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Soldiers’ Angels Walk the Walk
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I am writing this on my own, without request, favor, force or coersion. I am sick of seeing a good organization and its hard-working, humble, and selfless members denigrated and libeled by sad, pathetic excuses for human beings, much less troop supporters. The truth needs to be put out there and that’s what my sole purpose is in writing this.
“If a writer wants to make money, he should avoid truth and tell people what they want to hear.” Soldiers’ Angels – an organization I’ve supported and volunteered for since about 2005 – is again under fire from disreputable sources. Most of the attacks are based on the organization’s Charity Navigator rating of 2/4 stars overall, with a 1/4 star “Financial” rating. I’ve provided the links to the page so that my readers can see the exact same information I see to write this post. I will only focus on the “Financial” one-star rating since they maxed out their “Accountability and Transparency” rating. In other words, they have nothing to hide.
The Financial rating is based on the following 7 criteria which I will break down independently: Program Expenses, Administrative Expenses, Fundraising Expenses, Fundraising Efficiency, Primary Revenue Growth, Program Expenses Growth, and Working Capital Ratio.
Charity Navigator (CN) scores an organization higher when a larger percentage of their donations to go program expenses. This measure reflects what percent of its total budget a charity spends on the programs and services it exists to deliver. Dividing a charity’s program expenses by its total functional expenses yields this percentage. Soldiers’ Angels spends just over 78% of its budget in this area. This is a very good number to have and as such earned them the highest CN score in this area. Obviously, if an organization is spending 33% or less of its budget on program expenses it isn’t living up to its purpose and mission. The industry standard is 65%.
This measure reflects what percent of its total budget a charity spends on overhead, administrative staff and associated costs, and organizational meetings. Dividing a charity’s administrative expenses by its total functional expenses yields this percentage. Anything under 15% earns an organization a top score, according to Charity Navigator methodology. Soldiers’ Angels administrative expenses account for just 6.1% of total expenditures. By contrast, the highest rated military charity, The Navy SEAL Foundation, spent 6.8% of its budget on administrative expenses. So, when people accuse Soldiers’ Angels of paying its founder, board or others exorbitant salaries, it’s a flat-out lie. The founder and president, Patti Paton-Bader receives nothing for her role in the organization. No member of the board is paid either. The two largest salaries – and arguably the two positions that need to be compensated – went to the Director of Marketing and the Executive Director, both full-time positions. As a matter of fact, these two positions are paid as much as or less than the same positions in all the military-oriented charity organizations rated higher by CN.
This measure reflects what a charity spends to raise money. Fundraising expenses can include campaign printing, publicity, mailing, and staffing and costs incurred in soliciting donations, memberships, and grants. Dividing a charity’s fundraising expenses by its total functional expenses yields this percentage. Because the bulk of Soldiers’ Angels work involves mailing care packages, they have major “postage and shipping” and “printing and publications” as well as mail house expenses. So because CN looks at these expenses as fundraising expenses, they took a hit of 5 points in this category. Again, by contrast, the Navy SEAL Foundations spent nearly a million dollars more on fundraising than Soldiers’ Angels, but also brought in $4 million more in revenue. Getting better than 5 points in this area will always be difficult, if not, impossible based on mission.
The amount spent to raise $1 in charitable contributions. To calculate a charity’s fundraising efficiency, Charity Navigator divides an organization’s fundraising expenses by the total contributions it receives. Soldiers’ Angels missed the top score in this area by a mere $.06. According to CN, SA spends about $.16 to raise $1.
Primary Revenue Growth & Program Expenses Growth
These were the two areas that also hurt Soldiers’ Angels as far as overall rating goes. My personal opinion is that these two areas are sort of an unfair bias against some organizations just based on mission statements. SA was hit here because it saw an 11.3% decrease in Primary Revenue Growth and an 8% decrease in Program Expense Growth. This is to be expected. After all, all combat troops withdrew from Iraq last year and the need to send care packages to these troops decreased. Since the need to ship care packages has decreased, the money needed to ship them has decreased as well. These areas of scoring won’t help SA in the future either as the mission in Afghanistan draws to a close.
Working Capital Ratio (years)
Soldiers’ Angels does not stockpile money like many charities. Instead, it uses the money it raises to “ensure no Soldier (or service member) goes unloved.” This is the area in which SA was hit hardest in the CN rating. SA got a 0.2 here which determines how long a charity could sustain its level of spending using its net available assets, or working capital, as reported on its most recently filed Form 990. Charity Navigator includes in a charity’s working capital unrestricted and temporarily restricted net assets, and exclude permanently restricted net assets. Dividing these net available assets by a charity’s total expenses (including payments to affiliates) for the most recent fiscal year, yields the working capital ratio. Because SA uses the money it takes in and puts it towards troop support programs, it doesn’t have much money left over. Unlike many charities, they don’t fundraise beyond their need. I’m not saying this is a good or bad thing. By contrast, the Navy SEAL Foundation took in nearly $6 million, but only spent $1.7 million. So, naturally, they have a high working capital ratio. If funds dried up tomorrow for them, they could still operate for a few years without changing their mission, expenses, or structure. However, if SA suddenly stopped receiving donations they would not be able to support troops almost immediately.
