Niki7a vs Magen – Charity Drive

Like the epic rumble in the jungle, after a quick offer to throw money to charity on behalf of their suffering, other generous souls jumped in to do the same. The result? Niki7a and Magen are now locked in a legendary contest to see who can wear their DEF CON 29 bracelet the longest. Whoever wears the bracelet the longest gets to pick the charity we donate to. Magen has opted to have donations go to SailFuture, “a comprehensive child welfare agency, and private school based in St. Petersburg, Florida” who’s mission is “to innovate and develop effective programs for high-risk youth, particularly youth in foster care.” At the time of this blog, Niki7a is still deciding.

Image courtesy @drwolfff

This started out with Nikit7a’s innocent Tweet:

Magen qualified that there are challenge coin rules to keep each other honest:

With all of the people kicking in to donate, I will maintain a spreadsheet to track pledges and totals!

How Many Trees Are You Celebrating @arborday?

The Arbor Day Foundation is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1972 that seeks to “inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees“.

I received a “Colorado Tree Survey” from them today, part of what is a never-ending stream of snail-mail spam that I have written about before. For this envelope, the thing that caught my attention was the weight of the envelope.

To say that it was heavier than other junk mail would be an understatement. In fact, it was well over 5x heavier than most of my junk mail including the ones that send small pads of paper and mailing labels.

That’s right, it came in over three pounds. For Arbor to presumably send these out to at least hundreds of thousands of people in Colorado. It’s fair to say that took quite a few trees to produce not to mention the general carbon emissions required to produce and distribute. This seems to be at odds with their general mission purpose especially in the age of email.

Given that 23.4% of their income is not spent on program expenses it is discouraging to say the least. To put it into better perspective, over six million dollars went to administrative expenses and their CEO Matt Harris made $336,445 in 2019. Considering that $961,603 of their income came from government grants that year it is really frustrating to see nonprofit entities spend money on such salaries and waste money on killing trees to conduct surveys about celebrating trees.

If I print this blog out and mail it back in place of the survey, I wonder if they would appreciate the irony.

A String of Charity Auctions…

Auction #1: Attrition.org 2020 Custom Swag Pack (limited edition)
Auction #2: Attrition.org Six Acrylic Coins w/ Pouch (quantity: 15)
Auction #3: 270 Unique Stickers (Miscellaneous, InfoSec, Pop Culture, More!)


Starting this week, I will post the first of several charity auctions to eBay. I don’t know how many there will be exactly, but these will be bigger than the typical Twitter-based single sticker pack charity drives I do on occasion. The goal is for each to be significant in both what you win as well as raising money to help good causes. Ming Chow and Lei have both generously donated a lot of great InfoSec swag for the cause, so keep an eye out for t-shirts, con badges, as well as some 0day Attrition swag.

With wildfires devastating California and Colorado, among other places, providing a bit of relief will be one goal. Expect to see another charity to help an animal cause and one for military veterans. Due to the way eBay works I cannot give the winner a choice in where the money goes so please choose the one you bid on wisely.

As auctions are created I will Tweet about them on @attritionorg and appreciate any sharing on your favorite platforms (e.g. Slack, Discord, Carrier Pigeon) to reach a broader audience. In addition to the original posted item, I will add more to the final box that gets sent out based on target amounts reached in the charity auction. But first, please read this disclaimer:

Bid on what you see listed and pictured in the auction, not on what might or might not be included later. The stuff that will be added is very much in the spirit of the original ‘box of shit‘ I began sending out long ago. Generally fun or odd things that have no real value other than laughter or odd looks I hope. Any value attributed to additional items that accompany the listing is your own.

This will finally be your first chance to have a shot at the slick new Attrition acrylic coins and another chance at a set of seven new Attrition stickers.

20201101_162819

During this period of charity auctions there will be impromptu offers of one-off sticker packs or knock-off ‘Lolzo’ coins that don’t come in the nice black felt pouch (and typically don’t have all six coins). As I tend to do, they will be given out contingent on smaller charity donations. Please note that I do my best to make it so people donating are guaranteed what I offer -or- make it clear that it is ‘first-come, first-serve’ (FCFS) and that if you donate you may not necessarily receive what you hoped. This is all done in good faith with the goal of helping non-profits out during a global pandemic, when many are seeing an understandable decrease in their usual funding.

