above exemptions make sense for many of reasons, among them that they don't put an undo burden on organizations (like food kitchens, animal shelters, etc.) more concerned with delivering their programs than filling out government paperwork. Of interesting note, at least to me, is that the exemptions to the registration requirements cover nearly all of the organizations that would be subject to review under the BBB's Charity Accountability Standards. Where the state rightfully steps out, the BBB - a nonprofit organization itself - steps in to help donors find solid organizations in need of their support.

So, here you go, Missouri. Your charity registration requirements are not so simple after all.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Text Scamming

Text spam is nothing new, but a lot of people are affected by it. Recently, A scammer has claimed to be Walmart and offered $1000 gift voucher. People shouldn't click any links they get from unknown text message offers, even to investigate the link. Hidden charges may show up on the person's phone bill. In the case of the fake Walmart voucher, many people who got the text message were automatically charged $9.99, whether they clicked the link contained within or not. This sort of thing has happened before.

There are also "Premium Text" charges that mysteriously show up on people's phone bills via third party scammers. These data charges can show up on phone bills when the owner of the phone texts codes to game shows or voting in competitions.

People should look over their phone bill, in detail, every month, and do not text to any group or business they are not completely comfortable with.  Otherwise, they could end up with a hefty bill on their hands.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Reshipping Scams Are Becoming Popular

The Kansas City BBB has been notified of the second reshipping scam to victimize area residents in the past two weeks. Reshipping scammers pay for expensive, easy to ship items at retailers with stolen credit cards. They then ask local people to pick them up and send them to the scammer, where the items are sold on the black market. They target their victims through job search sites and say that they are looking for workers to help expand their operations in the United States. There really isn't a job, they just need a scapegoat when the stores press charges.

The most recent example, "International Sales Services," advertises on Careerbuilder and Monster.com as a Work-at-Home/Freelance opportunity. Though the advertisement lists other responsibilities, the only one that matters is that the victim will be responsible for "coordinating the supply chain management activities including ordering, purchase and shipment." Everything else in the ad is filler to lend an air of legitimacy.

The person who takes the "job" can be charged with grand larceny if they picked up and shipped away enough stolen product. If at point a job comes up involving this description,the job searcher should flag it on whatever site it was found.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Charity Wednesdays - A Good Excuse to Clean out Your Kitchen Cabinets

Need a good reason to clean out your kitchen cabinets?  Think you just might not need 3 garlic presses?

Well, this month local Whole Foods Market stores are partnering with an organization that provides foster care services in Kansas, KVC Behavioral Health, Inc (KVC) by sponsoring a kitchen equipment drive.   From now until the end of April, donate your unwanted kitchen gear (with manuals, if you have them) to any Whole Foods Market store in Overland Park.

When young adults age out of foster care and begin life on their own, they often don't have the simple cooking skills, and money to purchase basic equipment, necessary to provide themselves with affordable, nutritious meals.  Programs run by KVC help teach young adults basic life skills, including cooking.

So take those unused muffin tins, cookie sheets, casserole dishes, etc. (no knives!) out of that hard-to-reach place in your kitchen and give them a prime spot in a deserving young adult's first apartment.


And click here for more information on young adults aging out of the foster care system.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Scam Alert: C2C Lenders, C2C Properties

We posted a blog a while ago about a company claiming to be a defunct area company called Cencor, Inc. They were actually an overseas advance fee lending company. Well, they are now claiming to be in Canada. The company uses the website c2clenders.com. They ask their victims to wire $700 to secure the loan.

C2C Properties is another Timeshare resale scam. This one claims to be from Atlanta, GA. Of course, they're not really there. For just $1,800, they will sell your timeshare for more than it's worth. That should be the first red flag. The company seems to have a pretty bad lead list, as they're calling people without timeshares.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Charity Wednesdays - Charity-run Nursing Homes

This blurb about a staffer who embezzled funds from a nursing home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor got my attention today.  I grew up next door to a Little Sisters of the Poor home for the aged and have very fond memories of the sisters who ran it. They are kind souls who provide loving, quality care to those who can't afford fancy facilities. And I'm pretty sure they're pacifists who don't have the same feelings I have toward someone who would hurt them.  That's a good thing.

