Tag Archives: charity

White nationalists raise millions with tax-exempt charities

The federal government has allowed four groups at the forefront of the white nationalist movement to register as charities and raise more than $7.8 million in tax-deductible donations over the past decade, according to an Associated Press review.

Already emboldened by Donald Trump’s popularity, group leaders say they hope the president-elect’s victory helps them raise even more money and gives them a larger platform for spreading their ideology.

With benevolent-sounding names such as the National Policy Institute and New Century Foundation, the tax-exempt groups present themselves as educational organizations and use donors’ money to pay for websites, books and conferences to further their ideology.

The money also has personally compensated leaders of the four groups.

New Century Foundation head Jared Taylor said his group raises money for the benefit of the “white race,” a mission taxpayers are indirectly supporting with the group’s status as a 501C3 nonprofit. The IRS recognized it, the Charles Martel Society, the National Policy Institute and VDare Foundation as charities more than a decade ago.

Samuel Brunson, a tax law professor at Loyola University in Chicago, noted the nonprofit status gives these groups a veneer of legitimacy and respectability.

“It should make people uncomfortable that the government is subsidizing groups that espouse values that are incompatible with most Americans,” he said.

The IRS has tried to weed out nonprofit applicants that merely spread propaganda. In 1978, the agency refused to grant tax-exempt status to the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group that published an anti-Semitic newsletter. And in 1994, a court upheld the denial of tax-exempt status for the Nationalist Movement, a Mississippi-based white nationalist group.

Some tax experts said the IRS is still feeling the sting from conservative critics over its 2013 concession that it unfairly gave extra scrutiny to tea party groups seeking tax exemptions.

“I don’t think they’re feeling very brave right now,” said Ellen Aprill, a tax law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

IRS spokesman Michael Dobzinski said he can’t comment on individual nonprofits.

Louisiana State University law professor Philip Hackney, a former IRS attorney, said the agency receives tens of thousands of applications annually and doesn’t have the resources to scrutinize many of them.

“A lot of applications fly through,” Hackney said. “They’re looking for easy ways to sort things out and kind of give rubber stamps.”

New Century Foundation, a Virginia-based nonprofit, has raised more than $2 million since 2007 and operates the American Renaissance online magazine, which touts a philosophy that it’s “entirely normal” for whites to want to be a majority race.

Taylor, a Yale-educated, self-described “race realist,” said his group, founded in 1994, abides by all laws governing nonprofits.

“We certainly did not conceal our intentions,” Taylor said. “I think we are educational in precisely the terms that Congress defined.”

Taylor, whose tax filing says he received $65,000 in compensation in 2015, said he isn’t raising money to enrich himself or his group.

“We hold it in trust for the white race,” he said. “We take this seriously. This is not something we do for fun or profit. This is our duty to our people.”

In a 2012 article, University of Georgia business professor Alex Reed argued the IRS “can and must” revoke the New Century Foundation’s charitable status. Reed said the agency’s lax enforcement allowed other groups _ including ones he labeled as white nationalist, anti-gay, anti-immigrant or Holocaust deniers _ to qualify for tax breaks under the guise of operating educational organizations.

The Montana-based National Policy Institute is run by Richard Spencer, who popularized the term “alternative right” about a decade ago. The so-called alt-right is a fringe movement that has been described as a mix of racism, white nationalism and populism.

Spencer’s group raised $442,482 in tax-deductible contributions from 2007 through 2012. More recent fundraising figures for the group aren’t available in online tax returns, but Spencer said Trump’s candidacy already has boosted his group’s fundraising.

Spencer hosted a postelection conference in Washington that ended with audience members mimicking Nazi salutes after Spencer shouted, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” Spencer has advocated for an “ethno-state” that would be a “safe space” for white people.

The Georgia-based Charles Martel Society was founded by wealthy publisher William H. Regnery II, who also founded the National Policy Institute.

The group raised $568,526 between 2007 and 2014 and publishes The Occidental Quarterly. In an article last December, the journal’s editor applauded Trump’s campaign as a “game changer” for white people who oppose immigration and multiculturalism but said they “have a long way to go to really change the public discussion of race, Western culture, and Jewish influence.”

