Identify & Sponsor Sincere Leading Groups


By Kirstin Beatty


Okay, some leaders and groups are doing great work. Like Last Tree Laws, these groups need help, support, donations and to retain and gain members over the long term. However, other groups are less helpful. Some groups coopt the work of others, weaken the charge, and promote asking for less. If you give support, please identify groups and leaders that are sincere, passionate, and leading the charge from the local to global level.

At the local level, often finances are dismal, publicity minimal, and finesse may be lacking. Yet, these groups are working for your town or state – these groups need assistance and members as well for political clout.

I am going to give you a list to check the sincerity and passion of groups or individuals. But first, here’s why:

Some groups help corporations – that’s fine. However, industry front groups grab good names, even mimic names of great organizations, and establish corporate connections, boards, etc. In the name of “the People” or “Mother Earth” these groups get citizen support, noprofit status, and acceptance as advocacy experts by legislators. Being a nonprofit is proof of nothing. Anyone can be a nonprofit these days: look at ALEC.

Many worthwhile actions never develop into nonprofits and need support, though not that everyone without finesse is worth hekping.

On Facebook or YouTube, some “influencers” just want a cult following, marketing list, and to instill fear, hate, and confusion rather than solutions. One can only guess that traitorous trolls are using valid issues to divide left and right and link valid concerns with crazy. While fear can be a justifiable response, using fear and hate for personal profit and control is cruel.

Then, the Cancer Prevention Coalition has called for a boycott of the American Cancer Society for taking big donations from Big Pharma, Big Telecommunications, and Big Chemical companies while failing to acknowledge environmental causes of cancer. According to the ACS, pharmaceuticals, testing, diet, and exercise are the solution – not examination of environmental pollution.

ACS pays its executives exorbitant amounts – 2 million plus for one executive alongside numerous six-figure salaries – while maintaining reliance on many volunteers. One upset letter to the editor, by Vernon Hill in the Carteret News-Times on 3 December 2009, states his organization sent the ACS 900K over three years, covering 37K of costs and tightening expenses at ACS request, while the ACS spent 45% on salaries but wouldn’t even cover event T-shirts and, to top it off, culled 140 staff positions that year.

Organizations like the ACS are big machines for extracting financial and volunteer support.

Despite having good reason to volunteer, I also can’t help but notice others are profiting with paid speaking events, product sales, and some even with donation requests for God knows, etc., and yet good work is not mentioned that could use support. One way to continue donations and sales is simply to omit or decry anything else – lawsuits, legislation, whatever, even when it is good. I hear excuses and it sounds like B.S. If we want change on the issues, we have to help everyone, not just our own pocketbook.

Yes, I disagree about some issues, and so work by Last Tree Laws may go unmentioned for that reason – but others’ good work is also being omitted.

So, how can you tell whether an individual or organization, including a small-time group, is leeching off problems, getting rich off misery, to differentiate from those that are sincere? Here are a few measures:

        • Openness or honesty regarding who runs the organization (online):
          • If concealed, is the concealment real, partial, and is there any reason?
          • If someone admits to or says he/she is leading an organization, then why is it not listed on the website?
          • Is relevant background information shared of leaders?
          • If you are contributing to the organization, then are you listed as doing so on the website or in materials?
        • For what does the group/ person advocate?
          • Aside from education, what kinds of political changes are being moved forward?
          • Is advocacy for the status quo or minimal change?
          • Are there clear policy statements?
          • Is the direction of advocacy unclear?
          • Is advocacy hidden from view, i.e. occurring behind the scenes so that you don’t know what is said?
          • Are mistakes admitted?
          • If the group provides or funds research, is the research needed? Is the research conducted following best practices to allow for satisfactory peer review?
          • If the group provides education, is the education free or at cost?
          • Check advocacy materials:
            • Are these accurate?
            • Do these align with your beliefs?
            • Are any of these for sale, and if so is the price reasonable or fair?
          • Is the group mailing list used for marketing?
        • Where do donations or where does the money go?
            • How much money does the organization have?
            • Is the money going towards marketing that appears to benefit personal sales?
            • If marketing occurs, is it transparent? Are connections to family, etc., and the group made clear?
            • Are donations going towards a specific project?
            • If there is a list of supporting organizations, is it clear whether those organizations receive any part of the donations?
            • Are affiliated businesses or nonprofits reaping profits – and if so, how is the money used by affiliates?
            • Are salaries being paid to those who don’t need it while volunteers who do need support go without funds?
        • Sharing is caring – in public and online:

