Living with Kidney Disease, I Revel in the Joyous Expectancy of the Good to Come

Melissa Tuff was diagnosed with kidney disease at age 16. She began dialysis at 17 and waited nine years for a lifesaving kidney transplant. After more than 10 years with her new kidney, she is back on dialysis. She is fundraising with Help Hope Live while awaiting a second transplant. Melissa partners with multiple organizations to increase organ donor awareness, influence legislation regarding end-stage renal disease, and support fellow kidney disease fighters.

We asked Melissa about her transplant journey and the driving forces behind her advocacy work on behalf of kidney transplant candidates and other patients across the country.

Melissa Tuff Help Hope Live

Help Hope Live patient Melissa Tuff is an advocate and volunteer


Is transplantation an emotional process?


I was 16 when I faced my first transplant. I was thrown into dialysis and the transplant process with absolutely no idea what to expect. It was a very scary and traumatizing experience for me. Now facing a second transplant, I have had time to absorb everything and have learned a lot from going through the process before, so I know what to expect. All the information I have gathered over the years helps me to process my emotions in a healthy way and allows me not to feel as overwhelmed as I have in the past.

Melissa Tuff Help Hope Live

Melissa documents her physical and emotional journey online

Going into the transplant process for a second time evoked a variety of emotions for me. There is the fear and apprehension of potentially having to return to a life of dialysis if I do not find a living donor; the frustration that my body is slowly rejecting my kidney and there is nothing I can do about it; the gratitude for my donor who has given me nearly 11 wonderful years of life free from “the machine”; the feelings of disappointment that there may have been something I could do differently to prevent rejection; the aggravation associated with the length of the process to get listed; and the annoyance of dealing with the hoops I have to jump through, the delays and the costs incurred.


What gives you strength on the waiting list?


My family has not been involved in my fundraising or health care, so I have relied strongly on my chosen family at the Center for Spiritual Living in Cape Coral and my acquaintances on social media to provide support throughout my journey. I honestly do not know what I would do without them! Their words of support and the people who hold my continued health in their prayers give me the strength to keep fighting on days when I just want to give up.


How do you serve as an advocate and volunteer to support other kidney disease patients?


I volunteer at LifeLink of Florida setting up and sitting at organ donor registration booths at public events, hospitals and fairs. I am a Peer Mentor for the National Kidney Foundation, offering a confidential space in which dialysis patients, transplant recipients and chronic kidney disease warriors can share their experience and receive guidance. I’m a member of the Kidney Advocacy Committee and a Region 4 Leader, helping to influence policies regionally and with a yearly trip to Washington, D.C.

I am also the Secretary for the Organ Transplant Recipients of Southwest Florida support and advocacy group. With quite a full plate, I am still taking on more opportunities to advocate! I will begin volunteering with the American Association of Kidney Patients soon.

Melissa Tuff Help Hope Live

Melissa petitions for positive changes to renal disease legislation


How did you find Help Hope Live?


I began fundraising to help with some of my health care expenses after I was let go due to my declining health. In summer 2012, I was balancing a medical assistant job with a customer service position at a local grocery store. I was exhausted all the time, but had no choice but to keep going to make ends meet. Through exhaustion and hemoglobin issues, I became dependent on blood transfusions, requiring two units of blood every two weeks. I developed another condition which required me to wear an IV at home 12 hours per day to remove the excess iron from the transfusions.

While I tried my best not to miss work days as I balanced my health and my financial needs, and even signed out of the hospital at times against medical device to avoid missing a shift, I was told by my managers that “my health had become an issue.” I was devastated. I loved my job and it gave me a sense of accomplishment to help and care for other patients.

Melissa Tuff Help Hope Live

Daily life with kidney disease made it impossible to maintain full-time work

What could have been a tragedy or a failure became an opportunity for me: I was free to do the advocacy and support work that I would be most appreciated for, which would be far more rewarding than any paycheck.

