ALA Foundation Turns 10!
We’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the ALA Foundation. Here’s a look at our first decade, why the Foundation is needed, and what lies ahead.
A lot has happened in the 10 years the ALA Foundation has existed. When the Foundation was established in 2007, the average price of gas was $2.80, George W. Bush was president, Prince performed at the Super Bowl XLI halftime show, the final book in the Harry Potter series was released, and the first now-iconic iPhone was announced. The American Legion Auxiliary created the 501(c) (3) nonprofit charitable ALA Foundation out of need to ensure the financial future of the American Legion Auxiliary. Now, in 2017, the ALA Foundation has grown stronger since its infancy. As the ALA Foundation celebrates 10 years of giving, Auxiliary magazine takes a look at the Foundation’s beginnings, its current mission impact, how it can benefit you, and how it works to ensure the ALA’s future.
Why a Foundation?
The American Legion Auxiliary is a strong force for good in communities nationwide, and many organizations want to help us serve our mission by donating to our projects and programs. However, the IRS classifies the ALA as a 501(c)(19) nonprofit veterans service organization, a special and limited classification of nonprofit membership organizations with specific eligibility criteria tied to having served in the U.S. Armed Forces during specific wartime eras or being a direct relative of a wartime veteran. While The American Legion and ALA have the same tax-exempt status as the more common classification of 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organizations, many corporations have restrictions that prevent them from donating to a 501(c)(19).
The American Legion Auxiliary recognized that in order to secure our legacy and heritage of Service Not Self, we needed to take a different approach to protect the organization’s financial future. Since it would be impossible to educate every corporation about the tax-exempt status of 501(c)(19), it became clear that the easier path to pursuing external funding was to establish an ALA Foundation in the tax category allowable by most corporations’ and trusts’ donation criteria. The ALA Foundation was created with that purpose in mind, and its sole mission is to support the Auxiliary’s charitable and educational outreach programs through endowed gift s, grants, and sponsorships.
The ALA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization of the ALA which simply provides an easier way for corporations and individuals to donate money to deliver our mission. The funds donated are used for the ALA’s direct mission outreach, local and National Veterans Creative Arts Festivals, and the Mission Endowment Fund.
Where We Are Today
Like with any new organization, the ALA Foundation spent its early years getting established and finding its footing. In its first decade, the ALA Foundation has developed its board of directors, transitioning from “founders focused on the process of organizing” to “doers focused on raising funds.” The Foundation educates ALA members on the benefit of having a foundation and raising money to support its mission. The ALA Foundation is now starting to see its efforts pay off. After recently adopting an updated mission statement and establishing its first strategic plan, the Foundation’s board of directors aim to maximize the benefit of the Foundation for ALA members, units, and departments.
“We’re really focused. We know our job is to raise money. We have something to follow now, and we’re finally maturing. That happens a lot with young foundations,” said ALA Foundation Board of Directors President Linda Boone, who has over 21 years of nonprofit management experience and also served as ALA national president in 1992-1993.
Boone says a turning point came in 2014 when then-ALA National President Nancy Brown-Park designated the ALA Foundation’s grants program as her special emphasis for the Parade of Checks fundraising challenge at that year’s Washington DC Conference.
“I think one of the biggest turnarounds to get our members to understand the potential that the Foundation has is when we started giving out grants,” Boone said. “We finally had enough funds to be able to start awarding money to ALA departments and units. Members saw that as an opportunity. Then, once we started giving sub grants out, people could pass money through the Foundation that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Those were landmark points for the Foundation. Members got more excited. They saw a benefit — a tangible benefit. The first time we ever had enough money to give back to the ALA from the Mission Endowment Fund, it was $2,100. But, it was a start, and a great motivator to grow financially stronger.”
From those turnaround points, in just 10 years, the ALA Foundation has awarded over $401,000 toward Auxiliary mission outreach programs, which includes $18,800 for Veterans Creative Arts Festival Mini Grants, nearly $168,000 to the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, $97,250 in sub grants, $39,910 from investment earnings of the Mission Endowment Fund, and over $77,000 to Veterans Project Fund grants. And there’s more funds available to grant! Here’s how the Mission Endowment benefits the ALA, and how your ALA unit or department can take advantage of funding opportunities through the ALA Foundation:
Mission Endowment Fund
An endowment fund holds its principal in perpetuity — meaning funds cannot be pulled from the account — and the investment earnings (i.e., the interest) are paid out each year. The monies of the ALA Foundation Mission Endowment Fund are permanently restricted so that future generations may benefit from ALA programs that support all of our veterans and promote education, good citizenship, and outreach to veterans facing tough challenges. Currently, interest from the ALA Mission Endowment Fund goes to sustain the ALA Girls Nation Program, and the goal is for our investment to grow large enough to permanently fund the program from earnings. How does this work? Let’s say a donor gives $100 to the ALA Mission Endowment Fund. That $100 is invested and yields a 5 percent interest for that year. The 5 percent interest (or $5) earned will be put toward an ALA program, while the $100 principal will remain in the endowment fund. The interest earning will continue to grow each year, multiplying the returns on that single donation. It’s a donation that keeps on giving for as long as the ALA exists!