          • Do they share information that is helpful to you?
          • Do they share relevant lawsuits or engaged in lawsuits?
              • Are the lawsuits shared effective?
          • Do they share relevant legislation or engaged in writing legislation?
                • Did you double-check the efficacy of legislation promoted?
                  • Please double-check as I believe there are some mistakes being made in promotion of legislation.
          • Do they share information on lobbying via other avenues, such as federal agencies?
          • Does the organization reasonably reference other outside, useful resources?
          • If not, is there a decent reason such as ability only to focus on a few things (which are?)?
        • Membership:
          • Do you know other members in the organization?
          • Do you have the sense that you are being kept from contact with other members or placed in silos?
        • What is the organizations privacy policy?
          • How does the organization collect or share email addresses and contacts – and is this ethical?
        • Testimony:
          • Are you given an opportunity to sign onto testimony or platforms in support or automatically added without explicit consent?
          • Are requests for support of testimony or platform straightforward?
          • Is there a trustworthy review of emails sent on behalf of the organization to insure consistency with mission and with member intentions?
          • Are there private meetings with legislators behind the scenes? What is being said and can this be verified?
        • Exaggeration of personal accomplishments, taking ownership of other’s work, and omission of other’s accomplishments:
            • Do they use a name which is similar to a larger, better-known organization (to steal its reputation)?
            • Is work original or does it build, with fair credit, on the work of others?
            • Does work plagiarize or mimic the work of others – copying other websites, articles, theories . . . ?
            • Is name-dropping used to suggest ownership of an activity or person?
            • Note the scale of any marketing or self-promotion – is anyone over-promoted, such as being the first subject of every sentence?
            • Note omission of thanks;
            • Note whether thanks is public to give honor – note BCC: email may not be trustworthy as “public;”
            • Note when giving thanks or credit if major players are omitted, focusing on non-competitors only;
            • Accomplishments – are these accomplishments simply by virtue of knowing someone and being there, i.e. what did the person actually do?
            • Make a list of actual accomplishments – evaluate for originality, practicality, and effectiveness;
            • For legislation, do they admit the original source of the idea or any support?
            • For lawsuits, do they share information on the proceedings and who is involved?
            • Is the resume based on paying contractors to do work and on expensive services, rather than work by the group?
        • Who does the organization or personality dismiss, attack, or critique, and is this justified?
            • If an individual is described as “angry” or otherwise emotional – is the individual in the loop to explain or reply?
              • Why is the individual “angry” or emotional? Is there a good reason?
            • If targeting the competence or work of another – is there a well-explained basis or is this just a prejudicial statement?
            • How does the organization, personality, or industry benefit from the attack?
            • How does the targeting impact the cause?
            • Does the personality or organization effectively isolate or break apart community and collaboration?
            • Is there any benefit to this behavior and to whom or what?
        • Deflecting Criticism:
          • Has the group deflected criticism through money, such as via (a) sales agreements, (b) offering jobs or well-paid bonuses, or (c) by virtue of access to expensive material goods or services?
          • Has the group deflected criticism by virtue of having many connections, or at least saying so?
          • Does the resume show marketing rather than substance?
        • Check reputation:
          • If a nonprofit, use these resources to check:
            • CharityNavigator dot org
            • Guidestar dot org
            • Give dot org (Take reviews with a grain of salt)
            • CharityCheck101 dot org (Not every organization will be listed, such as Last Tree Laws which is politically organized and not a nonprofit)
          • For any group, check connections via:
            • SourceWatch dot org (Background information on organizations such as ties to industry)
            • Check history of board members,
            • Check history of administrative teams,
            • Check primary donors,
            • Check affiliations,
            • Check product sales and licensing agreements (the latter is possible in big organizations),
            • Check openness or direct honesty regarding sales and affiliations,
        • If the organization appears to be doing little, can you contact the organization for information, assistance or advice? Is the organization paid to do its work? Is the organization underfunded and understaffed?

Sincere groups and leaders do a lot on shoe-strings. Donations and assistance need to go to them instead of misdirected organizations, however sleek or massive.

I work with Last Tree Laws with very little funds – no salary, no advertising funds, etc. This is because I care about change probably too much, and need a good knock on the head to protect my family’s and my own immediate needs. However, on the other end of the scale, the American Cancer Coalition pays its administrators exorbitant amounts while relying on volunteers – this seems highly exploitative.