I started using GoFundMe because it was what everyone seemed to be using. It was mildly successful. Then I met with the Tampa General Hospital Transplant Team and was told that I would need to raise nearly $13,000 before I would even be considered as a candidate for the kidney transplant waitlist. I knew I needed help, and that’s when I found out about Help Hope Live.

Finding Help Hope Live and working directly with a Fundraising Coordinator has been a godsend. I received more donations within the first few months of setting up a Help Hope Live campaign than I had in over a year of fundraising on my own with GoFundMe. The fact that Help Hope Live is an established and trusted nonprofit organization made working with them a no-brainer! The staff is extremely helpful, supportive and attentive when assisting with questions related to my campaign, which is not something you can say about crowdfunding sites.

Melissa Tuff Help Hope Live

Melissa “received more donations with Help Hope Live” than with GoFundMe


What are you currently fundraising for?


A lot of testing and medical clearances are required before getting approved for the transplant list. Because I only have Medicare coverage, I have to pay 20% of whatever the test or office visit costs plus the physician’s fee. My expenses add up very quickly and can be overwhelming, which is why I thank God for the ability to submit bills to Help Hope Live that I cannot pay myself.

Help Hope Live has alleviated some of my worries regarding paying for the transplant and health care leading up to surgery. Now I am working on keeping my only source of transportation running so I can get to all of my appointments and, eventually, to Tampa for transplant.


What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about transplantation?


People see both dialysis and transplantation as cures when really they are both forms of treatment. A transplant is not a cure for the underlying condition. This misconception may be due to the fact that many recipients go back to work, travel or start or grow families after transplant. Most of us appear to “go back to normal” after receiving a transplant. But people don’t see the post-transplant medication regimens, treatments, follow-up appointments, fear of illness and rejection, health and life insurance struggles and, of course, the medical bills, which never stop. That is why fundraising and long-term financial planning are necessary.


What is your advice for someone facing the kidney transplant waiting list?


Be aggressive regarding your health care. No one can be a better advocate for you than you. Do not be afraid to question your health care providers to make sure they are willing to work with you rather than making decisions for you. Do your own research and discuss your findings with your providers. I have personally changed providers when I have found that they were not providing me with the level of care that I deserve.

When it comes to our lives, we cannot afford to put our health in someone else’s hands without taking some responsibility ourselves. The best way to ensure that you receive quality care is to speak up. Just like the saying goes, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

“Speak up,” Melissa tells transplant patients, and “do your own research”


Why is advocacy important in your life?


It is extremely positive for anyone living with an illness or life-altering injury to advocate for related causes and participate in awareness events. Not only is it educational and inspirational to those you share your experiences with, but it is also therapeutic and rewarding for you as you talk about your life with others. My volunteer work in this area is something that I look forward to and it makes me feel like there is a purpose behind my condition.

Now that I fall into the “underinsured” category myself as a patient, I realize just how unfair it is. People who need lifesaving transplants have enough to worry about without having to be concerned about how they will be able to afford to stay alive. In many cases, these people are not well enough to work full time to receive private health care coverage, but they are not sick enough to qualify for government benefits. We are the ones who are forever stuck in a cycle of medical debt and struggles to get the coverage we need for a better quality of life.

Melissa Tuff Help Hope Live

Participate in advocacy can help you to feel educated, inspired and rewarded


What does Hope mean to you?


Hope to me is more than just a word. It is a way of life. What comes to mind is, “Hold Onto Prayer Every Day” which is exactly how I keep my cheerful disposition despite what I may be going through at any time. I live with the joyous expectancy of the good to come. To me, that is what hope is all about.

I know it can be hard to remain positive when things appear to be going wrong. But we are still alive, still here to love and be loved. We are stronger than what has tried to take us down. Treatments and medical advances are being made daily, and we are very lucky for that. My favorite quote from St. Francis of Assisi helps me a lot when I am at a loss: “Start by doing what’s necessary. Then do what’s possible. Suddenly, you are doing the impossible.”


If you would like to learn more about Melissa or potentially become a living donor to change her life, find her on Facebook or at www.MelNeedsAKidney.com.

