Avoid “Pinkwashing” This October

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It might be autumn, but instead of being inundated with pumpkin spice tastes and smells, store shelves are lined with everything pink. Just this week I spotted a pink water bottles, pink ribbon earrings and even pink headphones.

That’s because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. This annual event is organized by multiple breast cancer charities to increase awareness about the disease. This usually involves events for the public to participate in and fundraisers to help fund cancer research.

According to Breastcancer.org, one in eight U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. An estimated 2,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer is expected to be diagnosed in men in 2016. But there is some good news. Cancer incident and death rates are declining. And that’s why awareness months —like the one taking place right now —are so important.

During this time many companies dedicate a portion of their proceeds to cancer awareness and research, even going as far as creating and selling pink versions of their products. It’s a way to let consumers know that their money is going toward a cancer charity. But just how much of that money is actually going toward helping cancer patients get better?

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There have been reports of companies selling their products with a new pink look in order to convince the buyer the money is going toward a good cause, but actually pocket all the money. This is known as “pinkwashing.”

To make sure donations go to the right place, Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest advises consumers to research pink product claims before making a purchase or getting caught up in the hype.

Take the following steps when purchasing a product for its charity claims:

Be a smart shopper

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Find out what percentage of the sale price will be donated. Most companies put this information on the packaging and even include a link to detail where their donation will go. Don’t assume every organization listed on the box is a tax exempt charity. You may have to dig deeper to determine their status.

Do some research.

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Look into the business you’re purchasing from and the charity they are donating too. There are numerous cancer research charities so do your homework to ensure your buck is being spent in the right place. Be sure to get the charities name and look them up on give.org to see whether they are a reputable charity.

Spend wisely.

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Think about the product you want. Is it something you actually need or do you simply like the pink design? Resist the urge to shop on the spot. Be considerate of your purchase, especially when it is solely to benefit a charity. If you don’t need the product, consider making a donation directly to the charity of your choice.

But, hey, if you really like those pink headphones and you’re sure the money is going toward a trustworthy charity —I say go for it!

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August Scams Roundup

Top Scams 2015

The following are some of the scams reported to Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest in August. In most instances names and locations have been omitted to protect the victims’ privacy.

ALASKA

Home Improvement Grant Scam

A woman in Anchorage reported her 80-year-old aunt was contacted through Facebook about applying for a home improvement grant. The woman states her aunt applied for a $30,000 grant and was told she needed to send money to cover taxes and fees. The woman sent a money order of $1,000 and then was asked to send more money. She has not been able to get her money returned to her.

Bad sale

An Anchorage man reported he purchased a sound system from someone for $300. The man claims he was shown an invoice slip and told there was a warranty with the purchase. He soon discovered the sound system was of poor quality. He has tried calling the seller, but has been unable to reach him.

IDAHO

Newspaper Scam

A Boise area woman reported she received a call from a woman asking her to renew her Idaho Statesman subscription. The woman states she was skeptical of the caller so she looked up her subscription and discovered it didn’t expire until February 2017.

Family Emergency Scam

A Nampa woman reports she was the target of the grandparent scam. She states she received a call from someone claiming to be her grandson who told her he broke his nose after a drunk driving accident. She soon received another call from the “grandsons” attorney asking for $1,750 to post bail. He told the woman to get a MoneyGram from Walmart and send it to them. The woman did so, but the money did not go through. She soon realized the call was a scam. Fortunately, she was able to get her money back from MoneyGram.

MONTANA

Craigslist Scam

A Colstrip resident reports they listed household items on Craigslist and then were contacted by a buyer who sent a check for more than the agreed upon price. They were told to purchase a MoneyGram for the extra money and give it to the “mover” who was supposed to pick up the items. Fortunately, they never cashed the check.

OREGON

Charity Scam

A Beaverton resident reports someone came to their door accepting donations for “Something for Soldiers Sales, LLC.” After giving $68, they looked closer at the receipt and discovered the organization was not a 5013c nonprofit. Law Enforcement agencies have warned residents about this group.

DISH Network Imposter

A White City woman reported she lost $50 after someone impersonated a DISH Network employee. She states a woman came to her door pretending to be selling DISH Network services. She gave the woman a check for $50 for a one-time process fee and her credit card information. After handing over the money she requested the check not be cashed until the third of the next month, however it was cashed the next day.