This post is also a good place to point out that it has been documented that care at nonprofit-run nursing homes is generally better than care at corporate facilities.  One aspect is that staff turnover is considerably less - nonprofits seem to treat their employees like people, instead of cattle.

When I get too frail and quirky for my sons to take care of me, they'll be instructed to send me to those nuns.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Charity Wednesdays - European Art Institutions Compete for US Donors

I've said it before - Americans are the most generous givers of any developed country. It's true.  That is, in part, because of a tax system designed to encourage individual, rather than state, support for humanitarian and artistic endeavors.

In Europe, arts have traditionally received quite a bit of government support and have not had to rely on fundraising models that US art groups are familiar with.

A blurb in the Chronicle of Philanthropy seems to indicate that because of Europe's state financial woes, our friends across the Atlantic may be needing to learn a bit of Fundraising 101 and looking to US donors to support their endeavors.

Whether giving to noble causes here in the US or abroad, remember to do your homework and give wisely.

Somehow, I don't see places like The Louvre having much trouble with fundraising.  This lady here is pretty good for PR.  Not that she beats the shuttlecocks.


 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Charity Wednesdays - Donors Want to See The Good They Do

When you send a check to your favorite organization, do you know what that money is used for?  How exactly does it support your cause?

A recent survey of thousands of donors has revealed that we want to see the results of our giving.  We want to see what the money we give to nonprofit organizations actually does. 

At the BBB, this is what we hear every day.  Donors want to know where their money goes.  And they want to know that a charity can account for every dime.

And our charity reports show them that. 

Below is a snapshot from the BBB's report on Bone Marrow Foundation.  

From this segment of a report, a donor can clearly see Bone Marrow Foundation's sources of income, use of funds as % of total expenses, and total expenses for programs, fund raising, and administration.

This snapshot does not tell the whole story of Bone Marrow Foundation, it is only a small part of our complete report and we leave it up to the organization to convey the nuanced message of how donors affect its mission, but in a glimpse a prospective donor can tell a lot about this organization.

Our reports give donors the information they want.














http://philanthropy.com/blogs/prospecting/what-donors-want%e2%80%94but-often-dont-get/32441

Donors want to know how donations are spent.  What their money goes toward.

How are reports can help

Standards for Charity Accountability

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gas Price Signs May Mislead Drivers

Gas-price signs will sometimes include promotions that drivers won't notice. Often, drivers don't notice because they've been conditioned to look at gas signs in a particular way. For the last two decades, gas price signs looked the same. They list the prices, top to bottom, of Unleaded, Super-unleaded, Super-Duper-Uber-Premium-Plus-Unleaded.

From time to time, we'll see filling stations post the price of gas with large, easily visible numbers, and near those large numbers is a tiny collection of text that says something like "with car wash" or "cash only."  Driver's often don't have time to carefully examine gas-price signs for tricks and catches before they take an exit.  Sometimes, the text is simply too small to read from the road. If the price of gas without the cash discount is not on display near the conditional price, the BBB would certainly challenge the transparency of such an advertising tactic. Now gas stations run promotions for gas prices contingent on the purchase of other products.

Hy Vee gas stations offers a discount to those who shop at Hy Vee. Many Phillips 66 and Conoco stations advertise the price of gas with a car wash. We've already established that advertising the conditional price without the regular price is ethically problematic, but what if they do advertise the regular price, just as big? What would that look like? Like this:

 In other words, it looks an awful lot like a regular gas sign, especially when traveling at sixty miles an hour.