Many ALA units, districts, and departments have run into the same problem over the years — a corporation or other organization wants to donate to the Auxiliary, but their requirements say the recipient of its financial contributions must be a 501(c) (3) nonprofit, and the ALA is a 501(c)(19). If that scenario sounds familiar, the ALA Foundation is here to help your ALA entity receive the funding by serving as a vehicle through which a corporation can donate to a “(c) (3)” and in turn get the money to your entity. Through sub grants, outside organizations are able to donate to the ALA Foundation — a 501(c)(3) — and the Foundation, in turn, will sub-grant the funds received for your unit, district, or department according to the terms and conditions of the grantor. However, in order for sub-granting from a third party to be considered, the funds provided must comply with rules and support the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary.
Local Veterans Creative Arts Festival Grants
Art therapy is proven to help people, especially veterans, improve their mental and emotional states by encouraging expression in a non-threatening way. VA medical facilities use the creative arts as an effective form of rehabilitative therapy to help veterans recover from, and cope with, both physical and emotional disabilities. Because of the therapeutic benefits the creative arts provide to veterans, the ALA co-presents the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, starting as a sponsor with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2000.
Veterans Creative Arts Festival (VCAF) Mini Grants allow Auxiliary entities to aid in the wellbeing of veterans by introducing them to art therapy at the local and state level. ALA grant funds may be requested from the Foundation for VCAF workshops and to prepare for or facilitate local competitions, which can earn a veteran a gold medal and the chance to attend the national festival.
Veteran Projects Fund Grants
The ALA recognizes that with nearly half of post-9/11 veterans being diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury, our mission has never been more critical than it is today, and the ALA needed to enhance supporting our mission of serving veterans through grant funding to Auxiliary units, districts, and departments. Our members are passionate about providing care and comfort to those who serve. The Veteran Projects Fund grants help ALA units and departments meet some emergent need so to better assist veterans and military. An emergent need is a need appearing, arising, occurring, or developing for the first time.
“Every time the ALA Foundation awards a grant, I think ‘This was made possible because of the generosity of our donors, and if we didn’t have a Foundation, then that wouldn’t have happened,” Boone said. “The actual benefits to our veterans that we see from these grants are wonderful. They’re all great stories.”
Veteran Projects Fund Grants are available to any ALA unit, district, or department in good standing with the IRS and the American Legion Auxiliary to use for projects benefiting veterans, military, and their families. Here are some of the impactful ways a few ALA departments have utilized the Veteran Projects Fund Grants:
Delaware veterans homeless shelter receives grants after Hurricane Sandy damage
After Hurricane Sandy pummeled the Northeast, Home of the Brave, a veterans homeless shelter, experienced significant damage to its exterior. The shelter was in need of new windows, siding, and insulation. The ALA Department of Delaware was awarded a grant to help with this critical new need. They also later applied for a second grant for a music therapy project for veterans staying at the shelter. With the second ALA Foundation grant, the ALA provided Home of the Brave with six guitars and six computer tablets containing lesson soft ware, plus the services of a guitar instructor to provide 16 one-on-one hourly classes per week.
Veterans in Kansas use nature to nurture mental, physical health
Getting outdoors for regular physical activity helps foster a positive mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing, especially for veterans who suffer from PTSD. Thanks to an ALA Foundation grant to the ALA Department of Kansas, the Leavenworth City Veterans Therapeutic fitness trail has three fitness stations, where veterans can enjoy a well-balanced workout when walking or jogging along the outdoor path located at the Leavenworth VA medical center. Each fitness station includes scientifically designed exercises along the fitness trail.
Homeless children of veterans in California receive help and hope
Often, the forgotten victims of homelessness are children of veterans. Recognizing a need for the children of women veterans at the U.S. Vets Long Beach, the ALA Department of California applied for a grant to create a learning space which includes wall murals, desks, storage bins, Apple computers, tablets, cameras, printers, music instruments, easels and paint, and art and writing supplies.