The Connecticut-based VDare Foundation is led by Peter Brimelow, founder and editor of an anti-immigration website. Brimelow, who spoke at the National Policy Institute’s conference last month, founded his nonprofit in 1999 and raised nearly $4.8 million between 2007 and 2015.

Brimelow has denied that his website is white nationalist but acknowledged it publishes works by writers who fit that description “in the sense that they aim to defend the interests of American whites.”

Brimelow received $378,418 in compensation from his nonprofit in 2007, accounting for nearly three-quarters of its total expenses that year. Brimelow says his salary that year was $170,000 and the rest reimbursed him for travel, office supplies and other expenses.

From 2010 through 2015, VDare Foundation didn’t report any compensation directly paid to Brimelow. But, starting in 2010, the nonprofit began making annual payments of up to $368,500 to Brimelow’s Happy Penguins LLC for “leased employees.” Brimelow disclosed his ownership of that company on tax returns.

Chuck McLean, a senior research fellow for the nonprofit watchdog Guidestar, said the IRS could view those “independent contractor” payments to Happy Penguins LLC as improper self-dealing unless the nonprofit can show they were “fair-market value transactions.” Brimelow says he set up that company to “protect” and pay his employees and himself.

Brimelow’s group reported modest fundraising increases for each of the past three years. He is confident that trend would continue during Trump’s administration.

“We have every reason to believe that it will,” he wrote in an email.


Trump’s charity admits to flouting IRS rules for self-benefit

President-elect Donald Trump’s charity has admitted that it violated IRS regulations barring it from using its money or assets to benefit Trump, his family, his companies or substantial contributors to the foundation.

The admissions by the Donald J. Trump Foundation were made in a 2015 tax filing made public after a presidential election in which it was revealed that Trump has used the charity to settle lawsuits, make a $25,000 political contribution and purchase items such as a painting of himself that was displayed at one of his properties.

The filing’s release, first reported by The Washington Post, comes as the New York attorney general’s office investigates whether Trump personally benefited from the foundation’s spending.

The filing also shows Trump’s foundation accepted money from a Ukrainian businessman who also gave money to one of Trump’s favored targets on the campaign trail: The Clinton Foundation. The charity also donated to a conservative group that backed Trump during his candidacy.

The 2015 tax filing was posted on the nonprofit monitoring website GuideStar on Nov. 18 by someone using an email address from the foundation’s law firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, said GuideStar spokeswoman Jackie Enterline Fekeci.

In the tax filing, the foundation acknowledged that it used money or assets in violation of the regulations not only during 2015, but in prior years. But the tax filing doesn’t provide details on the violations.

Questions about the violations sent via email to Trump’s transition team weren’t immediately answered.

Marcus S. Owens, a partner at the Washington law firm Loeb & Loeb and a former director of the IRS exempt organizations division, said the lack of detail in the tax filing makes it difficult to determine the extent of the charity’s violations.

“There’s no way to tell for sure whether the self-dealing is small and trivial or large and a pattern of ongoing deliberate misuse of the charity’s assets,” Owens said.

Generally, he said, self-dealing violations require the violator to pay an excise tax equal to 10 percent of the amount involved in the transactions. The violator also would have to repay the foundation for the full amount involved. Owens also noted that self-dealing is a violation of New York state law, where the charity is registered.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, launched an investigation into the charity after reporting by the Post drew attention to some of the foundation’s purchases, three of which are listed in the latest filing: two portraits of Trump and a football helmet autographed by former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.

As the Post reported previously, Trump bid $12,000 for the football helmet, and his wife, Melania, bid $20,000 for one of the portraits. The other portrait, which Trump bid $10,000 for, has been hanging on a wall at his golf course in Doral, Florida, according to the Post.

Despite the high-dollar price tags, the foundation’s latest tax filing now values them at a combined $1,675. The tax filing does not specify if any of the items are related to the self-dealing violations.

The foundation has previously said it amended its tax filings after it gave an improper $25,000 check to a political committee supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2013.

Charities are barred from engaging in political activities, and the president-elect’s staff says the check he signed was mistakenly issued following a series of clerical errors. Earlier this year, the Trump Foundation paid a $2,500 fine to the IRS over the check.

The latest tax filing shows two Trump entities gave to his foundation, a break from recent years when the foundation’s donations came mostly from other donors.

