Monday, January 30, 2012

Team in Training Fundraising Does Not Scam

One of the many claims I've seen about TNT being a scam is that the fundraising scams people: that most of the money goes to the trip and LLS overhead, and that the runners don't follow-through. Here are some things I've read out on the World Wide Web. "These operations are a scam - 30 to 40% of the money raised go to the parasites running the charities." "It's a fraud if they don't do the race after raising the money - they should give it back." "Runners should solicit donations for an organization that has less than 10% overhead and do the race through a running club." "If TNT were a charity, their 'runners' would pay for their own travel."

How much of this is true or relevant? Fundraising is a big and an important enough topic that I will devote several posts to on my blog, starting with this one.

Let's start with the first statement above - that 30-40% of the money we raise goes to the organization's leaders. That is patently false - click here for the Charity Navigator Summary for LLS. Charity Navigator gives LLS a score of three stars out of four. Yes, four would be better, and if I were LLS's leadership, I'd be working to see how I could get the top mark. But three stars is good, and donors can feel assured that their money is going towards the mission in an acceptable fashion. Eight percent of LLS's revenues - not 30-40% - goes to administration. 17.6% of the revenue goes towards fundraising. For Team in Training, that would include travel expenses for runners and the tiny numbers of supporting staff that go to the event. If the event is a local race, the travel expenses are minimal. If the event is a destination event - San Diego Marathon for anyone but Southern California runners, Dublin, Chicago, New York, and so forth, then the expenses are greater. There can be airfare involved unless the participant chooses the "no airfare" option, and there is an extra night in a hotel. The amount of money raised is correspondingly greater for trips involving more travel. Typically, we might have to raise $1,500 for a local event and $3,400 - $5,000 for a far away event. And yes, some of the money raised does fund a significant part of the participants travel. All non-profits have fundraising and administrative overhead, and LLS is no exception. From what I have seen, 23.6% of revenue towards administrative and fundraising costs is not exorbitant. The comment about runners soliciting money for organizations with less than 10% overhead makes no sense - how many such organizations are there? Unless they have a huge endowment to cover these expenses, all charitable organizations will have to spend a portion of their revenues on administration and to raise more money.

I've seen comments about TNT participants getting all expense paid trips and staying in "very fancy resorts," all on the donor's dime. So what do we get on a trip? Well, it is not all expenses paid. For any event, LLS pays our entry fee. For a local event in the same city, that would be it. For an event in a nearby city - within a five to six hour drive from what I have seen - participants drive there at their expense, but they get two nights in a hotel (sharing a room or paying for half of the room if they want a private room) and two group dinners. For a far away event, we would still get the two dinners, but would recieve an extra night in the hotel in the shared room, and also airfare if we choose. Since the airfare is the largest single expense, you can opt out of reimbursement for it and then have to raise a lot less money, which some folks do. The hotels I've stayed in are usually very nice, but I've not stayed in fancy resorts. That may happen at times - but I cannot say one way or the other, because I've never seen it. I have to assume that if TNT ever stays in fancy resorts, it is the exception rather than the rule based on my five trips. Oh, triathletes and cyclists will get their bikes transported round-trip if the event is far away, but transport them themselves if it is within driving distance.

So yes, donations do cover those travel expenses - which are a part of the fundraising costs which amount to just over 17% of LLS's total revenues. So let's say you don't donate to TNT, but write a check for $100 in response to a mail or phone solicitaion for a typical charity. Well, a portion - probably about $25 - of that pays the administration of the charity and the company contracted to do the mailings or make the phone calls. With Team in Training some of donations covers the expense of the participant's running trip, but at least they had to work their butt off to get that far.

I don't agree that if the participant drops out and does not do the race, the donors should get their money back. That money was donated to a good cause, not to there person doing the race. However, I do believe that anyone soliciting donations by saying they will do a marathon should make a good faith effort to do all that they can to follow through with the race.

In my next post, I'll discuss fundraising for local versus destination events. Should runners for Team in Training and other charities only do local events to minimize the amount of donations that go to send them to the race? Or is it possible that LLS gets more money for its mission when people choose a far away and adventuresome "destination event?"