Any questions? Tweet at me so the answers can be seen by all. Really want one of those pouches of coins or sticker packs? Feel free to message an offer that involves donating to a charity in good standing, that uses at least 80% of their money for program expenses and less than 10% for admin expenses. You can see those numbers for many charities using the wonderful Charity Navigator site. For smaller charities that may be local to you or have a more personal connection feel free to DM me their web site and let me look around first.

  • There will only be two auctions that involve slick custom-made Lazlo wooden trays.
  • There will be one super-mega-pack of stickers (InfoSec and not).
  • There will be one auction with a lot of con badges. In fact, they might be split up into a couple auctions.
  • There will be one auction with InfoSec t-shirts.
  • I’ll consider charity offers on ~ 20 of the black pouches with coins starting on September 18.
  • I’ll consider charity offers on ~ 10 of the knock-off Lolzo bags with coins after September 23.

All said and done, this year’s Attrition swag cost over $1,000 to do, but supported one artist and one American company. I had originally planned on selling half of what was made to recoup those costs and then give away the rest. Since the world is in bad shape I decided it would be better to try to raise as much for charity as possible instead. I share this in hopes that anyone receiving items will bear with me on shipping speed and turnaround time. I am doing this in my limited spare time, paying postage, braving the post office, and doing all of it in good faith.

Thanks,
Brian

Ad-hoc Charity Type Things

Last month, I decided to an ad-hoc charity drive via Twitter. I did it figuring I might get a handful of donations between $5 and $25 dollars and would help out some animal charities. Boy was I shocked.

Right out of the gate, Steve Syfuhs donated $35 to the ASPCA for directly helping them previously. Almost at the same time, Steve Ragan donated $130 to Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation to help over 3,000 wildlife they get there a year. Wildlife rehab shops are vanishing around the U.S. as they don’t receive any state or federal funding, and rely entirely on donations and fundraising. Along with Ragan’s donation, ‘Priest’ (@imyourpriestt) donated $75 to the Georgia Society of for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

With the ‘Steves’ quickly donating, I decided that at least three people would receive something from me in return for their generous donations. Before that Tweet could land, Doc Panda showed that he donated $50 to the Tiny Paws Pug Rescue, which is epic because Pugs are epic. By this point, I was working on expanding the rewards and decided that first place would get a box, not an envelope, and kept baiting for more donations. Then it hit, someone donated over $300 to a charity as part of this ad-hoc contest.

That donation to Cavy Care is amazing, because it is run by two people out of their house, with help from volunteers on weekends primarily. In the past, they have had as many as 150 guinea pigs that needed care for various reasons, usually because they are adopted as a pet for children, and they aren’t suitable for kids despite that notion. Guinea pigs are rarely adopted from animal shelters as they tend to be adults with unknown provenance or age. Cavy Care provides a sanctuary for these guinea pigs, and adopts them out very cautiously to ensure that the gpiggie finds a forever home. Cavy Care was pleasantly surprised at the sudden huge donation!

One Friday night, five amazing people, and $623 donated to charity in exchange for stickers originally. I think I sent out three boxes of stuff to the top three, and large envelopes to the other two. I cannot thank these people enough, and I hope that more will follow in these footsteps. InfoSec tends to draw large salaries. We all love our toys and our lifestyles, me included. But I think it is important that we stop a few times a year and look to help others that could benefit from our generosity.

(Disclaimer: Lebowski was not included. I would not ship that glorious beast.)

I wanted to support the Red Cross during Harvey… (but I can’t, so I need alternatives…)

File this under “blogs I didn’t expect to, or want to write tonight”.

With hurricane Harvey causing incredible damage and distress to Texas, many of us are looking for ways to help. I’d love to be down there in a boat rescuing animals or humans, bringing free bottled water (as opposed to the horrible alternative), or other forms of support. For those not able to make that commitment, we fall back to supporting charities that are on the ground helping. Tonight started out simple enough:

08-29-2017 21:43:38 Lyger: have you donated anything to any hurricane relief fund?
08-29-2017 21:44:09 jericho: not yet
08-29-2017 21:44:17 jericho: if i do, likely Red Cross
08-29-2017 21:44:38 jericho: may do ASPCA, looks like they are doing relief efforts specifically for animals
08-29-2017 21:44:50 Lyger: was wondering about both of those
08-29-2017 21:45:03 jericho: RC is kind of ‘old faithful’ in that regard
08-29-2017 21:45:03 Lyger: let me know if you do. if reasonable, i’ll match

First, know that I am not only one who donates to charity who is careful where we donate, but I have learned the hard way that not all charities are created equal. I’ve also pointed out how so many of them waste considerable money trying to solicit more donations. I’ve advocated for everyone who will listen to tap into Amazon’s excellent program for giving to charity via your own purchases. I’ve also considered this at a slightly more abstract levels, on smaller amounts, because I really believe that people in a position to help should do so. Please, before you come down on me for warning someone away from charity or Red Cross specifically, I have been very clear it is about supporting charities doing the work you support. In this case, I just wanted to find which charities are specifically helping hurricane Harvey victims, and how.