Voices of Hope: Someone Strong to Lead the Way

On her blog Struggling with Serendipity, Cindy Kolbe documents the journey she and her daughter, Beth, took after Beth sustained a spinal cord injury in May 2000 at age 14.


I drove back from my son’s college concert near midnight. Exhausted, I glanced at my 14-year-old daughter, Beth, asleep in the passenger seat. We were only 10 minutes from home. I thought I could make it without falling asleep. Then I heard a road sign flatten on concrete. As the car flipped three times across a bare Ohio field, we left behind an ordinary life.

I escaped with cuts, bruises and blood-matted hair. Beth was another story. The car was cut open to rush her to a helicopter that would take her to the nearest hospital. A doctor in Toledo told my husband, John, that she was paralyzed. When he broke the news to Beth, she paused only a moment before simply responding, “Let’s talk about what I can do.”


Later, when I arrived, Beth lay flat in a maze of tubes and wires, her pretty face swollen, her neck in a brace. She greeted me with a small smile. Her usual upbeat attitude was muted but present–I should have felt gratitude for that, but I didn’t. In disbelief, I stared at the girl in the bed. How could she smile?

When Beth slept, a surgeon guided me to a chair. He was kind, but his words were devastating. The bones in her neck were shattered. After surgery, he told me that her spinal cord was severed at the C6-7 vertebrae. With all four of her limbs damaged, she was now a quadriplegic who would never walk.

The loss of hand function seemed especially cruel. Her fingers didn’t work and her muscles began to shrink (atrophy). Among many health risks, pneumonia stood out as a leading cause of death for quads—along with suicide.


With one mistake, I had hurt everyone I loved.

Whenever I closed my eyes, I saw the upside-down car and Beth slumped over her stomach on the ceiling, her neck at a disturbing angle. The image haunted me. How easy it would be to lose myself under a blanket of guilt. Instead, I focused on small moments. Beth needed me. I turned her to the side, straightened a sheet, adjusted a pillow, and stayed in sight. Sleepy, in a morphine haze, she told me, “I like it when you hold my hand.” Crying quietly, I could not make myself grateful for the partial feeling in her hands.


When Beth was transferred to rehab, we shared a room with a girl in a crib with high sides who made sad sounds. She was alone with a brain injury. We met a man with a spinal cord injury who needed a ventilator to breathe; he moved only his head. A teenager with paraplegia refused to get out of bed and moved to a nursing home; he had full use of his hands and arms.

As physical therapy started, Beth lay face down on her stomach, unable to lift her shoulders off the mat. Her body was moved for her. She had no strength. The therapy session finished with the difficult process of transferring her into a wheelchair. Beth opened her arms and I leaned into a hug. Her bent hand softly patted my back. Suddenly, I was grateful for arms and wrists that move. For lungs that breathe. For her ability to feel me pat her back in return.


After a month in rehab, Beth tried to sit up on the mat. She started on her back and concentrated on throwing one arm over the other to roll onto one side. It took several tries. She pushed down with her hands to raise her upper body incrementally to a shaky sitting position for the first time. Her body tottered back and forth in a battle of balance–Bambi on ice. My instincts screamed to help her, support her. Instead, I turned away to wipe my eyes.

She leaned forward and planted a hand on each side to steady herself. She looked up and smiled when she heard me clapping with the therapists. Even Beth seemed surprised by, and glad for, every small thing.


My daughter insisted on starting her freshman year of high school on time about three months after her injury. On the first day, she pushed herself slowly down the halls in a manual wheelchair. Four years later, she was able to independently care for herself and live in a dorm or apartment with no assistance, a rare feat for quads.


Beth’s attitude propelled her forward with me in tow. Little by little, I chipped away at my millstone of guilt. Sometimes we need someone strong to lead the way.

Now, all I see is what she can do.


Cindy Kolbe is a lifelong disability advocate who lives in Summerville, South Carolina. She managed group homes in Ohio and ran a nonprofit in Massachusetts. Her daughter Beth graduated from Harvard and Stanford Law and is employed as a health policy lawyer in Washington, D.C. Access her Blog and reach her via email.

