The Gift of Giving: Is Soldier Send Legitimate? Checking out a Charity
Update: I did receive a response and it is posted below. Giving the readers full information, I leave it to them to form their own opinions.
A few weeks ago, I was approached by the CEO of an alleged charitable organization (more below on this term), Soldier Send, Inc.. They send care packages to our servicemen and women overseas. He asked if I would write about it here, and in turn he’d direct people to the blog. He wrote:
A Lieutenant Colonel at the Pentagon reached out to us and supports what we are doing. We may or may not be going on the TV show Shark Tank (stay tuned).
In my excitement I immediately wanted to do it since it helps our military. To be honest, as a newbie blogger, I was also excited about the idea of new traffic to the blog.
He included news footage and quickly answered the questions I sent him asking why his organization is different than the other, reputable longstanding charities that send care packages to our troops overseas. I appreciated what seemed to be his direct approach. Still, I owe it to anyone reading to do all of my research and I certainly owe it to our military.
I created a profile (with his encouragement) to gain access to the directory. As I delved deeper, I found things were a bit disorganized. He did admit they were working on it. I also found that he is a member of a major religious organization known for tithing (more on this below as well). Almost an entire page of the website was dedicated to his faith, including quotes from its doctrines.
Let me be clear here: I am a STRONG proponent of the Establishment Clause and Separation of Church and State. I believe each man and woman has the right to practice a faith as he or she sees fit so long as no one is being hurt in the process. If someone earns a living and donates money to his or her church/temple/mosque I am more than okay with that as long as it is that person’s direct income. I am not okay with the idea of donating to an organization under the guise of one thing and it possibly benefiting another.
I struggled on how to approach this because I didn’t want it to appear that I was being disrespectful of his faith. Finally, I took the honesty is the best policy approach and sent him a note a few days ago asking if any of the funds the organization receives are given to his religious organization (i.e. does he include them in tithing?). I also pointed out what I had read on his website. I read it to the hubs to make sure it was both respectful and direct (I have a tendency to be a little too direct in times like these).
I have yet to hear back from him. When I went back to the website, I found that the page I had read is nowhere to be found. Upon conducting a search on the EO Select Check portion of the IRS the name of the organization was nowhere to be found indicating 501c3 status has not been requested. I also could not find it on Charity Navigator, CharityWatch.org or GuideStar.org. The blog link he provided led me to a page with a message from the author she shut her blog down. I did a Google search and there was one news article. The news source is owned by the same religious organization to which the CEO belongs. The news story linked earlier – KSL-TV is also owned by the same organization.
Further, that Lieutenant Colonel mentioned above? He did not include a name. Usually if someone supports a cause, they will attach their name to it. I have a few thoughts on the Shark Tank claim: Perhaps they applied to be on the show? Maybe they’re waiting to hear back. Maybe they did. Having worked closely with the media in my career, many times these shows do not want contestants to disclose these things. Perhaps I’m reaching, but why not provide more information?
I do not believe this man has bad intentions, however, it is not an organization I am ready to put my name behind just yet. I will certainly update if I am given new information.
I write this today not to throw him under the bus, but to encourage anyone reading this to do research before donating to a charity. Make sure they are legitimate and that the percentage of funds that go toward the cause is one that you are okay with.
I do hope he writes me back (I have sent him a direct link to this post) and that my update will be positive. Until then, if you have any information feel free to write me.
Thanks for reading.
Update: It is just before noon and I received this message:
I have no idea what you are even talking about. I was raised LDS but I stopped going to church 12 years ago. I assure you the Mormon church has nothing to do with SoldierSend. I dont give money to the LDS church or any church for that matter…I don’t know what you put on your blog. I hope you didnt tell people we are affiliated with some religion. Im not ok with that.
Further he writes:
It should be noted that I never said we were a charity. It says we are not a charity on our “about us” page. I dont [sic] ask for donations. We are just a place that tries to make it easier for care packages to be sent. You said we were an “alleged charity”. False. A gift registry is in fact free to military members but the supporters pay for the product and shipping. Careful on the slander. Take care.
Notice the veiled threat?
Charity (from Websters Dictionary) – the act of giving money, food, or other kinds of help to people who are poor, sick, etc.; also : something (such as money or food) that is given to people who are poor, sick, etc. : an organization that helps people who are poor, sick, etc. : the organizations that help people in need
I directly addressed that I saw the page on his website quoting the founder of the LDS along with several accolades to the faith and now it is gone. He did not respond to that portion of my message to him, but I will write that he is forthcoming about the fact they are NOT a non-profit.