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Ernie's House of Whoopass! January 03, 2011
January 03, 2011

Let's Get This Shit Rollin, Shall We?

The 2010 LBEH campaign has come to a close and me being a numbers kid of guy, decided I'd give you guys a nice by-the-numbers breakdown of things. Thanks to the tremendous efforts of Michael Sorrentino, Heather Childers and everyone else at FOX News, we more than surpassed our goal of breaking $100,000 in donations this year. And when I say we eclipsed it, I mean we crushed it to the tune of well over $150k!

Over the past few years, several people have commented about finding a different funding source that Paypal, since Paypal takes a certain percentage of the incoming donations -- $0.30 + 2.2% of the transaction amount. International donations usually add another small fee, usually anywhere from $0.10 to $0.50 -- the rhyme or reason I haven't quite been able to put my finger on just yet. Generally, that fee ranges anywhere from 2.21% ($55.30 on a $2,500.00 donation) all the way up to 8.2% ($0.41 on a $5.00 donations). So our transaction fees for the $99,968.58 that was donated via Paypal this year was $2,437.11, or 2.44%. At first this might seem like a huge amount but consider two things. First, a good portion of these donations were made by folks with credit cards --- and the credit card companies are going to take anywhere from 2%-4% anyway; so whether that fee goes to Paypal or some other corporate entity, the end result is the same for us. And secondly, without a means to accept donations electronically (such as Paypal), we wouldn't receive half the donations we do now. Speaking from my own experience, the number of times I actually get around to writing and mailing a donation, pales in comparison to the number of times I intend to get around to writing and mailing a donation. For lazy/absent minded people such as myself, being able to click a few mouse buttons and donate electronically solves that problem. Long story short, I'd rather receive 97.56% of nearly $100k, than 100% of say... only $50k.

Paypal 1177 $ 99,968.58 63.7%
Check 120 $ 28,490.00 18.1%
Counter Deposit 3 $ 1,025.05 0.7%
Wire Transfer 4 $ 4,500.00 2.9%
Frequent Flier Miles 27 $ 19,500.00 12.4%
Money Order 8 $ 1,120.00 0.7%
Credit Card 2 $ 2,407.19 1.5%

Counter Deposit means someone walked into a Wells Fargo/Wachovia bank and deposited funds directly into our checking account. We received a surprising amount of wire transfers this year, a huge jump from the one single transfer we've received over the last nine years, haha. The value of frequent flier miles were calculated via the industry standard, $0.01 per mile donated, up to a maximum of $2,000. Thus a standard domestic ticket requiring 25,000 miles was valued as a $250.00 donation, while a 100,000 mile donation was treated as a $1,000 donation. There were 2,380,000 frequent flier miles from 27 different donors, which purchased 50 tickets. And a lot of those tickets were crazy expensive: more than once a $2,000 airfare was 'purchased' with 75,000 or sometimes even as low as 50,000 frequent flier miles. So you folks were a TREMENDOUS help this year. Credit Card donors called us up and provided their card numbers to pay for specific tickets they wanted to pay for (from the same hometown, same branch they were in, etc).

$10 61 $610
$20 131 $2,620
$25 207 $5,175
$50 304 $15,200
$100 253 $25,300
$250 33 $8,250
$500 40 $20,000
$1,000 17 $17,000

Now a quick note to everyone who wrote in and enclosed a note such as, "Sorry but $10 is the best I can do this year." Nonsense -- any support great or small is more than appreciated. In fact if you donated $10 to LBEH this year, you most certainly were not alone: 60 other people did the same. Thus all 61 of your $10 donations added up to bring in $610. With that in mind, consider this:

Dear Sir/Ma'am, My name is SSG Shaw, I am the S1 for the 649th EN CO (HZ) from California. Our unit is currently at our mobilization station, Ft. McCoy, WI. We are leaving for Afghanistan very soon and just found out that we are going to be able to take block leave from 24-27 December. I have several lower enslited Soldiers that are unable to purchase tickets back to California to see their familes before we deploy. I noticed on your site that your appication process was closed but that it said for international tickets. Do you still have the ability to process any request for CONUS tickets from WI back to California? Any information would be helpful. I dont want to brodcast your site's info to my Joe's before I know for sure, I dont want get anyone's hope up prematurly. Thank you for your time, V/R SSG Shaw