The support of this grant has made learning and thriving possible for the women and children living in homelessness, with 125 women and children served in 2016. The space also provided a place for women veterans to participate in court-mandated classes in order to retain custody of their children. Additionally, three children were able to use the computers to be homeschooled so as not to fall behind other students their age.
New clothing labels at Connecticut VA facility offer peace of mind
Sometimes, the most “simple” of projects turn out to be extremely meaningful. Often, residents at VA hospitals don’t want to give up their favorite or most comfortable items of clothing for fear they’ll be lost. This can pose a health issue when articles of clothing are not cleaned regularly. The ALA Department of Connecticut saw this need and applied for a grant for a clothing label maker. Now, more than 500 veterans, 200 in hospital or home, and more than 300 living on grounds of the Rocky Hill VA Home and Hospital feel more assured their items will be safely returned after being laundered.
Read more grant stories like these at www.ALAFoundation.org.
Support the Foundation and Protect Your Legacy
Before the horrific attacks besetting the Global War on Terror, the nation had been at peace for many years, and ALA members began channeling their energy into raising funds for other organizations in their communities.
“This is a historic problem — our members getting passionate about projects that are handled outside of our organization,” Boone said. “We are misdirecting our funds, and we need to focus on our mission — to help veterans and their families.
All of these other organizations are great, but we shouldn’t use resources of the American Legion Auxiliary to raise funds for other organizations.”
While supporting veterans in whatever way we can is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, now that the nation is engaged in its longest war in U.S. history, it is imperative that members channel their energy and focus into ensuring our mission endures for the next generation of veterans. The ALA has re-focused to raise funds for the benefit of the American Legion Auxiliary, and a great way to do that is through the Foundation. By channeling our volunteer energy to raise funds for the American Legion Auxiliary, we can be certain that all funds raised will go directly to where they’re needed most — whether that’s to the Mission Endowment Fund, grants, Creative Arts Festivals, or another local project.
The Tuesday following Thanksgiving, right after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is #GivingTuesday — a national day of giving started by a New York-based nonprofit organization in 2012. #GivingTuesday has grown to encompass more than 40,000 businesses and nonprofits worldwide that now raise funds this way. The ALA Foundation launched ALA #GivingTuesday in 2015. Through widespread promotion, including a booth at ALA National Convention and an emphasis on social media, #GivingTuesday has generated over $72,000 for the ALA Foundation in just two years. All of the donations have helped veterans and military families through the Foundation’s Veteran Projects Fund and the Mission Endowment Fund.
“It’s not just about someone writing us a $1,000 check,” said Madison Maves, ALA development outreach lead. “People were digging into their pocketbooks and donating dollars and change. When they’re lined up doing that, it quickly adds up and makes a huge impact.”
#GivingTuesday is Nov. 28 this year. Innovairre Communications has agreed once again to match donations given to the Foundation up to $15,000, allowing donors to make an even greater impact!
Amazon is one of the largest online retailers in the world, and now is a huge donor based on individuals’ purchases. Whether you’re buying clothes, home goods, or books, chances are you’ve shopped online at Amazon. You can support the ALA Foundation while shopping on Amazon using AmazonSmile. Simply take 10 seconds to sign in to Amazon through smile. amazon.com, select the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation, and Amazon then automatically donates 0.5 percent of every purchase you make to the ALA Foundation. No added fee and no catch. This truly is the simplest way to support the Foundation — buy on Amazon and sign in to your account using AmazonSmile.
Direct Mail Appeals
Each summer, the ALA Foundation mails wall calendars to select ALA members and nonmembers as part of a direct mail fundraising campaign. This annual mailing and the gift included are a small gesture from the ALA Foundation to both thank donors and members for their commitment to sustaining the Foundation while engaging donors to continue their financial support.
“The calendars are made in the USA, which is great, and all of the funds donated go to the ALA Mission Endowment Fund,” Maves said. “We’ve really seen the success from this appeal grow in the last few years.”
Planned Giving is merely including your intention to make a charitable gift to the ALA by designating the ALA as a beneficiary in your will or life insurance. A planned gift establishes your legacy of support for the ALA as an organization you love. It is a planned gift because it’s made in life or at death as part of the donor’s estate or financial planning. By contrast, things such as dues payments and regular donations come out of one’s own discretionary income. These are budgeted gifts, not planned gifts. Because the administrative costs of American Legion Auxiliary programs are paid from dues and other sources, all money contributed to the ALA is used as instructed by the donor to benefit the intended Auxiliary program, service, department, or the ALA Foundation.
