“Charity Care” and Hospital Bottom Lines

Insured people are helping to offset the spending on "charity care" at hospitals.

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While we tend to think of charity as an entirely positive thing, there are times when it can actually harm the giver.

Charity care,” in hospital parlance, refers to covering patients who don’t have insurance, or who can’t or won’t pay for their hospital care. It gets expensive, but the Affordable Care Act has helped that problem immensely by expanding insurance coverage to millions of Americans who wouldn’t otherwise have it. This means more people are able to go to the hospital or the doctor and not have to break the bank to do so.

It also means that hospitals have been paying less out of pocket to help people who need it, which means they can help more people. There has been in increase in the so-called “Medicare shortfall,” which is when a hospital loses money because Medicare doesn’t cover 100 percent of costs, but at least in Ohio, the increase in the shortfall has been covered by the increase in patients covered due to the Affordable Care Act.

Charity, in this case, was something that hospitals did, and still do, despite the fact that it’s a financial loss, which certainly falls into the purview of charitable giving. But it’s also a kind of giving that, frankly, shouldn’t be necessary.

Even with the Affordable Care Act helping to cover millions of Americans, the United States still lags behind many other countries when it comes to health care costs and insurance coverage.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. This would affect 30 states, plus Washington, D.C., which have expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA.

Even if Trump is not elected and the ACA remains in place, the Supreme Court has left Medicaid expansion up to individual states. Ohio legislators are going to have to decide whether the state will pick up some of the Medicaid expansion costs, and thus expand the affordability of health insurance.

Medical care is definitely an area where charity is needed, but hospitals still need to be able to pay their staff and their bills. Ohio has shown that the Affordable Care Act can offset losses from the “Medicare shortfall,” and perhaps they will be able to convince their state legislators that ACA expansion could benefit hospitals as well as individuals.

How to Help Homeless Youth

There are many things you can do to help homeless youth.

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With both hurricane season in the southeast and winter approaching the north, people have been taking this time to stock up on supplies. Everyone’s grabbing extra batteries and cans of soup. Many forget that this is an especially tough time of your for those without a roof over their head. This is especially true for the more than 4,000 homeless children and young adults in the Seattle Area. About 800 of them are “unaccompanied,” or without a parent around.

Without the storms and inclement weather, it’s incredibly tough to be a homeless youth. Less than half of homeless boys graduate from high school and the suspension rate is more than double that of the average high schooler. More than a quarter of these youths have said they have traded sex for food or water on one or more occasions.

There are plenty of things you can do to help these youths, both directly and indirectly.

Get Educated: There are lots of resources in the Seattle area. Make sure you aren’t falling prey to misconceptions that exist about homelessness.

Vote: In 2016, Washington missed several opportunities to secure funding to prevent homelessness. In this year alone Seattle has had to shut down 15 shelters, leaving 450 people without a roof over their head. Get to know your issues and be vocal with your local government.

Volunteer: This can come in the form of time or resources. There are many organizations looking for help, and you can find them online through services like VolunteerMatch or Idealist.org. Many kids need extra help with schoolwork and there is a long list of kids hoping to be matched with tutors. These organizations always need other types of help as well, from administrative support to working in their food banks.

Donate: Shelters are constantly in need of supplies. They welcome donations of everything from money to toiletries to gently used clothes. It can be especially hard for some families to find shoes and coats for the winter cold.


What have you done to help homeless youth or bring awareness to the problem of youth homelessness in your area? Is there a program addressing youth homelessness that’s worked in your area? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Details While Looking at the Big Picture

In a world that is increasingly interconnected, it’s important to think about the big picture, especially if you’re dealing with a problem as significant as ISIL. But big pictures have lots of detail in them, and it can be easy to get caught up in the major shapes of the big picture, while losing sight of the individual brush strokes.

The go-to strategy for dealing with ISIL has been through military force, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. But in order to truly combat a group like ISIL, or any extremist group for that matter, you have to address the issues that they use to recruit.

This is precisely what the nonprofit Heraion Foundation (HERA) is trying to do. Based in New York and Ebril, Iraq, they work to help people escape from ISIL, deliver humanitarian aid to people in ISIL-affected areas, and help educate women and children.

They want to address the brush strokes: they don’t want to lose sight of the details, because all the bombs in the world won’t stop ISIL if they keep using poverty and mistrust as tools to fuel their growing ranks. Most people turn to extremism because they see no other way out of their current situation.

What HERA is doing takes a lot of effort and a lot of courage. But you don’t have to work on the ground in Iraq in order to take these lessons to heart. Any nonprofit can benefit from keeping the details as well as the big picture in mind.

Helping cancer patients is great, but preventing people from getting cancer in the first place is just as important. Rehabilitating ex-convicts is important, but helping people find jobs and assistance to keep them from resorting to the kinds of actions that land them in prison in the first place is just as useful.