Kathy Long said...

Thank you for this. Those people who complain or that shout "scam" need to look closer.

Not to mention the financial investment I had to make to do this - about $1,500 in bike and gear - I'm giving up the equivalent of probably about 200 hours by the time we're done. On top of that, there is plenty of blood, sweat and tears. If LMS didn't pay for my hotel and dinners, they would be amiss. Then I'd being screaming scam.

Every cause like this one has expenses, and paying operating expenses and staff, as well as paying the expenses of volunteers is just part of it.

To get an idea of what we go through, you can read my own blood, sweat and tears blog:

Racn4acure said...

Thanks for the comment, Kathy. You are right on. I'll be checking out your blog soon. Art

SP said...

Its not the charity which is a scam, but rather the participants. I'm amazed that Kathy feels entitled to hotel rooms, airfare, etc simply because she had to train for a marathon. Every other marathon runner has to do the same; they don't receive free trips to San Diego. I would never donate to this cause, because essentially my money is going to cover the cost of the participant's trip. IF the participant happens to raise more than the trip cost, the extra money finally makes its way to a good cause. Anyone really interested in helping this cause would opt out of airfare,hotel, etc and pay ALL of their own expenses. Then I would donate, knowing my money is going to a good cause. "Runners" like Kathy should be ashamed of themselves for taking advantage of the good will of their friends and family.

Racn4acure said...

Hi SP - thanks for the comment. I respectfully disagree. First, all non-profits and charities have fundraising expenses. It is part of that kind of business. Those of LLS are in line with others non-profits. It just so happens that instead of paying phone banks and professional marketers, they are paying some - not all - of travel expenses of those volunteering for no pay to participate in races. Participants can and do (1) cover their own air fare (2) do local events where there are not any significant expenses and (3) cover all their own travel expenses. That being said, some - maybe most - do take the expenses paid for airfare, half a hotel room, and two meals. As far as someone "happening" to raise more than the cost of the trip, actually, once you recommit, you must raise the amount equal to at least 4 or 5 times the cost of the trip, or chip it in yourself. I have seen many people pay the lion's share of the total because they can't raise the money but are determined to follow through with what they said they would do. In this case, they may come up with 1,000 - 2,000 out of pocket. Check out what most charities spend on fundraising and I think you will find that TNT and LLS are not out of line.

Anonymous said...

LLS is a scam

Racn4acure said...

Anonymous - I have to disagree. I had read that account several years ago. To me, it appears as someone with an axe to grind with no proof. Anyone can say anything they want, but those were serious allogations with no real evidence given.

Anonymous said...

TNT is a fraud. The public believes they are donating a 100 percent going to the patients.

This is not the case. TNT even in their mailings saying "90 percent to the cause" this is a lie.

Racn4acure said...

I don't know where you have ever heard that, Anon. It is pretty clear that about 75% goes to the mission, and that is pretty normal for good charities. I have never seen anything from LLS stating anything higher than 75%. Charity Navigator gives LLS 3 stars. If they were a fraud, they would only get 1.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you address the CEO's salary over 1/2 a million a year. Nobody should make that kind of money of others misery.

Besides he's a child molester. Not everyone is lying.

Racn4acure said...

Anon - can't totally disagree about the CEO salary. Although it is not he or LLS that is causing the misery, in fact they are trying to do something about it. Ideally, a skilled retired CEO with a passion for the cause would take it on as a volunteer, but expecting someone to do that is a bit much. Most of us like to get paid for working. But I will tell you what, I will try to investigate things a bit and see if I can do some comparisons.

I did go to Charity Navigator again today and they still rate LLS at 3 stars, and their investigation is more thorough than any I can do. Yeah, 4 stars would be better but 3 is pretty good.

You are going to have to show me some unassailable proof that someone is a child molester. It is easy to make something up, just as it is easy for anyone being accused of that to lie about it. So I want to see real verification of that. I actually did a Google search on that some time back and all I could find was the same allegation on different sites. You may have something I could not find.

If true, he should go to jail, but if not true people should drop it and not accuse him.

Anonymous said...