GasBuddy.com blogged about the problem because their contributors were sometimes confused by the prices. GasBuddy.com is a site that relies on regular people to post the price of gas around their area. The site then price of gas at individual gas stations across the country. Apparently, some of the contributors were submitting the gas price that was contingent on the purchase of a car wash and it angered some people who found out the price of gas was higher than reported.

If the price of both the discounted gas and the full-price gas are not prominently displayed, people should file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau for deceptive advertising. But he only way to avoid getting confused about the price is for drivers to recondition themselves to read qualifications very quickly. From now on, everyone should take a glance at the lettering near the price. If there are a few extra words that are too difficult to read, move on to the next gas station. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Charity Wednesday - BBB Sponsoring Consumer Event for Seniors on March 29th

Mark your Calendars!  In two weeks - March 29th - the BBB, together with the Johnson County Positive Aging Coalition, is sponsoring a consumer awareness event for seniors.  It will be held from 2-3:30 pm at Central Resource Library.

Older adults are invited to come learn about consumer scams created just for them, how the law can help protect seniors and their finances, and how to make smart charitable giving choices.  Speakers from the BBB, the Kansas Attorney General's Office, and Kansas Legal Services will be on hand to take questions.

See the flier below.

Healthy snacks will be served (free food!).




Friday, March 9, 2012

Scam Alert: CenCor, Inc/C2C Lending

A lending company claiming to be a defunct Kansas City business is preying on individuals searching for financial assistance. The company claims to be Cencor, Inc., which liquidated it's assets and shut down operation in 1999. People who have submitted their application through the website www.c2clending.com are contacted by Cencor, Inc. and are told they have been approved for a loan of $7000. The catch is that the borrower must wire a nearly $700 insurance fee.

Advance fees for loans are illegal in the United States. For more information on these types of loan scams, follow this link

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Charity Wednesdays - A Shout Out to the Mission Police Department

No, they did not let me slide on a traffic ticket.  I don't ever speed when I'm in Mission.  Everyone knows that is wrong.  I only speed in Leawood.  They need my money more.

This morning, however, I did get a very interesting tour of the Mission Police Department, as part of an event with the NE Johnson County Chamber of Commerce.  In addition to learning quite a bit about police vehicles, traffic stops, and police weapons, we were informed that the public is welcome to join the police when they do their twice-yearly DUI stings. 

What a perfect opportunity to educate your teenagers on what NOT to do when they're driving.  My own kids are still playing with Hot Wheels cars, so it will be a few years before I can take the Mission Police Department up on their offer.  But if any of our loyal readers work with teenagers, I suggest you call Mission and see when their next DUI sting is.  We will all be safer for your efforts.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Charity Wednesdays - Madonna

I just bought my tickets to see Madonna in October.  I'm crazy excited to see this icon of my generation in concert.

So today's post is all about her.

It's no secret that Madonna is rich.  Crazy rich.  Like most rich people, she gives big chunks of her money away. 

These days, most of Madonna's charitable contributions are done through an organization she established, Raising Malawi.  Two of Madonna's children were adopted from Malawi and Raising Malawi strives to improve the lives of vulnerable children in that small African country.

Since it's founding in 2006, Raising Malawi has faced criticism over its development work.  The organization originally took a 'top-down' approach to aid that assumed a solution before meeting with other stakeholders involved in the problem.  This approach, I think, is typical of organizations and people new to development work.  They see a problem and what seems like an obvious solution. But once on the ground in a foreign culture with different social, political, and economic norms, they find that not everyone sees the problem the same way.  They find that their 'obvious' solution isn't so obvious and that the real answers may take shapes they could never have envisioned on their own.

This seems to be the case, in particular, with a planned girls' school that Raising Malawi tried to build and which proved to be a constructive failure for the organization.

But good organizations learn from their mistakes.  Earlier this year, Raising Malawi announced that it is taking a more 'bottom up' approach by partnering with another nonprofit  that has experience in working with local communities to build schools in Malawi.