You don’t need to contribute much to make a lasting impact. No matter the size of any individual donation, collectively, every gift adds up to helping ensure the Auxiliary is here for generations to come. Some of the more common ways to make a planned gift is through your will or trust, through your retirement plan, or designating the ALA as one of your beneficiaries in your life insurance policy.
“It’s really important that we get support for the Foundation from members so that we can serve more veterans and their families,” Boone said. “As they make their personal choices for planned giving, I hope they think about that. We have a big mission, and we can’t do it without the support of donors.”
Learn more about Planned Giving by downloading the ALA Planned Giving Guide at www.ALAFoundation.org.
The Driving Force Behind the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation
The ALA Foundation Board of Directors is comprised of 14 individuals passionate about the ALA mission and committed to ensuring the ALA Foundation continues to grow. Each board member has a professional background and brings a unique perspective to the table. Each of the elected directors serves a three-year term on the board, and is eligible for re-election. The board also includes Honorary Director David K. Rehbein, Past National Commander of The American Legion in 2008-2009, and current president of The American Legion Department of Iowa Foundation.
A strategic objective of the board is to create and foster relationships with outside donors, ALA members, units, and departments to continue to build positive relationships and a culture of goodwill and giving.
The ALA Foundation Board of Directors personally reaches out to donors to thank them for their gift s and talk to them about their interests, reminding ALA entities that the Foundation is a two-way street. While many understand where their financial contributions go and how they help, it is also equally important for ALA units and departments to know that the Foundation is here to help you, too, through the various grant opportunities offered.
“The Foundation is here to preserve an organization that is 100 years old and continue to help fund it for another 100 years so our mission can endure,” said Madison Maves, ALA development outreach lead.
Learn more about the ALA Foundation Board of Directors by visiting www.ALAFoundation.org.
Do you have a professional background and are interested in sharing your leadership skills, creativity, prior board experience, grassroots fundraising ideas, and more? The ALA Foundation is always looking for qualified applicants to serve on its board of directors. Learn more about the ALA Foundation, its board of directors, and apply to be considered for a board position by visiting www.ALAFoundation.org.
DID YOU RECEIVE YOUR CALENDAR? To receive this calendar or other donation-related gifts from the American Legion Auxiliary, please contact Donor Services at (855) 222-2554 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applying for a Veteran Projects Fund Grant is simple and makes a powerful difference in the lives of our veterans. Let the ALA Foundation help you help our veterans! Here’s how:
Step One — Identify your project
Veterans’ needs vary in each community, with some veterans in one region experiencing higher rates of unemployment and higher rates of depression in another. That’s why it’s important to do some research before deciding on a project. Once you’ve identified a specific emergent need, make sure your proposed project supports the ALA mission.
Once your project has been identified, determine how much money is needed for your proposed grant. Keep in mind that the grant request cannot exceed 80 percent of the total project, so you will need to raise funds for the remaining 20 percent. For example, if the total cost of a project is $3,000, apply for a $2,400 grant and raise the remaining $600.
Step Two — Apply for a grant
You’ve identified your project, determined how much it will cost, and have started to fundraise for the remaining 20 percent of the total project cost — great! It’s time to fill out the simple, user-friendly grant application. Visit www.ALAFoundation.org to get started on the four-page application, which includes a brief description of the project, the amount requested, and a budget for any items that must be funded. Chances are, you’ve already gathered this information in your research process. Be sure to explain in the description how veterans will benefit from the funded project. You’ll also need to ensure your ALA unit or department is in good standing both with the IRS and the American Legion Auxiliary.
Once your application is complete, you can submit the application via email, fax, or mail to the ALA Foundation. Visit www.ALAFoundation.org for an application and contact information for how to submit.
Step Three — Promote your project
You’re almost there! Once you submit your grant application, the ALA Foundation Grant Review Committee will determine if your proposal meets eligibility requirements, and then the ALA Foundation Board of Directors will determine the final grant award. Don’t worry: If your grant is not approved, you will be notified of the reasons so you can submit a revised application.
Once awarded, the funds must be spent within 12 months, and you’ll also need to submit a report on how funds were spent. But why stop there? Be sure to spread the word on your project using the Marketing and Promotional Materials found at www.ALAforVeterans.org under the Public Relations and Marketing Resources tab via log-in with your ALA member ID number. By doing so, you’re not only helping others understand who the American Legion Auxiliary is, you’re also inspiring others to help veterans in need.