The Trump Corporation gave about $566,000 to the foundation, and Trump Productions LLC, the company which produced The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice, gave $50,000 in 2015.

Another large contributor was the foundation of Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian billionaire who has advocated for closer relations between the European Union and Ukraine. The Victor Pinchuk Foundation gave $150,000 to the Trump Foundation in 2015. Pinchuk’s foundation has also given between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation.

The Trump Foundation’s tax filing shows that it also gave at least $10,000 to Project Veritas, a Trump-backing nonprofit group led by conservative activist James O’Keefe.

During the presidential campaign, O’Keefe’s employees posed as would-be Democratic donors and volunteers during a months-long ruse that captured one Democratic operative seeming to boast about his connections to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and claiming he hired people to provoke Trump rally-goers.

The undercover sting prompted the Democratic Party and liberal groups to cut ties with at least two operatives.

Associated Press writers Julie Bykowicz and Jeff Horwitz contributed to this report.


Records show Trump released tax returns when he stood to gain

Donald Trump won’t publicly release his income tax returns but records reveal the New York businessman turned them over when it suited his needs.

The Associated Press is reporting that Trump provided his returns when he stood to make a profit, needed a loan or when dealing with legal matters.

The news service reports that Pennsylvania gaming regulators were given at least five years’ worth and eight boxes full of Trump’s tax documents.

Also, Nevada, Michigan, Missouri, Indiana and other state gaming officials had access to multiple years of Trump’s returns.

And large banks that lent Trump money over the years have obtained Trump’s returns.

In all cases reviewed by The Associated Press, each person, organization, company or government office that has seen Trump’s tax returns is barred from discussing their full contents by professional or legal restrictions.

So the public still knows little about Trump’s more recent finances.

At a press event today in Waukesha, Wisconsin Democrats plan to call on Trump to release his tax returns.

An announcement from Hillary Clinton’s campaign said the event at noon at the Waukesha DNC headquarters would involve Democratic supporters, including state Rep. Mandela Barnes.

In the debate earlier this week, Clinton questioned whether Trump’s tax returns might reveal that he has paid little or no taxes. Trump said he was “smart” for not paying federal income taxes in some years.

Documents first reported on by Politico show Trump didn’t pay any federal income tax during at least two years in the early 1990s because he lost more money than he earned.

Other documents show he didn’t pay any federal income taxes in 1978, 1979 and 1984.

Trump has repeatedly refused to release his tax returns citing an IRS audit, but the IRS and tax experts have said an audit doesn’t bar Trump from making the documents public.

Since 1976, every major party nominee has released the returns and Clinton has publicly released nearly 40 years’ worth.

Trump’s tax returns would reveal his charitable contributions. The AP has reported that there is little record of substantial personal philanthropy from Trump.

The returns would also reveal how much Trump earned from his assets, helping someone work back to an approximation of his net worth to compare to his own estimation.

U.S. charity loophole enabled trading of 1,300 endangered animals

Last year, after a Minnesota dentist sparked an uproar by killing a popular lion named Cecil while on safari in Zimbabwe, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service placed similar African lions on the endangered species list, making it illegal to import them as trophies to the United States.

But for African lions and other threatened and endangered species, there’s an exception to this rule: Hunters, circuses, zoos, breeders and theme parks can get permits to import, export or sell endangered animals if they can demonstrate that the transactions will “enhance the survival” of the species.

Often, records show, this requirement is met in part by making a cash contribution to charity — usually a few thousand dollars. The practice has angered both animal-rights activists who say it exploits wildlife and exhibitors who describe the process as unfair and arbitrary.

In the last five years, the vast majority of the estimated 1,375 endangered species permits granted by the Fish & Wildlife Service involved financial pledges to charity, according to agency documents reviewed by Reuters.

For a $2,000 pledge, the Fish & Wildlife Service permitted two threatened leopard cubs to be sent from a roadside zoo to a small animal park. After a $5,000 pledge, the agency approved the transfer of 10 endangered South African penguins to a Florida theme park.

An application now under final consideration would permit a South Carolina safari park operator to send 18 endangered tigers to Mexico to participate in a multimillion-dollar movie – for a $10,000 donation to charity.