Madonna's career has seen quite an evolution.  It's nice that her charity work has, too.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Local BBB Accredited Business is Giving Away a Roof

Congratulations to Gahagan-Eddy Building Company on their tenth anniversary in Kansas City. They're celebrating their tenth anniversary in a big way. They're giving away a free roof to one lucky family. The business is asking area residents to nominate families in dire need of assistance. Their website states, "Please nominate a family who has a difficult medical or financial situation --or an individual who boldly serves our community or country. You can help us make an incredible difference right here in Kansas City"


If you know someone you would like to nominate to receive the roof, follow the instructions after Clicking Here.

Gahagan-Eddy has been a BBB Accredited Business since 2006. You can view their BBB Reliability Report HERE.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Charity Wednesday - Million Mustache March and America's Delightful Charity Diversity

I probably don't need to remind anyone about April's Million Mustache March.  I know, you've had it on your calendar for months.  The men in your life are probably carefully planning their facial hair growth so that their own mustache is just perfect for the event.

If you've been living under a rock and haven't a clue about what I'm talking about, click the link above for the details. Sponsored by the American Mustache Institute (AMI)*,  the Million Mustache March is an event in Washington DC designed to encourage our lawmakers to promote the growth of facial hair through tax breaks for the purchase of mustache-care products. Their reasoning?  According to AMI, men who grow facial hair earn more money than their clean-shaven counterparts - I'm not sure that's true for us ladies - so encouraging facial hair would, by extension, boost the national economy.

I get it. My own husband looks dashing with a nicely groomed beard and I'm sure it adds to his productivity at work.  And whether or not one agrees with AMI's logic, the fact that they are hosting this march in our nation's capital has to be appreciated.  That America, in all its amazing diversity, is a place where people can march for, of all things, facial hair, is amazing and wonderful.

On a slightly more serious note, our country's charitable sector is amazing in it's diversity, too.  Take three BBB Accredited charities:  Mothers Against Drunk Driving, American Bird Conservancy, and  Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. They all meet the BBB's high standards for governance, financial accountability, efficiency, and privacy protection, but each responds to a very different need.  America is a place where people can freely choose to put their money where their passion is and where causes as diverse as drunk driving awareness and the legal rights of service members have advocates that work for change.
As donors, we all have a right to know how a charity spends our money.  And we have a right to be picky about the recipients of our donations.  But being choosy and doing our homework doesn't limit our options.  So fight for incentives to encourage fashionable 'staches among your friends and family, if that's your thing.  Or donate money to preserve bird habitats, if that's your thing, but do so knowing that the BBB is here to help you make informed giving decisions - wherever your passions lie.


*American Mustache Institute is not a BBB Accredited Charity.  Truth is, we don't really know anything about them.  We can't even verify, beyond this Wikipedia entry, if they are, in fact, a charity. If promoting facial hair is a cause you feel strongly about, we encourage you to contact them and do your reasearch before donating.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Scam Alert: Helzberg Diamond Sweepstakes.

Another incarnation of the fake check scam has stolen a Kansas City Business's identity. A company claiming to be Helzberg Diamond is mailing potential victims fake checks for $2,950, along with a letter asking the recipient to deposit the money in his or her bank account.  The recipient is then to call a toll-free number, no doubt leading to a disposable cell phone, and obtain further instructions. At the bottom of the letter, it lists the address of a UK tax officer. The address is actually a London city market. If you receive this letter, don't bother depositing the check because it will bounce ten days later, leaving you to pay the difference of what you spent.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Charity Wednesdays - Joplin Tragedy Helps Focus Priorities

From the Associated Press. In the wake of the E5 tornado that tragically hit Joplin, Missouri 9 months ago, many of Joplin's young professionals have traded steady corporate jobs for public service ventures.  These young people want to do what they can to help their community recover and rebuild.  In the process, they are - whether they like it or not - positioning themselves for continued leadership in their community. 