I started by showing Lyger what Red Cross looks like under Charity Navigator, which is a 501c3 that I support too. With 90% going to program expenses, that is excellent, despite a 3/4 star rating (the CN star rating is more nuanced).

However, things went downhill after that. Start by Googling for “red cross harvey” and you get somewhat expected results:

Follow the links and you get the Red Cross donation page for Harvey:

Unfortunately, this is basically “give us money” with no supporting evidence for what they are doing during Harvey specifically. On the side bar we get a video though! Ignoring the culturally insensitive message suggesting that Hispanic kids have to read a book to figure out who their mother is, we see a building with cots and displaced families, but not a single Red Cross volunteer (the person speaking is almost certainly not a volunteer, as is the person filming them). The blankets and shots are strategic showing a good mix of people, Red Cross branded blankets, and… not much else. The man they briefly interview, I personally don’t think he fully understands if the person that saved him or his family were affiliated with the Red Cross, just that he is grateful that his family was rescued.

At the end of the video, the nice lady encourages you to visit their web site (see screenshot above, that is all the info I could find), or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (800-733-2717). Ignoring the web site issue, and I didn’t pay attention to the number, I called the first number I found on their site: 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669). Since I called the ‘Help Now’ number, it wasn’t the intended line to find out more information on how Red Cross is helping during Harvey, which is my fault. But I called, and the nice gentleman I talked to tonight was confused why I would ask about the Red Cross relief efforts (?!). Once I explained and he understood, he told me to call their ‘main line’, 1-800-733-2767 (RED-CROSS). I called that and got an interesting voicemail/routing lineup:

1. Opens with ‘call 911’ or call Houston coast guard if in life threatening situation
2. If experiencing flooding, they give advice to avoid attics, etc.
3. If calling from TX visit redcross.org/shelter or press 1
4. if calling from LA ..
5. To continue in español ..
6. Press 0 for all other inquiries
A. If you are calling about a blood donation, press 1
B. If inquiring on training and certification, press 2
C. To make a financial donation, press 3
a. For all other inquiries press 0 and you will be connected with to the next available representative, you can also visit redcross.org for more information
b. press 0
c. Options for Red Cross / Armed Forces liason
d. Disaster Assistance
e. Else, call back during regular hours

I spent the time trying to find out what the Red Cross is doing during hurricane Harvey, and I am left confused and wanting more information. Again, before you start telling me that of course they are good, wait a minute. The Red Cross took in over half a billion dollars in 2015 via “Contributions, Gifts & Grants“, and ultimately $2,726,672,619 dollars total. That is 2.7 with a B.

I am not saying the Red Cross doesn’t do amazing work, I know they do. I have done the same level of digging tonight in prior years for other disasters and been content they do good things. I have seen videos, first-hand accounts, and a wealth of information showing how they helped. What I am saying is that the Red Cross has completely failed in their social media campaign during Harvey. They are letting down the people they are helping, their countless volunteers who do wonderful work, and their supporters looking to make sure that money donated today goes to help the crisis we’re facing today.

My advice is that Red Cross continue helping during Harvey, but seriously re-evaluate their social media and fundraising efforts afterwards. Consider that my go-to charity to learn about charities, gave a pop-up about how to support during Harvey. And if you scroll down any given page, when the pop-up appears, it shows how you can help in their eyes based on data:

This is clever and helpful and I honestly wish this was a banner at the top of their site right now. That said, clicking on it is revealing in the context of the above. Consider the charities they recommend and where Red Cross places on that list. Of course, verify those other charities ranked higher are actually helping the crisis we face today, just as I tried to do with the Red Cross tonight. Please… make sure that if you donate, your money goes as far as possible. Doesn’t matter if it is $1 or $1,000, just make sure it counts. In the mean time, I am going to keep researching to find a charity I feel will deliver the most good during this incredible time of need, and look to donate tomorrow. Thank you.