Craig Hoover, a senior Fish & Wildlife Service official, said his agency considers many factors before granting an endangered species permit – among them, a species’ biological needs, threats and population size.  Charitable contributions to conservation programs are just one factor in granting permit evaluations, and not a requirement, he said.

“It’s not necessarily all that is considered,” said Hoover. “There may have been an education component, an outreach component, a captive breeding component.”


Under the Endangered Species Act, exception permits may be granted only “for scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species.”

According to a recent Fish & Wildlife Service document reviewed by Reuters: “Very few of the Endangered Species Act permits that we issue have direct benefits to the species in the wild. Most applicants provide an indirect benefit, such as monetary support, to meet the enhancement requirement.”

Late Friday, U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Pennsylvania Democrat who serves on the House Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees, asked the agency to halt the practice.

Boyle said exemptions to the endangered species law are intended for humanitarian or environmental purposes, such as providing medical attention to a wounded animal, not commercial uses. He said the charity pledges are “unreliable at best and amount to an empty promise in exchange for an exemption to our bedrock species conservation law.”

The agency usually does not try to independently confirm that donations are actually made or that the charities, often located overseas, are worthy, an agency document says. “Typically, we rely on the applicant,” the document notes. Hoover said applicants supply this information through annual reports and agency grant programs.


Last year, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued the Fish & Wildlife Service over a 2014 endangered species permit issued to Tarzan Zerbini Circus of Webb City, Missouri. The permit allowed Tarzan Zerbini to take two elephants, Shelly and Marie, on a Canadian circus tour — on the condition that it pledge $15,000 annually to an elephant charity and raise another $50,000 annually from patrons.

“We call it ‘pay-to-play’ because that’s what exactly what’s going on, allowing these people to promise money in exchange for being able to harm endangered animals,” said PETA general counsel Jeff Kerr. “The Fish & Wildlife Service is actively conspiring and cooperating with people to violate the Endangered Species Act through this program.”

The agency defended itself against PETA’s claim that the process is illegal, but the lawsuit apparently triggered a government investigation of Tarzan Zerbini’s financial pledge. Records show the service determined that the circus had only contributed half the amount promised and had raised little, if anything, from patrons. On April 21, the permit was suspended. Last week, PETA withdrew the lawsuit.

Larry Solheim, a Tarzan Zerbini consultant who served as general manager for 26 years, said the circus made good-faith efforts to comply with its pledges. He said honest mistakes and misunderstandings caused the other half of the money to be contributed late and said technical issues hampered efforts to raise the $50,000 from patrons.

Solheim said the concept of requiring conservation efforts is a good idea. But he described the permit process as too focused on foreign donations. He called it “a game” that can resemble “political extortion.”

“You’re just essentially buying a permit if you pay this conservation fee,” he said. “It’s just totally subjective – if they want to have this kind of requirement, they need to have clear guidelines.”

John Cuneo, whose Hawthorn Corp leases endangered animals to circuses and is often criticized by PETA, said he has lost business for failing to promise to make the charitable payments.

“It makes me so mad,” Cuneo said. “It feels like a scam.”

Hoover, the agency official, said PETA and the animal exhibitors are wrong.


“We would deny any form of ‘pay to play policy’ is in place, formally or informally,” Hoover said. He added: “We would deny that we tell people they must” make charitable contributions, “but if they are engaging in activity where the import or export isn’t contributing to conservation, then there must be some other means by which they must be contributing conservation.”

The permit application to send 18 tigers to Mexico for a Hollywood movie was filed by Bhagavan Antle, who operates the Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina. Antle declined to name the people behind the movie, which is tentatively titled “Tiger Island.” The plot revolves around tigers living on an abandoned island, and a group of children who end up shipwrecked there.

The permit is still pending, but records show that Fish & Wildlife officials directed that Antle confirm a pledge of $10,000 to charity and a promise that the movie will have a conservation theme. He has agreed to do so, and said he thinks the agency’s process is good because it helps endangered animals. Antle said $10,000 is a fair contribution for the right to use 18 tigers on a multimillion-dollar motion picture.

“The movie company thinks it’s a hardship – to spend $10,000 for what used to be free,” Antle said. But he added, “If it becomes a big hit movie, that will change more hearts and minds than a $10 million contribution to conservation.”