There is a lot to be said for careers in the nonprofit and government sectors.  To serve one's community, to create, positive, tangible change for your friends and neighbors, is an experience like no other. People often take pay cuts to pursue the right opportunity and are often rewarded with great job satisfaction and careers that make the other pieces of their lives fit more smoothly.

Life is short.  If an opportunity is out there for you to do something more fulfilling with your career, I encourage you to find it.  Two good places to start are Idealist , and - more locally - Nonprofit Connect.  If government service is what you're after, you can find jobs with the State of Kansas here and employment opportunities with the great state of Missouri here. USA Jobs has postings for positions for the federal government.  For local government, you can contact your city and county offices to inquire about employment through them.

For all of us worker bees out there, here's a treat for this Wednesday morning:







Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Scams

Scammers will exploit any holiday to scam people. Here are some links to help you prevent being swindled during the lovey-dubby holiday.

Scam Alert: Starnet Payday Loans

This scam obtains personal information from undiscerning payday loan "brokers." People unwittingly contact payday loan brokers when looking for small loans. The brokers send out information to several payday loan companies until one approves the loan. It seems that some of these payday loan companies have no intention of giving loans. Starnet waits until someone else approves the loan, then contacts the borrower and threatens them with legal action, jail, and damaged credit unless money is forked over. The representatives speak with accents are almost certainly outside the United States.  They call from (551) 497-7497.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Charity Wednesdays - The Komen Foundation and How to Blow Your Own Credibility

Unless you lived under a rock this past week, you are aware of the fiasco that ensued last Tuesday when news broke that Susan G. Komen for the Cure (Komen) was no longer going to provide grants to Planned Parenthood  and then retracted that decision a few days later, under fire from those who opposed it.

However you view Komen's decision and subsequent retraction, I don't think anybody is happy with Komen today.

I've read conflicting reports about why the decision was made in the first place.  Some say it was because anti-abortion forces convinced Komen leadership to disassociate itself from the nation's largest abortion provider.  Some say it was a geniune move to streamline its grant-making procedures and give grants only to organizations that directly provide mammograms (Planned Parenthood provides initial breast cancer screening and then refers clients to other facilities for mammograms).  Other reports say that Komen simply wanted to be neutral on a hot-button political issue.

But there's clearly no neutrality, no Switzerland, when it comes to the politics of women's health.

What Komen now has is a pro-choice donor base that had two or three days to find lots of other reasons to not like Komen. In a "well, I didn't like them anyway" fashion,  social media sites last week were abuzz with criticisms of their extensive cause-related marketing campaign (think pink yogurt); questions about Komen grants to other institutions; and concerns about how their walks and runs in support of breast cancer awareness really do just that.  Komen reversed it's decision, but it has a lot cleanup to do to win back the confidence of their pro-choice donors.  

They have also now loudly announced themselves to abortion opponents, many of whom seek to defund Planned Parenthood, as clearly in support of the mission of [their]  Enemy #1.  If there was any anti-abortion donor who didn't know of Komen's association with Planned Parenthood, they do now.  Komen can't get these donors back.  Any move to appease them would be bring a repeat of last week's events.

In what was plausibly an effort to escape the culture wars, Komen landed right in the center.

The job for Komen now is to define it's place and build from there.  I have little doubt that it will do it.  This BBB accredited charity has power in its branding, name recognition, and mission.  It will bounce back. 
 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

George Brett & Co. Sued Over "Ionic" Necklace

One of my childhood heroes is being sued. He should be.

George Brett is the president of Brett Bros. Inc., a business that sells sports-related products including an "ionic titanium necklace." Advertisements for the necklace claim that it can rejuvenate your body from physical stress, restores important ION balance, relieves stiffness, improves concentration, and other equally outlandish and unsupported statements.

