Sorry this update took so long, I was waiting until I had time to setup my official blog before I posted the final details of my fundraiser for the families affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting. I think it’s the best place to put the update for all the lovely people that helped me raise money to help the families who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and it has more of a degree of permanence than any other online medium I could use to post this information.

88.95% of the money we raised went to the families

I’ve attached a zip file containing the documentation necessary to show how much was raised and what was done with those funds. These documents are either screenshots or scans. I’ve blurred out any personal information like my phone number, email, house address, or savings account number, anywhere I saw them.

The Campaign

Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 4.54.55 PM

The Online Campaign was originally started on Indiegogo.com on December 14th, 2012. The Campaign was called Donations for the Families of the Sandy Hook Victims. I also launched a Facebook Page on December 17th, 2012. I will not be linking to the Facebook page in this post, because I plan to delete it. I was very touched by the tragedy that happened, and felt compelled to do something to help. I did some research online, and found the average cost of funerals to be $15,000. I multiplied that number by the 26 families to come to a goal of $390,000. This goal proved to be much too high for this sort of grassroots campaign, and I later had it changed to a more realistic $10,000. I bought the domains: sandyhookdonations.org, .com, and .net, as well as sandyhookdonations.org, and .net (sandyhookdonations.com is not owned by me). I forwarded these domains to the indiegogo.com Campaign page in hopes that it would make it easier for people to find the page and to donate.

Help From Friends

I got a ton of advice from friends that helped me with the Campaign, that I’m very thankful for. My roommate, Mike Bhatti, gave me advice to reach out to News organizations. Mike’s mom, Patricia Bhatti gave me advice about the campaign goal amount (and a more realistic funeral cost which was much less than $15,000). My friends Jeremy Meek and Andrew Matney helped me keep the campaign above reproach by being part of my accountability team. They accompanied me to the bank for the first time since I opened the account, to oversee the Wire Transfer process, and make sure the funds were untampered with.

Lastly, there were many friends and family that were overly generous and donated to the cause, and this wouldn’t have been possible without you! I was astounded by people coming out of nowhere with $100, $200, and $300 donations, and this a week before Christmas! Some people that I’d never expect! I appreciate every donation from the biggest to the smallest. I especially appreciated the smaller donations, because they such showed thought and sacrifice. Thank you all form the bottom of my heart! We had 45 contributors total, and raised $2983.00! Of that amount $2653.41 was disbursed to The Sandy Hook School Support Fund. $2450.81 was dispursed by me via wire transfer, and $202.60 by Indiegogo.

Special thanks to Fox 10 News for featuring my campaign on TV and aiding us in getting donations!

Some Confusion with Indiegogo

After raising over $2000 Indiegogo told me I could no longer continue my campaign unless I linked to a verified non-profit, because I was not close enough to the tragedy or anyone involved. They initially told me all the funds would be sent by them to the non-profit, so I updated my Facebook status accordingly. Then they clarified that only the money raised after a certain point would be given directly to the charity, and that I’d be responsible for getting previous funds to the charity directly.

I wasn’t buying this at all, so I had them agree to send the entire amount to the charity, that way I wouldn’t have to touch any of it and the Chase Savings account I setup wouldn’t need to be used. They agreed to this, and I waited months while they gave me the runaround, until I discovered that the staff member helping me didn’t have a clue what he was talking about and they had sent the funds to the Savings account anyways. So now I have the wonderful job of explaining to you guys what happened. I’ve attached a copy of my correspondence with Indiegogo, so you can read that trainwreck for yourself. An in all, the money finally got to where it was supposed to go, and all is well.

Precautions Taken

Because people were entrusting me to donate money on their behalf, I took steps to make sure the campaign would be above reproach.

  • First, I created a Chase Savings account (I’d never banked with Chase before) with no bank card, no checks, and no online banking. The only way for anyone to do anything with the account was to visit the bank directly. I opened the account with $25.
  • Aside from the initial creation of the bank account, I never went back to the branch again, until I was ready to do the wire transfer with my Accountability Team.
  • My Accountability Team was made up of Jeremy Meek, Andrew Matney, and Mike Bhatti. Only the first two were able to accompany me to perform the wire transfer due to scheduling issues.
  • I closed the account in such a way that all the money would be used in the wire transfer, and the wire transfer fee. Unfortunately, they added $0.01 in interest after I had closed the account. They asked me over the phone what they should do with that one cent and I told them to keep it, but for some reason the ¬†Account Closing Details said they gave me the penny. Whatever…

Next Steps

  1. I’ll be posting the link to this blog entry on my Facebook account, my Twitter account, and my Sandy Hook Donations Facebook Page
  2. I created an email address called sandyhookdonations@gmail.com for people to contact me with any questions. No one ever contacted me, and now that the campaign is over, I’ll be deleting that email address. This blog post will be the official point of contact from now on.
  3. After one month, I’ll be deleting the Sandy Hook Facebook page. Now that the campaign is over, all it does is attract conspiracy theorists, truthers, and spammers.
  4. I’ll be letting the domains I bought expire. I no longer have any use for them.
  5. Because the $2459.73 did go into the Chase Savings account I setup, I’ll have to report the money as income on my 2013 taxes, even though it’s not income and all the funds went directly to The Sandy Hook School Support Fund. Because of this, I’ll be adding the $2459.73 to my itemized deductions so alleviate some of the taxes I’ll have to pay on my non-income.

The Files Inside SandyHookDocumentation.zip (Download Zip File)

  • Chase Transaction History.pdf – Shows all account activity from initial deposit to account closing
  • Disbursement Email.pdf – Shows the initial email I received that I was assured was incorrect by Indiegogo Staff
  • Indiegogo Correspondence.pdf – Shows all of my correspondence with the Indiegogo Staff as we try to get the funds disbursed
  • Indiegogo Receipt.pdf – Shows the amount raised, the amount Disbursed, and the percentage taken by Indiegogo + any fees
  • Wire Transfer Outgoing Request.pdf – Shows the request made for a wire transfer to The Sandy Hook School Support Fund in Newtown, CT
  • Account Closing Details.pdf – Shows that the Savings account has now been closed, and the ending balance

Final Thoughts

I’ve learned a lot from this experience. First, I’ve learned that if I want to help people in the future, I’ll go through a charity directly otherwise it’s a big headache: from Truthers accusing you of being part of a government conspiracy to ban guns, to being accused of being a scam by fake Facebook accounts. It’s so annoying, but at least we were able to do some good. Second, $2653.41 was disbursed out of $2983 raised. That means 88.95% of the money we raised went to the families. Based on this list, that would put this campaign among the highest rated charities in America. So when I do give in the future, I’ll make sure it’s a charity with super low overhead. To be considered a “good” charity, at least 66% of money raised should go directly to the cause, but that’s a little low in my opinion. So far it looks like the best charity in America is the American Red Cross at 92.1% going directly to help people. Needless to say they’ll be getting my money in the future.

Questions

Feel free to comment on this post if you have any questions you’d like answered.