Last year, the Fish & Wildlife Service approved the sale of 10 African penguins from a California theme park to the Miami Seaquarium.

“We are thrilled that our guests will be able to observe these fascinating creatures and at the same time learn about this endangered species and what we can do to help preserve our feathered friends,” Andrew Hertz, the Seaquarium’s general manager, said in a press release in February. A spokeswoman said Hertz wasn’t available for an interview.

The sea park built a new exhibit for the birds called “Penguin Isle,” a spectacle that includes a 9,000-gallon pool with an acrylic underwater swimming tunnel, allowing visitors to come “face to face” with the penguins, the release says. The Seaquarium, which averages about 600,000 customers a year, charges $99 for a family of four.

As part of the endangered species permit approval, the seller agreed to make an annual contribution for five years to a South African charity that rescues penguins soiled by oil spills.

The annual pledge: $1,000.

UW-Madison to break ground on new Music Center

A long-awaited home for music performance at UW-Madison will soon be a reality, thanks to a recent $25 million gift from the Mead Witter Foundation.

The Hamel Music Center will be on the eastern edge of campus at the corner of University Avenue and Lake Street. It will feature two concert halls, with capacities of 350 and 800 people. The UW School of Music provides more than 350 free public concerts a year.

“Right now our current estimated timeline for the Hamel Music Center is to start construction in late 2016 and open the building in late 2018,” says Gary A. Brown, director of campus planning and landscape architecture. More specific dates won’t be known “until we bid the project and get a contractor on board in the fall of 2016.”

No state funds were forthcoming. Every dollar of the estimated $55.8 million cost had to be raised privately, through donations. Until the Mead Witter Foundation provided incentive to build the entire music center at once, it was to have been built in phases.

The music performance center had its beginnings in 2007, when $15 million was pledged toward Phase I of the project by the Hamel family of Sonoma, California. Three generations of Hamels attended UW-Madison. In 2014 the university announced it would name the new building for them. Fundraising appeared to have essentially stalled out during the recession. 

Rebecca Blank, named chancellor in 2013, made it a priority. The recent gift completes that effort. In appreciation, UW-Madison will name the department the Mead Witter School of Music and its larger concert hall will be known as the Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall.

The combined Mead Witter family has a long history in Wisconsin and with the university. J.D. Witter came to the state in 1850 and made a fortune in banking, timber, manufacturing and hydropower. His children, Isaac and Ruth, attended UW-Madison. Isaac met George W. Mead there, introduced him to his sister, and they married.

Mead took over the family’s interests and served on the UW Board of Regents from 1928 to 1939. In 1950, the university awarded him an honorary doctorate. “Though none of our family studied music at the UW, a fondness for music unites us,” according to his son, foundation chair George W. Mead II, in a prepared statement. “Everyone needs music. It is an inspiration point for all areas of creativity and learning.”

The music center is being designed by Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture of New York in partnership with Strang Inc. of Madison. It will be designed to complement Madison’s civic performance spaces at nearby Overture Center for the Arts on State Street. 

In fact, the facilities’ personnel overlap. Overture’s architect, Cesar Pelli, was consulted by the university during the music center’s early design stages. Malcolm Holzman, one of the principals of the current architectural team, was earlier a principal at Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, which designed Overture’s predecessor, the Madison Civic Center. 

Holzman Moss Bottino has designed a range of performance venues, including those at the American Ballet Theater in New York City, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Georgetown University Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C., and the University of Southern California Music School and concert hall.

Past projects of Strang Inc. include renovation of the Mineral Point Opera House and the Touchstone Theater at American Players Theatre in Spring Green.

The School of Music is currently housed in the Mosse Humanities Building, which is shared with the departments of history and art. The seven-story example of Brutalist architecture was completed in 1969. It’s slated for eventual demolition.

Supreme Court could review nonprofits’ contraceptives objection

Religion, birth control and President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul are about to collide at the U.S. Supreme Court yet again.

Faith-affiliated charities, colleges and hospitals that oppose some or all contraception as immoral are battling the administration over rules that allow them to opt out of covering the contraceptives for women that are among a range of preventive services required to be in health plans at no extra cost.

The religious-oriented nonprofit groups say the accommodation provided by the administration does not go far enough because they remain complicit in providing government-approved contraceptives to women covered by their plans, though the groups are not on the hook financially.