What does your nonprofit do to make sure you keep both the big picture and the details in mind when you’re working on your programs? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Watching Out For Charity Scams, Hurricane Matthew Edition

The clouds of Hurricane Matthew

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Hurricane Matthew wrought havoc throughout the Caribbean and the American southeast, and a lot of people want to help those who have been affected by its passing. However, with any large-scale disaster or tragedy, there are those who want to take advantage of that charitable spirit for their own profit; therefore, it’s time to give some tips to help you protect yourself from “donating” to a scam.

In general, you should know about the nonprofit to which you’re thinking of donating. This is important in times like this, but it also a good idea in general. Do some research, and find out if the charity in question existed before the disaster. It’s not always a surefire way to know if a charity is fraudulent, as legitimate nonprofits do spring up in response to tragedies, but it can help you determine what else you need to learn about them. And for the record, just because an organization has been around for years doesn’t mean it isn’t fraudulent.

Charities have to be registered somewhere, usually with the state in which they operate and certainly with the IRS. In New York, for example, they have to be registered with the Charities Bureau, something that the state’s Attorney General has been talking about quite a lot lately. If you can’t track down a record of the organization being registered somewhere, don’t donate.

Be wary of any organization that doesn’t share how they spend donated funds. It doesn’t have to be a detailed outline of exact costs, but as long as an organization tells its donors what they spend money on, like rebuilding homes or buying water for people, that’s a step in the right direction. If a group doesn’t share an information about how thy spend funds, they’re most likely fraudulent.

Trick-or-Treat for Canned Food Instead of Candy

Trick-or-treating for charity is a great way to start your giving season.

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The holidays are traditionally a season of giving, but for a lot of people, this doesn’t start until November and Thanksgiving. Why not extend the season of giving and start in October? The next few months are a holiday season that revolves around food, dining, and social occasions. Many people go into that holiday season not knowing where the food will come from for these events.

Halloween is a great holiday to get a jump on the feel-good season of giving as well as get the whole family involved in donating their time and efforts to charity.

Are your kids are getting old enough that you feel uncomfortable with them trick or treating, but they aren’t ready to give up on their celebrations? Do your kids have dietary restrictions that make them unable to eat the candy people hand out? Why not go out as a family or with your friends to ask for food for a food bank?

People will often be surprised that folks are using the holiday to help someone else out instead of collect free candy and will be more than happy to donate a can or two. It will also feel great for the group to know that they are doing something to help others.

There are some guidelines as to what types of donations to accept. Perishables are not accepted at most food banks. Neither are things that are unlabeled or in glass containers. They also cannot be open or homemade. Excellent donations include canned vegetables and fruits, diapers, pasta and sauce. Lightweight donations like cereal, rice, and macaroni and cheese boxes are helpful as well.

Once you have your trick-or-treat bags full of food, you can take them to your local food bank for distribution in the coming months.

Clinton Foundation Uses the Tools at Its Disposal to Great Effect

Much of the negative press surrounding the Clinton Foundation seems to be centered on the fact that Bill Clinton has long mixed business and politics to get people to contribute to the organization.

Both he and Hillary Clinton have used their established connections—and they have a lot of them—to do a great deal of good in the world.

It was through “glad-handing” that the Clintons managed to generate donations to help fight HIV around the world, for one thing. Outside of the current toxic political climate in the United States, this would not be an issue.

The Clinton Foundation has ben doing it right in this regard, for sure: They have a resource in Bill and Hillary Clinton and they use that resource to raise money and do good. That’s what every single nonprofit should be doing. You can discuss ethics, or the potential danger of getting too much money from certain donors, but that’s not what we’re discussing.

Nonprofits aren’t indie bands, and they don’t have the luxury of worrying about “selling out.” If an organization is serious about doing good rather than making itself or the person after which the organization is named look good, then it makes sense to use whatever tools are at its disposal.

Making connections is an absolute requirement in the nonprofit world, just as it is in any other part of life. Humans are social animals, and if an organization wants people to donate money to a cause, possibly to help individuals they’ll never meet, then it needs to appeal to them as people.

Making and using connections—“glad-handing” if you will—is one way to do that, and a very effective way if human history is any indicator. If the Clinton Foundation had not worked those connections, it wouldn’t have done the good it has.

Does Donald Trump Give Any Money to Charity?

Donald Trump runs a charitable foundation called the Trump Foundation. It is based in New York and it was started in the 1990s. Initially, Donald Trump was the sole donor to the charity, but over the years he has donated less and less while other donors that he has been loosely affiliated with have donated more and more.

Currently, the Trump Foundation has not obtained the proper certification to officially operate as a charity that brings in more than $25,000 per year soliciting donations from the public. This certification requires a rigorous audit of their financials and operations annually. This ensures that the donations are not spent for the personal benefit of charity leadership.

On October 3, 2016, the New York Attorney General ordered the Trump Foundation to immediately cease its fundraising in that state based on the reports that it had not submitted audits mandated by the state. The AG’s office also sent notice that the Trump Foundation had broken state law by collecting more than $25,000 in donations without filing properly with the state.