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You Made Hope Happen in 2016

We know that when you donate to support our mission, you may not always see the direct impact of those dollars. And as a member of the Help Hope Live community, you may not realize how your efforts spark change and inspire action in others.

That’s why we’ve put together this post–to show friends like you how you make a positive difference, every single day, by being part of the Help Hope Live family. Your time and effort added up to some big numbers with huge impact in Fiscal Year 2016.

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Last year, you helped:


Launch 732 new medical fundraising campaigns

Provide $9.3 million to help cover vital medical and related expenses

Support the needs of 1,400 patients and families facing the most difficult challenge of their lives: a lifesaving transplant or a life-changing catastrophic injury or illness.

But you didn’t stop there…


You also helped:


Crush 4,942 medical fundraising goals

Plan 550 gatherings of hope nationwide

Inspire 2,451 words of gratitude

Provide 57 emergency assistance grants to help families avoid an immediate medical crisis

Honor 25 loved ones’ legacies, and

Joined a community of 3,224 empowered and compassionate friends and neighbors


Families across the country felt the tangible impact. 16 Help Hope Live patients reported finding a “new normal” after a devastating medical crisis altered their lives.

“Thanks to so many wonderful people, my family and I have reached our Help Hope Live goal for my double lung transplant recovery. We have no idea what the future will bring, but hopefully, I will continue getting stronger every day. I cherish breathing.”

Bob Wollenberg Help Hope Live

Bob Wollenberg, Great Lakes Lung Transplant Fund


10 patients reached a major independence milestone after a catastrophic injury, from going to college to driving and living independently.

“Alex’s physical therapy sessions are two hours and he enjoys every minute of it! He loves traveling wherever his [new] vehicle takes him.” He is pictured below with wife, Marina: “A new chapter is beginning for two deserving young people who have overcome so much.”

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Alex Paul, Northeast Spinal Cord Injury Fund


To us, these aren’t just numbers. They are symbols of hope in the midst of extremely challenging circumstances.

When you engage with Help Hope Live as a donor, patient, or volunteer, you are shouting hope from the rooftops. You are refusing to let a medical crisis dominate the course of a life. You are defying the negative noise the world throws at you by taking a stand for strong, loving communities and life-changing new beginnings. You are telling someone, “You matter. Your voice is heard. Your story is my story, too.

That’s what it really means to help hope live. Never stop: the world needs you, and so do we.


Keep hope alive in 2017!


Click here to make a one-time or recurring donation to our nonprofit to keep our mission strong in 2017 and beyond. And from all of us…thank you!

How to Promote Your Cause Like a Marketing Genius

Mana Ionescu is the president of the Chicago digital marketing agency Lightspan Digital. She explains how we can use digital storytelling and a few social media best practices to promote a HelpHOPELive campaign.

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“I’ve always been interested in how people get their information, and particularly how we interpret what we see and hear in the media. I studied the subject in grad school. My fascination with how we create and share stories led me to marketing. With the rise of online communication, digital storytelling took the lead as one of the most powerful marketing strategies.


Grow Your Network


Social sharing can be an effective way to market your cause. But first things first, you need to decide if you’re ready to share your Facebook page (and your cause) with some of the people you may not already have connected with on the platform. If you are comfortable with the crossover between your personal life and your cause, sync your Facebook account with your email address book and invite people you know to connect.

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Sync your Facebook account with your email address book to find new followers

The best way to grow a following is to first follow other people. A certain percentage of those will always follow you back. Over time, you can unfollow those who aren’t receptive.


Make a Plan and Don’t Believe the Hype


What you’re looking for is a strategy and a plan. Just posting on Facebook may not be your first and only solution for outreach. If you think narrowly like that, you’re limiting yourself and your possibilities and the odds are that you’re not going to get the most out of marketing.

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Do you have an engagement roadmap, or are you lost in the woods?