A new federal appeals court ruling is the first to agree with the nonprofits, after seven other appellate panels sided with the administration. Such disagreements among lower courts often are a trigger for consideration by the Supreme Court.

If the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the matter in its term that begins in October, it would be the fourth high court case stemming from the health care overhaul that Obama signed into law in 2010.

The high court has twice preserved the law, but has allowed some for-profit employers with religious objections to refuse to pay for contraceptives for women.

Houses of worship and other religious institutions whose primary purpose is to spread the faith are exempt from the requirement to offer birth control.

For other religious-affiliated nonprofit groups such as hospitals and schools, the administration argues that the accommodation creates a generous moral and financial buffer between religious objectors and funding birth control. The nonprofit groups just have to raise their hands and say that paying for any or all of the 20 devices and methods approved by government regulators would violate their religious beliefs.

To do so, they must fill out a government document or otherwise notify the government so that their insurers or third-party administrators can take on the responsibility of paying for the birth control. The employer does not have to arrange the coverage or pay for it. Insurers get reimbursed by the government through credits against fees owed under other parts of the health law.

But dozens of colleges, hospitals, charities and other organizations have said in lawsuits they still are being forced to participate in an effort to provide coverage for contraceptives, including some which they claim amount to abortion. The government may impose fines on groups that do not comply.

Mark Rienzi, who has represented some of the nonprofits, said the government is asking the groups to do more than just raise their hands.

“Everyone’s claim is, ‘I can’t do it on the form and in the way that lets you use my plan to give out the stuff. I can’t be involved,”” Rienzi said. The government has other ways of providing the contraceptives, he said.

Appeals courts in Chicago, Cincinnati, Ohio, Denver, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., have dismissed those claims. But the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis decided otherwise in a case involving several nonprofit groups in Missouri, including CNS International Ministries of Bethel and Heartland Christian College of Newark.

“In light of CNS and HCC’s sincerely held religious beliefs, we conclude that compelling their participation in the accommodation process by threat of severe monetary penalty is a substantial burden on their exercise of religion,” Judge Roger Wollman wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel in its decision Sept. 17. Wollman said the groups probably have a right under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to refuse to comply with the regulations.

Seven appeals already are pending at the Supreme Court; the justices could decide by the end of October whether to hear one or more of those.

The earlier appellate rulings found that the administration’s rules removed the organizations from providing contraceptives and turned the process over to third parties. Far from burdening their religious exercise, the rules allowed the groups to wash their hands of any involvement, wrote Judge Richard Posner of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The administration has strenuously opposed the appeals, arguing in part that there is no reason to take up the issue because no appeals court had disagreed. That changed with the 8th Circuit ruling. But the administration also has contended that the accommodation does not violate the nonprofits’ religious rights.

Even if the Supreme Court rejects that argument, the administration has said in court papers, the justices should determine that the system for getting contraceptives to women covered by the groups’ insurance plans is the most effective and efficient way to do so.

Out with the old…iPhones? 4 ways to reuse, resell, recycle

Each year, Apple dazzles its devoted fans with faster, sleeker, more powerful iPhones with better cameras and a bevy of bells and whistles.

So, what’s to become of last year’s model?

Instead of sentencing it to a lonely existence in a desk drawer, there are plenty of ways to reuse, recycle or resell older phones. Here are a few:


Several charities accept old phones for donation, though it’s worth remembering that these groups probably won’t physically give your old phones to people in need. Rather, they work with phone recyclers and sell your donated phones to them.

A nonprofit group called Cell Phones for Soldiers will take your “gently used” phone and sell it to a recycling company. It will then use the proceeds to buy international calling cards for soldiers so they can talk to their loved ones back home.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence works in a similar manner. About 60 percent of the phones it collects are refurbished and resold. The money goes toward supporting the coalition. The remaining 40 percent of the phones are recycled, according to the group’s website. It pays for shipping if you are mailing three or more phones. The group also accepts other electronics such as laptops, video game systems and digital cameras.


You can always join the eBay hordes and sell your phone on the site for a few hundred bucks, if you are lucky. There will likely be a flood of the gadgets soon after people start getting their new phones, so it might make sense to wait a little.