Frequent readers of the KCBBB Blog will, no doubt, be familiar with our stance on these bogus products. There is no product that restores some mythical ION balance in your body. It's been debunked and debunked and debunked. Like all such quack products, the manufacturers change one or two descriptions of the product and tell the public it's completely new and not at all like all the others that have been exposed as scams.


Even though George Brett's name is attached to this product, and the necklace is somewhat tweaked from its exposed predecessors, it is still quackery. It appears that Brett Bros wisely stopped promoting the product in 2010, but the company's distributors did not. Brett Bros and distributors should have already removed every claim and reference regarding improved performance when Power Balance wristbands were crushed for violating consumer protection laws. Looks like it's too late now.

Google Privacy Policy Change Raises Privacy Concerns

Google has changed its privacy policy. It's not a good thing. They now hold onto all of your emails and private messages, chat logs and search history for 18 months, whether you like it or not. Using Google's many free services finally has a price tag, and it's your privacy. This wouldn't be as much of an issue if Google kept public information, but they keep everyone's private messages and intimate chats for advertising purposes. NPR gives a full story.

As an analogy, it would be like UPS opening everyone's packages and cataloging the amount of people who receive which products from Amazon or its competitors. Which products go to which people? How old are the receivers? Are they male or female? UPS would just glean information from private letters to figure this out. They could use this information to mail everyone more appealing advertisements that fit their demographic. Does that make it any less weird that someone is reading our mail? What if UPS was did not cost money and this was their price? Would there be a person in the world who would send a private letter to a spouse through UPS?

As a Googlephile, I've had difficulty with this one. For the BBB, I use Gmail, Blogger, Google.com, iGoogle, and Chrome. They can get lots of information from everything I've made public. They want to sell ads that target me. I understand that. But do they really need to invade confidential emails for marketing info? So far, Google's justifications have been thin. Right now Ireland, and by extension, the EU is investigating privacy concerns. We are most anxious to hear what they have to say. Let's hope all our concerns are laid to rest.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Charity Wednesdays - Should We Judge Donors for Their Gifts?

When I was at Indiana University, big news was made when Indianapolis resident Ruth Lilly, the heir to the Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical fortune (you can thank that company for Prozac), gave $100 million to an obscure poetry journal in Chicago.  Quite frankly it seemed like a waste.  Why on earth would someone give that much money to poetry when there was so much need elsewhere?  Imagine how many starving children that money could feed and educate, how many trees it could save, or what disease might get closer to being cured - had that fortune not gone to a small magazine promoting an artform nobody really understands.

But were our criticisms fair?  Is it mine, or anybody's, place to judge the inherent value of a charitable gift?  10 years out, it appears, at least on the surface, that something good is being done with Ruth Lilly's gift.  Maybe that is worth $100 million.

The Chornicle of Philanthropy recently published an opinion piece on large charitable donations seemingly wasted on monuments and pandas at a time when the poor in our country face severe hardships and the social service agencies that help them are seeing their funding dry up.

While I see the point - and would surely advocate for all of us doing what we can to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and protect the most vulnerable among us - other causes have value, too.  Research into pandas could not only serve to further protect them, but might shed light on important ecosystems that affect humans.  A visit to a national monument might be the spark in an ordinary person's path to greatness.  Discounting what I spend on my boys' music lessons, I don't really have the money to support the arts.  I'm glad other people do.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Scam Alert: Namakan Capital

Namakan Capital is a payday loan company that follows the same business model as OSM Marketing. They lend money, but aren't licensed in the most, if any, states. They collect devastating amounts of money from their customers' accounts, every month, until the account runs dry. All complaints sent to the business from the Better Business Bureau have been returned in the mail. The company is most likely located outside the United States. Do not get loans from this unlicensed business.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Charity Wednesdays - 3 Big Players in KC's Nonprofit Community

Last week, I tooted my own horn about how the BBB can help nonprofit organizations.  This week I'm going to toot the horn of 3 local organizations every Kansas City charity should be working with. 