I tried years ago to ask several organizations to do the work that I wanted done to no avail. There was simply too much work to be done to organize the research, explain, and deal with the wall of resistance. I contacted disability organizations recommended on the Massachusetts website to be confronted with a wall of dismissal. I contacted environmental organizations who were loathe to consider the concept of electromagnetic or wireless harm. I found others were blocked by mission statements or requirements to avoid politics. Nonprofits can be very much restricted.

Along with others beginning in 2013, I contacted the attorney general’s office to report concerns and request investigations or assistance – this was filed but action was not taken.

As a result, I put every bit of money and ounce of time I could into research, resources, and effecting change as an individual. Lobbying must be registered and the process is also complicated to prevent fines. For this reason, I did not consider accepting donations despite need until Last Tree Laws was organized, and then only based on conditions set by the state.

I’m not the only one who has done this. Grassroots groups are out there working for free or basically nothing. All need help.

Please reexamine which charities, groups, and leaders you support, and look at whether the support is deserved.

If you don’t like what your organization represents, but are loathe to leave, please think hard about why, whether you can effect change, or whether you should support another.

Can you effect change? Can you exert some quality control? Or should you leave? If you wish to continue spending time with friends in the organization, can you bring them with you elsewhere?

Some entrenched organizations do not want to “stick out their neck” for real issues until popularly accepted. Small grassroots organizations led by those impacted may be more sincere and lead the charge, alongside knowledgeable experts.

Once formerly “radical” issues are popularly accepted or are recognized as a potential donor avenue, then entrenched organizations may choose to take over control of the issue, but do less for change while leaving behind the contributions and ideas of the original advocates who had passion, sincerity, and who led the charge.

The UK Black Triangle Campaign (dot org) reported precisely this situation with the National Survivor User Network (NSUN dot org dot UK) in a story posted on 2018 May 3. NSUN had shared the fall of many of its grassroots organizations due to bidding on government contacts by non-user led charities and businesses. In this story, the NSUN warned more than a quarter of its member organizations had closed and that, after businesses or non-user-led organizations receive contracts, the contract was then offered to the user-led organizations for a much smaller pool of money in an “ad-hoc” manner. Is this the way to insure success and a fair wage? When the actual concerned advocates and ‘victims’ are crippled in pay, funding, and control? Clearly, this shows how charitable works have become business opportunities.

Being a nonprofit or offering charitable services is also a business, and there is competition and ruthlessness just as exists among other businesses. A desire for donors, status, power, can all lead to false claims and pushing others out of the way.

Some registered charities, political groups and even religious groups are actually scammers – CBS has profiled some political group examples such as Cops and Kids Together and Americans for the Cure of Breast Cancer. Smart Asset has posted a long list of scamming nonprofits that do nothing but ask for money with names like “Kids Wish for America” and “American Breast Cancer Society.”

Organizations that offer to improve lives may in fact be front groups to insure corporate sales.

That is, a corporation or individual may want to profit with sales of food, shelter, pharmaceuticals, and branding and opening up markets. A front group or agreement with a charity may serve to cover corporate costs, sales, salaries, and substantial tax benefits. This can veer beyond profits into getting farmers to use products with dubious benefits. For example, see the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACBIO dot to search for some updates of how “billionaire overlords” are pushing GMOs via various organizations.

The Bill Gates Foundation has been critiqued for supporting his child’s school and Bill Gate’s stocks in pharma, education, and GMOs. He appears to be using his foundation to profit and avoid taxes. For examples, see:

              • The Nation‘s “Bill Gates gives to the rich, including himself” March 17, 2020, by Tim Schwab
              • The book No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy by Linsey McGoey
              • Vox dot com “The Media loves the Gates Foundation. These experts are more skeptical” by Julia Belluz 2015 June 10
              • ChildrensHealthDefense dot org “The Brave New World of Bill Gates and Big Telecom” 8 May 2020 by Robert F. Kennedy and Dafna Tachover

In Massachusetts, Rep. Peter Durant has put forward bill H. 3708, “An Act Limiting the Compensation of Executives in Nonprofit Organizations.” He has the right idea but the limits proposed seem too low: he proposes for a nonprofit with a budget of $249,999 a maximum CEO salary of $49,719. If this were a part-time job, that would be more than adequate, but as a full-time job that is on the border of or not quite enough to support a family without a second income or government charity.

In sum, good work needs support.