There are also plenty of other options.  A company called Gazelle will make an offer for your old phone based on its condition, your phone carrier and other information. For example, a 64 gigabyte iPhone 6 on AT&T in good condition (no cracks, major scratches or scuffs, turns on and makes calls), would get you $305 this week. The same phone on Sprint, meanwhile, would rake in $220.

Glyde.com also offers to help you resell your old phone. A recent check showed the same iPhone, with charger included, getting you $376.10 — provided there is a buyer.


Apple will give you store credit for old devices that you can then use for new gadgets. You can do this in a retail store or online, where you’ll get an estimate before mailing in your phone. An online check for the phone above yielded an estimated $325 Apple Store gift card this week.

The video game retailer GameStop, meanwhile, offers cash or store credit for old iPhones (along with iPods and iPads).


Even without cellular service, you old phone will be able to get on Wi-Fi, so you can use it to stream music, post on Facebook or do pretty much anything else you want provided you are in Wi-Fi range. Keep it for yourself, or load it up with kid-friendly apps and games and hand it down to your children.

Help for women’s shelters arrives by the truckload

Imagine leaving your home forever with literally just the clothes on your back — without even such basic necessities as a comb or a toothbrush.

Every day, countless survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault find themselves in that situation. When the opportunity to flee their abusers or attackers presents itself, they must often take instant action amid life-or-death circumstances. There’s no time to plan or pack a suitcase.

Unfortunately, decreased government grants have harmed domestic violence programs. Fortunately, philanthropists and private charities are generously helping to fill in the gaps.

Some of the help has come from unexpected places. Every year, for instance, Two Men and a Truck launches a massive nationwide drive to collect essentials for women’s shelters, which are then distributed around Mother’s Day.

The Movers for Moms program is a natural fit for the company, which lays claim to being the largest franchised moving company in the United States and internationally. The company already has the moving boxes and the trucks to transport the items. And, despite the company’s name, it’s woman-owned.

“The founder of our company nationally is a woman named Mary Ellen Sheets and her two sons, who are the original two men — and her daughter,” said Tim Lightner, who owns the Two Men and a Truck franchises in Dane and Rock Counties. “She was a single mom, and she decided from day one that being active in the community was an important mission for her.” 

Wisconsin’s TMT franchises participate in the program, which benefits the YWCAs of Dane and Rock counties, as well as the Women’s Resource Center of Racine. 

“This is our fifth year with the program, and it has just really exploded very wonderfully for us,” Lightner said.

He said his company sets up more than 50 donation sites each March in Dane County and many of them are filled and replaced over and over with items ranging from diaper rash cream to lip balm to shampoo to blankets.

“It’s been an educational thing for me — I hadn’t realized just how big the need was,” Lightner said. “One of our core values as a company is to give back and participate in the community. Being a good steward in the community is really an important part of what we do.”

The Women’s Resource Center of Racine provides shelter to about 350 victims of domestic violence annually. Executive director Cherie Griffin said the donations collected by Two Men and a Truck and other generous people are prompted in part by the fact that so many people know a victim of domestic violence.

“Their hearts know the mission, and that’s why they’re so willing to give,” Griffin said.

Besides fulfilling survivors’ needs for personal necessities, the donations communicate to survivors that there are “a lot of people out there who want (them) to be safe,” Griffin said. “That’s a powerful message, especially for victims who are so low and have been so isolated from their communities. That’s how abusers become successful, by disconnecting victims from their communities. … Domestic abuse is a power and control issue.”

People reaching out with aid in the simple form of shampoo and pillows are part of victims’ reconnection with the world at large and with themselves, Griffin said. And receiving that help from “powerful women making use of their resources and leveraging their companies to respond to crises such as these” sends a very important message to victims, she added.

‘Giving Tuesday’ raises $46 million in 24 hours

The national fundraising drive known as “Giving Tuesday” is having a growing impact for nonprofit groups, with nearly $46 million raised for charity over a 24-hour period, according to initial numbers released on Dec. 3.

The Giving Tuesday effort is driven largely by social media and online giving campaigns. It was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City and the United Nations Foundation to kickstart the critical holiday giving season after Thanksgiving.