In no particular order, I present:

Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership 

MCNL, housed at UMKC, advances nonprofit operations through the development of its leaders.  It offers seminars and workshops in the areas of fundraising, strategic planning, finances, board leadership, and management.  MCNL also conducts extensive research on the local nonprofit sector.

Greater Kansas City Community Foundation

With over $1 billion in managed assets, GKCCF is a leader in Kansas City's nonprofit community.  This organization streamlines the process of giving for those individuals and businesses that want to establish a charitable fund to benefit causes they care about, but don't want the burden of running it themselves.  My favorite program of  GKCCF is their giving cards.  In amounts ranging from $25 to $250, a giving card is the perfect way to honor people by supporting their charitable endeavors.

Nonprofit Connect

Nonprofit Connect is the amazing organization behind the annual Philanthropy Midwest Conference.  I attend it every year and always come away with connections and information that make my work in the nonprofit sector better.  Nonprofit Connect  also offers affordable training in all aspects of nonprofit operations, networking opportunities, and a jobs board for both paid and volunteer positions.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Top Scams for 2011

Phishing Scams: The world is bombarded daily with phishing scams via email, Facebook, Twitter, and phone calls. Kansas City is no different. Last year the BBB's name was used in a phishing scam that attempted to obtain banking information from businesses.

Fake Collection Agencies: These companies that attempt to collect on debt that has already been paid off years before. Collecting on what was actually a real debt years before tends to confuse debtors, because they believe they may not have paid it all off. Overland Park is home  to Regent Asset Management/Imperial Recovery Partners, which was sued by the Colorado Attorney General's office.

Timeshare Resale: Kansas City is not unique in this one. Timeshare Resale companies claim to exist in every major city in the country. Many of them are different incarnations of the same group of con men. In 2011, there were at least five fake Timeshare Resale companies claiming to be in the Kansas City area. They stole anywhere from $3,000 to $25,000 from victims.

Payday Loan Scams: Payday loans are difficult enough to deal with without fraud. Some overseas payday loan companies have made Kansas City their U.S. operation site. Their domestic "businesses" acquire people's bank account information, deposit $200 in accounts and then begin collecting hundreds of dollars per month. By depositing money into a person's account, it can throw off the scent to consumer protection agencies.Often people have no idea who the loan company is.

Weight Loss Scams:  Every time the FTC sues a company for false advertising concerning the "active" ingredients of a pill, a new one pops up. Right now a popular ingredient is capsaicin, a chemical found in cayenne. However, it doesn't do anything with doses that are possible to eat. That hasn't stopped weight loss companies from boasting about its power to accelerate weight loss. In 2009, and 2010, Acai berry product manufacturers claimed many of the same things with even less evidence. Next year will surely be something different. There ARE pharmaceuticals out there that plausibly cause weight loss. Unfortunately, they are difficult to differentiate from scam products. It's best to consult a doctor about it.

Foreign Sweepstakes: Foreign lotteries are illegal. All calls and mailings from international lotteries are scams, without exception. They all ask for money up front.

Charity Scams: Fake charities use people's generosity and good intentions to get personal information such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and even social security numbers. Be sure to check out Search.BBB.org and Guidestar.org before donating.

Immigration Scams: These companies tell immigrants that they will help with obtaining, or guarantee, a green card or citizenship. They don't necessarily rely on their victim's inability to speak fluent English, but it helps. They scam Latinos, Canadians, Europeans or anyone who wants to become a citizen. They take money up front and do absolutely nothing. One of the local businesses, Immigration Forms and Publications, was recently shut down and its officers sentenced to prison on racketeering charges.