We did indeed have the ability to help some of SSGT Shaw's troops visit their families before they deployed. In fact, we managed to purchase tickets for 14 of them including one Corporal Garcia whose ticket price was $606.19: a ticket paid for entirely be a bunch of folks who "only" chipped in $10 each. So when I say every little bit helps, I'm not just reciting what I read on a greeting card:

Ernie, Kat, Bibi and anyone else who makes your awsome mission happen: I cannot express enough the positive impact the LBEH organization has made in the lives of these Soldiers. The Soldiers left California with the expectation that they would not see their families for at least six months and that was only going to happen if they would be allowed mid tour leave. Others may not have seen their families for the duration of the tour had it not been for the generosity of the LBEH Organization and your hard work. I was the lucky one here; I had the opportunity to tell these Soldiers face to face they were going to see their families for Christmas. The reactions varied from absolute surprise and thankfulness to tears. One of our Specialists stood speechless when I told her she was going home for Christmas, covering her mouth, tearing up and walking in circles. She told me that her family was struggling to afford the cost of a ticket, and weighing that cost against a short two day visit was a true inner struggle. She called her family crying and said "I'll see you in a few days." It is a double edge sword, having to say goodbye all over again... however, in the end it's worth it. After all, what would you give to see your family one more time.... especially knowing where we're going and that there is always that chance you may not return. Last night, our community in Chico, CA. put together a family support fund raiser. This was not a military driven event; it was coordinated and executed 100% by a community who cares for Soldiers. I had a chance to do a brief video conference and talk to the community. I made sure to highlight your organization and the service you have provided for these Soldiers and their families. They asked that I express to you thier gratitude. You've touched our unit, and words just cannot express enough our deep appreciation for you all. Thank you, SSG Shaw, Training and Administration NCO

The 2010 LBEH donation grand total was $157,010.82 in cash and goods (frequent flier miles). But like I said before, $2,437.11 went to the good folks at Paypal, leaving us with $154,573.71 to spend on the troops this year. And trust me boys and girls, that ain't nothing to sneeze at! Tickets were distributed as follows: Navy 38, Army 41, Air Force 40, and Marines 29. There were no Coast Guard requests this year. Our administrative costs tend to average about $4,000-$5,000 throughout the year: reimbursing internet and cell phone bills, accountant fees, bank fees, Paypal fees, computer equipment, PO box, stamps, etc. When we take in less than $100,000 in donations, that means our administrative fees hover around 5-6%; now that we've crossed well over the $100,000 mark, this year's admin costs should be around 3-4%. We won't know the actual number until we send everything to our account and file taxes a little later in the year.

Leftover funds. I'm pleased to say we had some this year! You see when we first started LBEH back in 2001, each year we'd spend every penny we had so we'd start and end the year with $0.00 in the bank. The problem this created is when we kicked off on Veteran's Day the following year, ticket requests outpaced donations by a wide margin. So even though there were ticket requests forecast well in advance and some inexpensive 30-day plus advance airfares, we couldn't take advantage of those discounts because we didn't have enough donations yet. Thus over the next few years, the lesson we learned was to try and save a little money each year so we could hit the ground running the following year. This had another hidden bonus: when we had more than a few nickels in our bank accounts, other financial institutions began to take notice. This allowed us to open a corporate account with American Express last year! Aside from getting priority service when we called in, this also allowed us to accumulate frequent flier miles of our own, based upon the ticket purchases we made! So if we buy a plane ticket for $1,000, we also earn 1,000 AMEX membership points which we can turn into flier miles; it's not exactly self sustaining, but its a start, right?

One weak spot that we plan on working on next year: Gift Receipts. This year a few people made donations in someone else's name (such as a boss or parent) and wanted the donation receipt mailed to the third party. As of right now we don't have any process in place to handle that, thus it was a clumsy affair for us. We managed to update the online donor list quite easily but if I missed anyone on paper, I apologize and trust me when I say it wasn't on purpose. On a related note, be aware that tax receipts are on their way out this week via snail mail, while anyone who donated electronically will be receiving their receipt via email.

And with that? I guess we can say we've brought another year's LBEH to a close. If I haven't already thanked you a hundred times, let me make it one hundred and one. My sincerest gratitude to everyone who offered their support this year. Without your help, a lot of military families would have been apart during this past holiday season. I wish you all the very best in 2011.

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