It is obvious you live in a "perfect world". This is the same situation as Penn State.

Walter controls almost 300 million that is what is keeping him out of jail. Even the ex wife says he attacks kids. And the board at LLS covers up for him just like Sandusky at Penn State.

The guy on leukemia scandal was setup because Walter admitted that he was arrested for child molestation. That is obvious. Now LLS has gotten rid of Patient Services. How can you support such evil?

Racn4acure said...

Anon. – thanks for pointing out that I live in a perfect world. I needed a laugh today.

OK, let’s talk Penn State – It was covered up for years, even after McQueary reported what he saw. Eventually though, the truth came out, victims came forward, and belated justice was done. Same with the Roman Catholic Church scandel, although that still seems to have more to bring out. Do you honestly think that a guy making half a million a year has more power to hide things than Penn State, the Catholic Church, or for that matter, a connected politician like Elliot Spitzer? I say no way. But I also realize that people do lie, and can get away with things for a while. So if he is lying, then the truth will ultimately come out if victims come forward. We don’t live in North Korea where you can be imprisoned, tortured, and executed on hearsay. We live in a society with due process, where one is presumed innocent and able to face his accusers. So unless there is real proof about this guy, then I am going to presume his innocence. Full disclosure – I also believed Lance Armstrong and Mortenson (the Three Cups of Tea guy). But if I am wrong, I expect the proof, not just someone’s claim.

Regarding Patient Services, I have seen no such thing about LLS stopping it. Patient Services is still referenced on the LLS website. In fact, they spent 36% of their budget last year on patient and community services. And someone I know at LLS that I asked about it today said that patient services goes on. So if you have something specific that refutes this, please share it. Otherwise, someone may have misinformed you.

The only thing evil I see is cancer, and I am not supporting it.

Anonymous said...

How many years need to pass while Walter is raping kids for something to be done? So we should allow Walter to continue to destroy kids till he is finally brought to justice. Go on and read what the latest LLS insider is saying.
Your local LLS person will always lie to protect their job. Many LLS insiders have said Patient Services has been dismantled and the money moved to Advocacy. Which allows Walter to donate money to politicians to buy protection.

If you want to help give your money directly to patients and their families in your community not this ghoul John Walter.

Racn4acure said...

Anon - of course it is not all right to rape kids, or anyone else. There is a special place in hell for people who do that. I'm saying there has to be due process, and that would likely involve victims coming forward unless there was evidence on computers - a common way to catch the slimeballs who do this stuff. I could be wrong but if he is guilty of this, I don't see how he could have the power to have the law turn a blind eye. Public figures can't even tell a dirty joke without it being all over the news. So why isn't a investigative journalist digging into something like this? It could make their career. Or a prosecutor, same thing. If all that this stuff you and these sites say is true, you are not only talking child sexual abuse but embezzelment and misappropriation of funds. I fail to see how that could be swept under the rug. And that leads me to think it is not true - but if there is a shred of evidence someone should be digging into it and investigating. This guy may seem powerful but compared to Penn State and the Catholic Church, not at all.

I didn't see what you referred to on that web site but I will spend more time looking at it this weekend, I may have missed it.

I stand by Charity Navigator giving this organization a very good rating. I don't think they can be fooled. LLS is not perfect but does a lot of good. I do agree with you that over 500K is a jaw dropping salary for a CEO of a non-profit. The board needs to determine whether he delivers the value for that.

I do agree with your altruistic thought of donating money to specific families in need. And in fact, I do that as well as supporting many charities with donations each year and this one (LLS) with some volunteer time - both on the TNT fundraising side and on the patient services side. I don't think that you can cure cancer without this group - and others - sifting through the thousands of potential scientific projects to determine which are good candidates for funding.

I do intend when time permits to dig through some of this stuff some more and dig through the evaluations of LLS compared to other similar focus non-profits. I also want to talk to a friend who is a long time volunteer for LLS and has served on one of their boards and see if she knows anything about this stuff.

You are clearly passionate about this. Have you considered contacting an elected official about it and asking them to investigate?

Anonymous said...

Even though I respect your right to your opinions I respectfully disagree with you.