Jobs Scams: They can be found on Monster.com, Career Builder, independent web sites, mailings, print advertisements, and ESPECIALLY Craigslist. Various job scams exist. Some advertise government jobs and then ask up front fees to help the buyer find a job. The consumers are then mailed a packet of information about getting jobs. Some jobs scams claim people can work from home, but there isn't really a position. The scam asks for money to pay for materials necessary to do the job. Either nothing is sent or it isn't what they said it would be. Craigslist is different. Most of the time, scams found on Craigslist wipe out people's bank accounts, so it's already extreme. It's not the worst. In other instances, people responding to jobs ads on Craiglist have been robbed, beaten, raped and murdered. If looking for a job, make sure there is plenty of online information about the business. If the business attempts to withhold a single iota of information about the job or the business, never speak to them again.

Grant Scams: The government does not give away money for no reason. Applying for a grant can be a lengthy process and requires a detailed outline of the applicant's plans for the money. Grant scams call people and say the victim has been pre-selected to receive a grant, or the scam guarantees a grant, of many thousands of dollars. Sometimes the scam claims it is because the person is a "good citizen,." Sometimes the scams claim it's a small business grant. The victim is charged hundreds or thousands of dollars for one excuse or another. Bottom line: if anyone calls about a grant, it's a scam.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Charity Wednesdays - What Can the BBB Do for Your Nonprofit?


 What can the BBB do for your nonprofit organization?


When a nonprofit chooses to go through the BBB review process. Fantastic things happen. 


This is what the BBB will do for your organization: 

  • Strengthen overall operations. 
  • Show the donating public you are committed to accountability and willing to go beyond legal requirements. 
  • Reassure donors your organization will put their contributions to good use.   
What if you meet all 20 standards?  How can you inform donors of your accomplishment?


In February of 2009 the Kansas City BBB launched its Charity Seal Program.  The seal is offered for a nominal fee to any local charity that meets all 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.  


BBB Wise Giving Alliance research shows that 70% of the public find it difficult to verify charity accountability. 

The seal shows that your organization meets the comprehensive standards of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.  It helps increase donor confidence and strengthens public trust in philanthropy by addressing accountability issues like donor privacy and charity effectiveness that exceed what government regulators require. 

Surveys show that 98% of the public is familiar with the Better Business Bureau name.  This highly recognizable name on the seal promotes your charity’s commitment to accountability and ethical practices. 


Are you eligible to use the seal?

You may use the seal if your organization is a publicly soliciting local charity, at least two years old, and meets the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. 

 

Where may you display the seal? 

You may display the seal: 

  • In printed solicitation materials.
  • On your Web site, where visitors can “click to check” to confirm participation and access your latest BBB report. 
  • In newspaper and magazine advertisements. 
  • In television public service announcements and other authorized venues. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2 Years After Haiti's Earthquake - "It's not hopeless, it's just slow"

Tomorrow marks the 2 year anniversary of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake the struck just west of the Haitian capital of Port-Au-Prince, affecting over 3 million people.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy notes that in the wake of the tragedy, 60 aid groups raised $2.1 billion dollars, nearly 70% of which came from Americans.

Where is that money?  Has it been spent?  How is it being used?    The short answer is that the majority of the money raised has been spent as intended on housing, health care, and water and sanitation systems.  For the long answer, click on the link.  Because the international aid community was already well-established in Haiti before the earthquake, nonprofits were able to make efficient use of donations.

But there is still great need, and the flow of donations has trickled.  Aid organizations urge donors to continue to give. As one aid worker notes in the Chronicle's piece, "It's not hopeless, it's just slow."


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Scam Warning: Regent Imaging Supplies

I haven't seen a Copy Toner scam in a while. I thought they were mostly gone. Here is an example of one from the myth-busting website, Snopes.com. The Federal Trade Commissions has a perpetual warning about them. Regent Imaging Supplies uses the oldest scam on the books to make money.

The scam works as such: the company calls businesses to sell them toner and asks them to update their information. They speak with employees; almost never do these outfits speak to the owner of the business. They get the employee to agree to purchase supplies from the company, then charges an astronomical price for basic office supplies.