We get sucked into time-consuming discussions about vague concepts and buzzwords. “Engagement” is one of those. Recently, the term “content curation” is taking over. You have to dig deeper than that to get results from social sharing. There is no simple formula. There’s a lot of wasteful outreach out there, marketing that is not done with purpose.


Strengthen Your Strategy


Just posting on Facebook won’t get you extra support. You need to engage your donor base to share your messages with their friends. Use social media as a catalyst for your existing fans to get your messages out.

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What kind of posts do your followers respond to most?

Craft different stories around the call for donations, and play with the calls to action. For example, “Donate” is the most commonly used call to action. But A/B tests show that “Give” may actually be more effective language. You can also use terms like “Contribute” or “Participate” or “Join Me” to ask for donations. Vary your calls to action for best results.


Keep It Classy – Or Else


I’ve known a person who, for years, posted negative things about her employers to her personal Facebook account. One day in a meeting, a business owner shared that “negative Nellie” applied for a job with the company but she was passed over because of her history of negative posts.

Remember that you are under the microscope. Whether you like it or not, you are now a representative of your cause, even when you are “off the clock.” Do not post mean-spirited posts from your personal account. Keep it clean.


The Bottom Line: Creative Connection


Storytelling is about sharing experiences, and that’s how people come together: through shared experiences that elicit emotions. You have to communicate, communicate, communicate. Share your stories AND the stories of others who support you. Make it all about people. Figure out how to motivate your supporters to bring in more supporters, whether it’s through a creative contest or an emotional tug.

Digital marketing pushes you to be social. It’s a very people-focused space. That’s thrilling to me, because I love getting to know people and learning from others.”


Mana is the president of Lightspan Digital, a Chicago digital marketing agency. Connect with her on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

One Year Later: The Legacy and Impact of Zeldathon Hope

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It’s been one year since Zeldathon Hope raised more than $250,000 for our nonprofit through a 150-hour Legend of Zelda charity gaming marathon. We are still experiencing the far-reaching impact of that support. Instead of just hearing about the impact from us in general terms, we’d like you to hear about some of the individuals who were directly affected by Zeldathon Hope in 2016.

Donations to Zeldathon Hope aided these individuals in a time of extreme need. Names have been changed to preserve confidentiality.


Zeldathon Hope Helped a Family to Support Chronically-Ill Children


Twelve-year old Annie was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease, a rare, chronic and progressive illness, with no identifiable cause. Her family learned that she would need a lung transplant to survive. Soon after, they found out that Annie’s twin sister, Erika, would also need to join the lung transplant waiting list.

The diagnoses were devastating for Annie’s family. With difficulty gaining and maintaining weight, Annie had to begin tube feeding to stay alive as she waited for a transplant. Less than one year after she was diagnosed, she became reliant on supplemental oxygen to breathe. Annie and her family had to endure regular inpatient hospital admissions, IV treatments, and consistent outpatient therapy to keep her alive.

The finances related to both Annie and Erika’s care soon became a crushing burden. Already coping with limited finances to support two children, the family had to cover out-of-pocket expenses including:

  • $1,500 monthly mortgage payments
  • $2,500 additional monthly expenses before added health care costs
  • $250 per month for medications just to keep Annie’s new lungs healthy post-transplant
  • Plus, the high cost of regular medical appointments, associated travel and temporary relocation expenses

Annie and Erika’s mother had to leave her job to care for her daughters; their father soon realized caring for his ill children would require him to miss work frequently, resulting in lost income that would further damage the family’s finances. How would this already struggling family cover the cost of care that would save their daughters’ lives?

That’s when Zeldathon Hope donations became a HelpHOPELive Emergency Grant, which covered vital but uninsured medical and related expenses for the family so that they could focus on caring for their precious twins. The support we received through the gaming marathon prevented this family falling into severe debt just to care for Annie and Erika.


Zeldathon Hope Kept Hope Alive for a Devoted Father


Christian was barely making ends meet for his family when he received a shocking diagnosis: end-stage kidney disease. To cope with his condition, Christian had to take 6 weeks off work, time he couldn’t afford as he strove to provide for his 3-year-old and 6-year-old children.