It comes on the heels of the consumer-oriented day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, when stores open their doors for massive crowds to swarm in and snatch up bargains; Small Business Saturday, when shoppers are encouraged to visit individually owned retailers; and Cyber Monday, when retailers offer deals over the Internet.

Research from Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the Case Foundation provided to The Associated Press shows the amount donated on Giving Tuesday increased by 63 percent over 2013, with an average gift of $154. Last year, about $28 million was raised. In 2012, about $13.5 million was raised on the first Giving Tuesday.

The number of organizations participating has grown dramatically over three years from about 2,500 the first year, said Una Osili, director of research at the philanthropy school. This year, more than 15,000 nonprofit groups participated and raised funds for Giving Tuesday, representing large, small and mid-sized organizations. Researchers counted 698,000 tweets this week mentioning Giving Tuesday.

Osili’s team is studying the day’s overall impact on charitable giving patterns. She said the timing of Giving Tuesday is important because it’s positioned at the time of year when most nonprofits raise a significant share of their donations.

“For many donors, this is the time that they start to think about their charitable giving for many different reasons, certainly tax reasons but also religious reasons,” she said. “We have not seen any evidence that Giving Tuesday changes the behavior of donors in terms of giving less at other periods, but that’s something that we continue to look at very carefully.”

Based on the initial data, analysts said the total number of donations increased by 53 percent this year. There were more than 296,000 contributions made to charities on Dec. 2. The average donation amount also increased slightly.

The estimates are based on contributions tracked by major donation platforms, including Blackbaud, DonorPerfect and Network for Good. The numbers primarily reflect online contributions but also some offline gifts reported through vendors.

Ken Berger of the nonprofit watchdog Charity Navigator said the new annual phenomenon in philanthropy reflects a growing savviness around how to use social media to generate support for nonprofits. Giving Tuesday could become one of the top days of the year when people give, he said, though it’s not likely to trump Dec. 31 when many people make tax-deductible gifts.

“Americans give $250 billion a year to charity. So in one sense you could say within that context this is not that big of an amount, but that includes everything from donations to big universities and hospitals to art museums,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that this isn’t vitally important to some organizations. … I think it’s still very powerful.”

Overall giving in the U.S. is up only 1 percent over last year, so “this will certainly help,” said Steve MacLaughlin, director of research at Blackbaud, which provides giving platforms for nonprofits. Small and mid-sized organizations especially are taking advantage of greater awareness around Giving Tuesday to generate more support, he said.

Sheila Herrling of the Case Foundation, which supported the research to find out how Giving Tuesday was working, said the numbers show it has become a tradition.

“It feels like it’s here to stay,” she said. “It feels like it’s this wonderful match to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which inspires this frenzy of buying. It’s a really nice match in that it inspires a frenzy of giving.”

Brawny bearded brewers bare nearly all for charity

A group of brawny, bearded brewers from the Sheboygan, Wisconsin, area has posed mostly nude for a calendar that is raising money for charity.

The 2015 Brew Men Calendar features 11 brewing professionals from 3 Sheeps Brewing, 8th Street Ale Haus and Plymouth Brewing Co. Proceeds from the calendar, which can be bought online or at various bars, grocers and liquor stores in Wisconsin and northern Illinois, will be donated to the Movember Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on men’s health issues, including prostate and testicular cancer.

Unsurprisingly, the idea came about when they were enjoying a few beers. After Kurt Jensen, owner of 8th Street Ale Haus, began talking to some of his brewing buddies about doing charity work, the group of beer-lovers eventually came up with something similar to a swimsuit calendar.

Grant Pauly, founder of 3 Sheeps, said he hopes the calendars will raise awareness and stimulate conversations about men’s health, he told Sheboygan Press Media.

“I was down in Chicago when someone who saw the group photo on our Facebook page came up to me and we ended up having a 20 minute conversation,” he said.

The photos were shot in early October by a professional photographer who doubles as a beer enthusiast. Each month of the calendar depicts a different step of the brewing process.

Jensen said convincing the guys to take off their clothes for a good cause was easier than he expected, and Pauly agreed.

“Putting the calendar together, that was pretty easy,” said Pauly. “We have the most difficult part ahead; getting the word out.”

The calendar marks the first fundraising effort of Brewers Against Bad Things, a group that Pauly and Jensen recently founded to raise money for charitable causes.