WASHINGTON

Sweepstakes Scam

A Richland resident reported they received a letter from Liberty Financial Incorporated claiming they had won a second prize of $250,000. The letter included a check from Chase Bank for $3,650. They tell BBB they were asked to pay a $3,500 processing fee. They did not pay the fee.

Employment Scam

A Bellevue woman reports she was contacted by a man using the name “Mark Blackwell,” asking her to be his daughters tutor. The man said he was sending her a check with more than her fee and told her to cash $2,000 of it to give to his daughter’s nanny. She ceased communication with the man.

 

Safe Giving After a Tragedy

Written by Veronica Craker, Managing Editor

Giving after a tragedy 8.3.16

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005 I found myself watching the news and wondering how I could help. I lived in Biloxi, Mississippi for a short time and still had friends living in the area when the Category Five storm ripped through destroying everything in its path. While watching the news unfold I wondered how I could make a difference. So I opened my wallet and made a small donation to the Red Cross. Prior to that I hadn’t done more than slip extra change into charity buckets sitting next to cash registers or in the red kettles belonging to the Salvation Army during Christmas. With recent tragedies taking place around the world more people than ever are trying to find ways to make a difference. A recent BBB Scam Tracker survey found that one in five people lose money to a scam each year with annual losses estimated at $50 billion.

When a crisis hits, and especially when it hits close to home, we can’t help but feel compelled to do something. Whether its donating blood, giving money or volunteering it’s important to know the most effective way to help out after a tragedy.

In the past year BBB Scam Tracker has seen nearly 200 reports of charity scams in the U.S. and Canada.

Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest and BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips to keep in mind when looking to contribute:

Avoid high-pressure demands. Take time to research charities and avoid emotional pleas that do little to explain how the charity will help victims. Contact potential charities directly.

Use trustworthy charities. Be sure the charity is equipped and has the resources necessary to help with disaster relief. Review whether a charity meets all 20 standards of accountability at Give.org, a website run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Avoid cash donations. Write checks or pay by credit card to charities directly. Scammers will try to convince their victims to wire money or use prepaid debit cards to make a donation. Never give personal information or money to a telephone or email solicitor.

Double-check. Watch for “pop-up” charities with unverifiable background and contact information. Unscrupulous organizations may try to trip up donors by using names that sound similar to reputable charities.

Block social media pleas. Be wary of requests from fake victims or memorial social media accounts. Remember to verify the organization first before giving a penny.

Look closely at crowdfunding sites. Some crowdfunding sites do their best to verify a posted request is legitimate. But some may be set up by family members of victims, meaning it isn’t a charity, and will go directly into someone’s bank account. Those types of donations make it difficult to know where exactly the money is going and how it is being used.

Charity Navigator released a list of fake charities detailing just how rampant this time of scam can be. For more tips on giving wisely visit www.give.org.

FareStart Serves up Fresh Food and Fresh Starts

FareStart Cover Story Blog

For many, food brings together family and friends. To students at FareStart, food brings the beginning of a lifelong transformation.

A 501(c)(3) charity since 1992, FareStart provides job training in the food service industry to homeless and disadvantaged individuals in Seattle. CEO Megan Karch explains that FareStart “is less about teaching people to cook but more about using food as a tool to help people change their lives. It’s not about creating chefs as much as it is about recreating lives and communities.”

Two core programs support FareStart’s mission, serving approximately 350 people annually – or about 70-80 students each day.

Many students come to FareStart without employable skills, unstable housing, battling addictions and even criminal histories. What unites them is a desire to change and a willingness to learn.

The Adult Culinary Program provides a 16-week comprehensive training program combining hands-on food service training and classroom instruction with individual case management and job placement services. During the program and post-graduation, students have access to support teams that assist with housing, basic needs and life skills training. Within 90 days of graduation (and often much sooner), 93% of graduates secured employment and six months later, about 80% were still employed.

In a similar fashion, the intensive eight-week Youth Barista Training & Education Program provides job training/placement, life skills, employment counseling, classroom and on-the-job training to homeless youth between ages 16-24. Of last year’s youth graduates, 92% have gained employment or continued their education.