As he fought to stay alive long enough to receive a kidney transplant, Christian was approved for disability benefits that amounted to just half of his regular salary. He received a lifesaving transplant, but found himself crushed under the weight of out-of-pocket costs to keep his new kidney healthy, including:

  • $900 monthly rent payments
  • A monthly insurance premium over $180
  • Monthly non-medical but related expenses exceeding $2,000
  •  $80 per month in vital anti-rejection medications
  • Regular travel and co-pays for doctor visits

Zeldathon Hope donations made possible an emergency grant to help Christian offset uninsured costs. Without the generosity of the gaming community, Christian may not have been able to afford post-transplant medications that have kept his kidney viable and his health stable.

Christian’s goal today? To become healthy enough to return to work so he can personally provide for his family.


Zeldathon Hope Relieved the Burden for a Selfless Living Donor


Takesha’s close friend needed a lifesaving transplant. Takesha made the selfless decision to give the gift of life to her friend. While her living donation was successful and her friend was able to unlock a healthier life post-transplant, Takesha experienced unexpected health complications related to her donation.

Though Takesha’s medical expenses were covered by her friend’s medical insurance, she was forced to miss multiple days of work in order to attend follow-up appointments to manage her post-donation complications. She found herself trapped in dire financial circumstances as a result of her compassionate decision.

“She is a very caring and sweet person,” wrote Takesha’s medical provider about her household. “They are running out of money. She has had lost wages due to her gift of life.”

That’s when Zeldathon Hope donations covered the cost of Takesha’s rent payments, making it possible for her to attend vital medical appointments and take care of herself without worrying about how she would make ends meet. The success of Zeldathon Hope made it possible for Takesha’s selfless choice not to result in a massive financial crisis.


Zeldathon Hope Made Post-Transplant Care Possible for a “Desperate” Recipient


Maya was looking forward to her new life post-transplant when she was hit with shocking news: in order to discharge from the hospital, she would have to cover an extremely expensive new prescription for one month. This medication would be mandatory for Maya to take in addition to the pricey anti-rejection medications she would already be required to take for the rest of her life.

With a monthly income of $2,100, Maya would be responsible for the out-of-pocket cost of 15 different medications per month! Her financial commitment was skyrocketing:

  • Monthly insurance premium exceeding $250
  • Monthly non-medical expenses over $2,000

Maya described herself as “desperate” as she faced the uncertainties of life after transplant with limited financial support. That’s when Zeldathon Hope donations became an emergency grant to save Maya’s life, helping to cover Maya’s mortgage payments so she could discharge from the hospital and maintain her health post-transplant.

Without the assistance of Zeldathon Hope, Maya would not have been able to afford mandatory post-transplant care. Maya says she is “beyond grateful” for your life-giving assistance.


We are exceptionally grateful for Zeldathon Hope and for the efforts made in the year that followed to raise funds and awareness for HelpHOPELive.


The support we received continues to provide emergency assistance grants to patients and families for whom our fundraising program is not an option, AND to spread our mission to a larger population of individuals who may need our help

No one should have to forgo lifesaving medical care or fall into bankruptcy because of their out-of-pocket medical expenses. Without the love and support of the Zeldathon community, Annie, Christian, Takesha and Maya may not have been able to survive their medical crises. Your donation may have saved a life.

From all of us, thank you for your support. Please share this post with anyone who may enjoy reading about the impact of last year’s unforgettable Zeldathon Hope charity experience.

If you would like to share your story as a Zeldathon Hope donor or participant, or tell us a little bit about why you chose to support Zeldathon Hope, please leave us a comment. We would love to hear from you.

To all of our friends at Zeldathon: we wish you great success as you kick off Day 1 of this year’s winter marathon Zeldathon Cures to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

How To Ensure That Your Next Donation Goes To A Trustworthy Charity

With the end of the year near, we are all thinking of ways to use our time and money to support meaningful charitable causes. No matter which philanthropic cause moves you to give, you want to feel completely confident that your donation will make an impact and benefit an organization that is legitimate, accountable and worthy.