How many years did it take for Penn State to be exposed? How many kids and Cancer patients have to be harmed before something is done? Unfortunately as we can plainly see if you are wealthy you are not prosecuted. Ever hear the term "deferred prosecution"? It's where wealthy companies and individuals are not prosecuted because of money.

Locally a very sick little girl's family reached out to LLS. After mountains of paper her family was denied help. In fact, LLS harassed her family for donations even after denying her any assistance. She recently passed many in our community are angry that LLS even to this day continues harassing them with telemarketing and mailing solicitations even after they requested not to be contacted.
LLS is a very wealthy entity with many political connections bought with public monies. They basically are untouchable.

Racn4acure said...

Anon. - reasonable people are going to sometimes disagree. That helps make the world go round.

It took a lot of years for Penn State football to be exposed. But once it was, the downfall was shockingly fast. That was kind of my point from earlier - that if there is something to these charges, a sharp prosecutor or journalist would be pursuing them to the end of the earth. LLS may have a lot of resources and support but nothing compared to Penn State. Sandusky's charges came out of the blue for the public, but then things moved at warp speed. In the case of LLS, the charges are out there for several years but have not gone anywhere. That leads me to believe that they are not true. But if they are, they should be pursued to the ends of the earth.

And just like PSU practically tripped over itself to distance itself from Coach Paterno in order to save their university and its football program, so too would the LLS board of directors distance itself from the CEO to save their organizations if it became clear those charges were true.

Sorry to hear about the little girl in your area. I hate seeing anyone deal with cancer but for a child to face it is particularly awful. And horrible even still for her family. We agree that no one should be harassed for fundraising solicitations once they ask not to be.

Well, you have made me think about some things and I will try to do my own investigations using Google. But that would pale beside what a good journalist could do. Art

Anonymous said...

LLS is as powerful or even more powerful than Penn State. LLS donates large sums of money to political campaigns(fact).

It took 20 years for Penn State to come out (and how many kids were molested during that time) Walter is even more powerful.

If you were John Walter with hundreds of millions of dollars at your disposal would you allow a website calling you a child molester? Wouldn't you take the site to Court and have it shut down if everything isn't true?
Unless you are terrified that in Court the truth would come out?

Leukemia Scandal has been up nearly 3 years with over 50K visitors. If Walter is innocent he can go to Court and exonerate himself. Why hasn't Walter done this?

No journalist or prosecutor is going to go up against Walter. He controls too much money and a large army of political allies their career would be destroyed. In fact Walter fired most of the LLS employees who questioned Walter about the website. At the chapter level a substantial portion of the staff was terminated.

How can anyone support this guy?

Racn4acure said...

You know, Anon, that is an excellent point, and one think that has been bothering me all along with this. Because sure thing, if someone put up such a site about me (and if I made enough money, which at $500K a year, he does) you can bet I would be suing them for character defamation and slander. So I do wonder about that, and I do wonder if the board of directors has discussed this. I also wonder if has hurt fundraising, with the huge recession all happening in the same timeframe.

You make an excellent point.

Anonymous said...

See how the rich and powerful child molesters get away with this in America. You have the money and power you can do anything you want. How disgusting. Same as Walter and you ask why he hasn’t been locked up?

Anonymous said...

More to come on events as they unfold. Major arrests are imminent at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. A laundry list of criminal activities. This website has been the driving force to bring John Walter to justice. With your support a great evil has been stopped. No one gives up a million dollar job willingly.

kris sergentakis said...

Nobody from LLS is talking now. The pedophile CEO Walter was arrested. Then out on bail sells a million dollar plus house.

OK LLS everything I am saying is a lie.


Kris Sergentakis said...

a major newspaper exposes LLS fraud

Anonymous said...

How much of each dollar, when you minus the expenses goes to the patient? and how much goes to start-up capital for a new pharma company? Your Branch in Canada was documented by Toronto Star "11 cents on the dollar" really? I will never donate a penny to LLS! I will donate to the patient who has cancer directly.
Not to mention the $10,000 weekly salary a board member has...IMAO I do not have STUPID on my forehead...go brainwash someone else with your fraud.