For hands-on experience, participants work in FareStart’s social enterprise businesses – FareStart Restaurant, FareStart Catering, and FareStart Café @2100 – which generate a significant portion of the organization’s operating revenue. Each Thursday, the restaurant opens for Guest Chef Night, giving students the opportunity to learn from premier local chefs and offering the public a chance to experience a three-course gourmet meal for $29.95 during student graduations. Often times, students are offered employment from the chefs they work with during Guest Chef Nights.

Try to fight the tears when you hear students and graduates speak of the immense impact that FareStart has had on their lives in the organization’s recent gala video. Travis (current student) shared, “Basically, I got down to two bags… homeless, and I kept hearing the name FareStart. So I came in on a Tuesday and by Wednesday, I had a place to stay, food in my belly and was learning a new career.” Paul, a graduate of the program, said that “My world basically fell apart. Life changes happened but I resorted to drugs and alcohol to try to overcome those feelings and felt diminished, useless, spent… FareStart was a hand up. They grabbed hold of me and helped me until I could stand. Because of that, I now can help other people.”

In addition to meals in their restaurants, FareStart also prepares about 750,000 nutritious meals for low-income daycares, homeless shelters and local schools.

If you’re not already inspired, there’s more to FareStart’s story. Megan says “we started Catalyst Kitchens because we were getting calls from around the country about how to set up this model in their region. We did it to incubate and launch new programs and to set up a network so we can help other organizations scale their impact.” This 65-member international network trains an impressive 3,000+ students and serves approximately 11 million meals annually.

FareStart is one of many local BBB Accredited Charities that meets our comprehensive 20 Standards for Charity Accountability – meaning you can trust that your donation will be used wisely. View their BBB Charity Review here. BBB also provides great giving tips to help donors give wisely.

FareStart was featured as the cover story for our December Torch Talk. Check it out here and subscribe to future Torch Talks by clicking on the light blue “Subscribe” button on the left side of the page.

The Importance of Giving Back

Reposted from my column in the Portland Business Tribune.

Your customers—especially the younger generation—want to know what your business is doing to make the world a better place. According to a 2013 study by Cone Communications and Echo Research, 82 percent of consumers take corporate social responsibility into account when deciding where to shop and which products and services to purchase.

Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington is the most outward-thinking place I’ve ever worked. From free ID theft prevention events to educational webinars to volunteer work, BBB and its staff serve as a great reminder of the value of giving back to the community.

BBB also awards college scholarships to local high school seniors each year. This year was a little different than years past: BBB held a video contest for the first time, and the jackpot was bigger than ever. This year’s $10,000 scholarship was recently awarded to a talented, bright young man from Alaska who plans to attend Brigham Young.

“We are impressed by the creativity and effort put into all the videos,” BBB CEO Tyler Andrew said. “When we launched the scholarship, we wanted to increase awareness among teens on the importance of marketplace trust.”

This scholarship—this one act of generosity—actually triggers a cycle:

  1. givingbackBy offering a scholarship, BBB is promoting its name and mission to the youngest generation. This ensures kids will know where to look for trust when they become adults and enter the marketplace as consumers and business owners. The scholarship also reminds parents about BBB’s services to the public.
  2. These consumers will then look to BBB for trustworthy information on local businesses. And as stated in a Roper survey, 74 percent of consumers prefer to do business with a BBB Accredited Business.
  3. Accredited Businesses pay annual dues to BBB. They will continue to renew their Accreditation each year as long as they see a return on their investment: more customers.
  4. BBB uses these annual dues to fund its day-to-day operations and its services to the public—including the scholarship.

Corporate social responsibility can help your business gain customers, but it can also help you retain and attract talented employees.

Allowing your employees to be involved in volunteer activities can help them feel more fulfilled and enriched. Reports show that when employees have the opportunity to give back to the community, they have a renewed appreciation for their contributions to your company.

If you’d like to become more involved in your community, there are some simple things you can do to get started. If you have a storefront, keep a collection jar for your favorite local charity at your front desk. Employees and customers alike will effect real change just by dropping off their spare change. You could also organize an employee volunteer day. A group activity such as cooking for a homeless shelter or painting an elderly neighbor’s house can have the added bonus of boosting camaraderie among your staff.

Not only is giving back good for business, but it’s the right thing to do. It builds relationships, it makes your employees feel more engaged and satisfied, and it reminds you just how lucky you are.