How can you ensure that your next donation goes to a trustworthy nonprofit? We engaged Sandra Miniutti, the VP of marketing for the independent charity watchdog organization Charity Navigator, to get some answers.


Tell us about Charity Navigator.


cn_logo_main250x83We’ve developed an objective methodology that enables us to rate all different types of charities. Our system is designed so that an individual analyst’s subjective opinion can’t influence a charity’s rating with us. Our system is designed so that a charity cannot opt out of being rated by Charity Navigator. We can provide a richer analysis if a charity is willing to participate in the evaluation process.

You can use our advanced search to discover more about a particular nonprofit. We also offer tips for donors so they can make the right donation decision.

 


What’s the best way to use Charity Navigator to make a better giving decision?


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  1. Confirm that the organization is a bona fide charity, or a 501(c)(3) public charity. If an organization has this designation, your gift to the charity is eligible for a tax deduction.
  2. Review the Charity Navigator rating for that charity. We rate charities on a 0- to 4-star scale with 4 stars being the highest rating.
  3. Support charities with 3 or 4 stars. If you find a charity you like with a 2-star rating, call to learn more about what’s going on with the organization and what its plans are to improve.
  4. Do not support 1-star or 0-star charities. Look for another charity that does similar work with a higher Charity Navigator rating.
  5. If the charity is on the Donor Advisory list, take the time to read about why we’ve placed it on that list. Consider pausing your donations to the organization until it resolves the issues at hand.
  6. If a charity is public but has not yet been rated by Charity Navigator, follow the steps we provide to conduct your own review of the charity before you donate.

What should donors know about HelpHOPELive?


Donors to HelpHOPELive should feel confident that they are supporting an efficient and ethical charity. HelpHOPELive has earned 13 consecutive 4-star ratings from Charity Navigator, and is nationally ranked in the Top 1 % of all charities evaluated. View the ratings here.

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What does Charity Navigator consider to help inform donors?


cn3-0-logoOur rating system examines two broad areas of a charity’s performance: Financial Health and Accountability & Transparency. Our ratings show givers how efficiently we believe a charity will use their support today, how well it has sustained its programs and services over time, and its level of commitment to good governance, best practices and openness with information. In the not-too-distant future, we also plan to rate charities’ reporting of their Charity Navigator results.


Why is it important to find out more about a nonprofit before you donate?


While the number of charities has grown to over 1 million, the level of funding flowing into the nonprofit sector hasn’t grown at a comparable rate.

As such, it is every donor’s responsibility to ensure that their dollars are going to efficient, effective and ethical charities. We can’t afford to have precious resources wasted on ineffective or fraudulent organizations if we want to tackle the world’s most pressing problems.


What are some of the warning sings that a nonprofit may not be a good choice to receive a donation?


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There are several red flags that include, but are not limited to:

Organizations that spend very little on their charitable mission. The 8,000 charities that we rate tend to be larger, established charities. The vast majority spend at least 75% of their budget on their programs and services (HelpHOPELive spends more than 88% on programs and services). That percentage may run legitimately lower for a new or small charity or one that is intentionally investing in its infrastructure. But if the percentage is significantly lower, we would encourage a donor to ask questions or look elsewhere before making a contribution. Our rating system gives zero points for that metric to charities that spend less than 50% of their budget on their mission.

Organizations that do not have a diverse board of directors providing oversight. In our rating system, we look for each charity to maintain at least five independent, voting board members. Avoid charities where, for example, the CEO is reporting solely to family members. That can open the door to unethical behavior.

Organizations that use high pressure techniques to solicit donations. Well-run charities are willing and eager to share information about their work and they will not try to pressure you to give on the spot as you are learning about their mission.


How can we get started right now searching for worthwhile causes to support?


Go to charitynavigator.org and look for the Charity Search box. Type in the name of the charity, or search by keyword or location.

Share this post with family members and friends who want to make a positive difference this holiday season or throughout the year