“While we remain very concerned about the political motives behind AG Schneiderman’s investigation, the Trump Foundation nevertheless intends to cooperate fully with the investigation,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement.

An investigation of the billionaires charitable activity shows that in 20 years, Trump has donated less than $7 million to charitable organizations. World Wrestling Entertainment donated to Trump’s organization in exchange for assistance from Trump. The foundation has also received at least two million dollars from business that have owed Donald Trump money.

The amounts that Trump has donated for political organizations far outmatch his charitable contributions. He has given more to the Citizens United Foundation and the Anti-Defamation League than any of the other charities he claims to support.

You Can Help Support the Arts In Your Community

There are many ways to support your local arts community

An artist community in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Photo: Christian Mueller / Shutterstock.com

In theory, people don’t usually question the value of art and exposure to the arts. This is especially true for children and toddlers. Yet, as public schools receive less and less funding arts and music are usually the first to get cut. When looking at what’s required to pass a standardized test, art appears superfluous. With budget cuts everywhere from small towns to big cities, it has become the responsibility of parents and the local community to place the emphasis on arts and support nonprofits that work in the field of arts and culture.

Combine this with the lack of exposure kids get in schools, and it’s easy to see how the arts are struggling in some areas. Instead of waiting for things to improve, why not see what you can do to help support your local community? There are things you can do even if you don’t have the financial stability to be a large-scale donor.

If you have the funds, purchasing tickets or season passes to a theater or symphony is a great way to support them while also giving you a great option for date nights, exposure for kids, or a gift to give. The same goes for attending fundraising events. Even if you won’t be bidding on anything in the auction, it’s a chance to get out and meet people and enjoy a good meal.

If you don’t have money to give, time is another great way to show your support. Volunteering to be an usher at a community theatre or symphony event gets you in the arts scene without having a fat checkbook. If you have technical skills, consider volunteering to help an arts nonprofit expand their website or social media presence. Are you a small business owner? Maybe you can work together with a community arts group for a mutually beneficial event or showcase.<

No matter what option you choose, the arts are important and have benefits to all members of your community. Get out there today and support your local arts organizations.

Locks of Love Provides Wigs for Kids

A girl, bald from chemotherapy

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Thinking about a drastic haircut? Chopping off your luscious ponytail? Did you know that you can donate your hair to Locks of Love? Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that helps financially disadvantaged children suffering from medical hair loss. While chemotherapy is the best known cause of hair loss, there are a variety of other conditions that cause the hair to fall out.

Locks of Love first started in 1997 by partnering with a for-profit wig retailer. The founder was a retired cardiac nurse who had developed alopecia in her 20s. Her daughter also developed it and lost all her hair. She said it was 10 times harder to deal with her daughter’s hair loss than her own. Since it started in her garage, Locks of Love now has recipients in 50 U.S. states and Canada.

Many children lose hair because of an autoimmune disorder that causes hair follicles to shut down permanently. Other recipients have hair loss due to cancer, burns, or other skin disorders. Children with hair loss can receive unwanted attention from classmates and the hair loss coupled with the medical conditions cause the child to withdraw from normal activities. Most wigs are made in adult sizes and come with a variety of other obstacles. The hairpieces are a tool or support for the recipient to assist them in returning to a normal child life.

Locks of Love accepts donations based on a variety of conditions. For their wigs, hair must be 10 inches long, though they can use shorter strands to sell to other manufacturers for fundraising. It must be sent in tied up in either a ponytail or a braid. Locks of Love does accept hair that is permed or dyed, but not bleached.

To donate, simply fill out the form here and send it in with your hair.

Obvious Success Doesn’t Always Garner More Donations


Many people believe people who donate to nonprofits are fixated on success that can be measured in amounts raised or people helped and donate accordingly. Thus, more successful charities get more donations and go on to be even more successful.

But the philosophy of giving is much more nuanced than that.

The success of arts and culture nonprofits such as local symphonies can often be measured in audience attendance. The more people filling seats at a performance, or the more people visiting a gallery, the more successful that organization obviously is. Those who take a more simplistic view of philanthropy would expect that the symphonies with the greatest attendance get the most donations. But a recent study published in Public Performance and Management Review has found that this isn’t always true.

The researchers found that arts nonprofits that play by the rules and succeed according to philanthropic standards are not always rewarded with more donations. In fact, these seemingly successful organizations sometimes receive fewer donations, perhaps because people believe they don’t need the help. Success can, therefore, backfire for some organizations.

However, just because some donors are less inclined to give to a symphony which always plays to a packed house doesn’t mean they won’t donate that money elsewhere. Smaller audiences can be read as a sign that the organization in question needs more help, and therefore might be more deserving of donations.

Philanthropy has become smarter and more intricate in recent years, for both organizations and donors. This research helps to illustrate that donors are not a monolithic entity, and cannot be ascribed simplistic motivations or characterizations.

Savvy donors put more thought into how, and to whom, they donate, but even donors who don’t do research have more going through their minds than just how successful an organization seems.