In the end, Soldiers’ Angels got two stars out of four. However, when you look at the areas where a donor should care the most about how their hard earned money is being used the organization earned the highest ratings possible. Personally, I want an organization that doesn’t try to hide its expenses so I can see exactly where every penny of my donation goes (for the record, I have a monthly allotment set up going to Soldiers’ Angels so I do have skin in the game and care where my money goes). I also want my money going where I’m told it’s going, which is to programs that fit the organization’s mission statement.
Looking at the links I provided, you can see for yourself that there is absolutely NO SANE REASON anyone should question whether or not Soldiers’ Angels is a worthy organization, meeting its mission of taking care of troops. They have a link up on the main page of their site to their financials for anyone and everyone to view every single Form 990 (Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax and required reporting to the IRS) and audit. You don’t have to take my word for it and I sure hope you don’t take the word of a zealot either.
However, facts don’t ever stop those with an agenda from opening their mouths and allowing stupidity to flow freely from their mouths. These types of people are known to say things like, “If a writer wants to make money, he should avoid truth and tell people what they want to hear.” And that’s exactly what they do. Unfortunately, they rarely have anything real to go on, so they invent controversy by suckering with their baseless accusations in the hopes those victims say something that can be used against them.
The founder and president of Soldiers’ Angels is Patti Paton-Bader. She’s a great human being and cares deeply about troops. Everything she does she does without compensation, which says more than anything I can write here. The issues involving Soldiers’ Angels have nothing to do with the organization, because as I’ve demonstrated, they’ve done nothing wrong. The problem lies in the fact that Patti is such an honorable person filled with unquestionable integrity that she refuses to take credit for something she didn’t do. THIS is really what a certain writer is pissed off about. He’s been looking for payback ever since, even if it means tarnishing the character and integrity of a good organization and its leaders.
“If a writer wants to make money, he should avoid truth and tell people what they want to hear.” Translated: make stuff up. One of the “truths” being thrown around as fact is that Patti “funneled” over $75k to a company owned in part by her son, Brandon Vorn. In the absence of facts, invent them. So the attack now centers on the fact that her son started his busines, Boodam and the Beav, in Nevada. The fact that Vorn doesn’t live in Nevada is somehow noteworthy. One would assume when you use business practices to attack someone you would least have a semi-coherent working knowledge of how corporations work. Many companies owned by multiple partners will frequently incorporate in Nevada for privacy or asset protection. Nevada does not require disclosure of share ownership. Therefore, a partner can invest in a business and not have to worry about his personal life being dragged into the business or vice versa. Delaware is another common location where businesses will register their corporations. Over 50% of U.S. publicly traded corporations and 60% of the Fortune 500 companies are incorporated in that state. The bottom line is that a person organizing a business generally has a choice on where to incorporate it. In the United States, corporations are generally organized pursuant to state law, rather than federal law.
“If a writer wants to make money, he should avoid truth and tell people what they want to hear.” I write for free. I’m not here to make money. I get ZERO from this blog post. Military Gear doesn’t pay me a cent. They don’t give me free product. Soldiers’ Angels give me no money. They don’t pay me advertising. I don’t serve on their board. The only thing I’ve ever gotten from them was care package support and a few years ago they helped me send over 1000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to Iraq.
The fact is that Patti’s son found out that they were about to spend a ton of money to purchase shirts and he was able to produce them at almost half the cost. Let me also state here that while I was in Kandahar, I frequently visited the Wounded Warrior housing to hang out with troops and make sure they were taken care of. There was an entire section of shelves with Soldiers’ Angels shirts and sweats for the troops that were injured and didn’t have access to other clothing. Frequently, their clothing was cut off them and all they had for a matter of days or weeks was hospital gowns. Those t-shirts and sweats helped make these Wounded Warriors more comfortable while they recovered. And I’m not talking about ten or twenty items of clothing, I’m talking six six-foot shelves from floor to ceiling.
“If a writer wants to make money, he should avoid truth and tell people what they want to hear.” So the fact is that Soldiers’ Angels got MORE for its money using Boodam and the Beav than the previous company they were going to use FOR THIS PARTICULAR PURCHASE. The organization did the right thing and reported it as they were required to by law. No laws were broken. No ethics were violated. And no hard-earned donations were squandered paying twice as much for half the product.
And don’t forget to check out the Mudville Gazette story for why Patti is REALLY being attacked.
“If a writer wants to make money, he should avoid truth and tell people what they want to hear.”