The Rock Band Sunchunck: Checks with Watchdog Groups to find top Vet and Military Family Causes

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ROCKERS TOPS IN VET SUPPORT!

By Bobby Hanafin STAFF WRITER/Veterans Issues Editor

When it comes to doing their research on checking out the most efficient and effective Veteran, Troop, and Military Family efforts and causes to contribute to or work with, we at Veterans Today were amazed to find that Mike Bertolami a musician with the Band Sunchunck was way ahead of us in knowing how to check out Veteran and Military Family related support causes.

We have noted in several previous articles on Veterans Today concerned that since September 11th Troop, Veteran, and Military Family support efforts came out of the woodwork to compete withand add to the already long established military and Veteran related efforts like the USO, Fisher House, and the American Red Cross to name a few.

The proliferation of so many Support Our Troop causes was so significant that Congress called on Watchdog organizations to rate such efforts for fund raising efficiency that ensured the bulk of donations raised went to a causes stated effort rather than in the pockets of scam artist, con men and women, or simply too much administrative overhead.

Being this tis the Season to be Giving, we agreed with Mike that now would be the opportune time to focus on Veterans Today’s concerns about giving and what Mike and the band Sunchunck did right in checking out which groups to approach on a joint fund raising effort.

See:

Tis the Season Support Our Troop groups compete with all other Charities One of our earliest articles from way back on December 6, 2008.

Tax Time Tips: Check Out the Veteran or Troop Support group BEFORE giving! February 11, 2009

Do All Non-Profits really Support Veterans, Troops, and Military Families? March 29, 2010

Charity Watchdog Group Continues Giving Veteran and Troops Causes an “F.”

We do not know exactly which article, or articles, Mike read, but suffice it to say that on behalf of Sunchunck, Mike Bertolami contacted us asking for additional advice on how to check out those patriotic efforts and causes having the best ratings of funds going to Veterans, Troops, and Military Families instead of admin overhead and advertisement.

I’ve decided to do a story on the steps Mike, and the band Sunchunck, went through to determine the best Vet, Troop, and Military Family causes to collaborate with to raise funds and donations that would be honest and fair to all concerned.

This is NOT intended as any endorsement of Sunchunck (outside of admiring the honest and integrity shown by Mike Bertolami in trying to do the right thing with Sunchunck’s musical talents that would benefit Sunchunck, whichever Vet, Troop, and Family Cause Sunchunck approached, and of course Veterans, Troops, and Families), nor is this intended as an endorsement of any patriotic cause Mike and Sunchunck have decided to team up with.





The only intent is to give recognition to Mike Bertolami and Sunchunck for not only their ideas on fund raising efforts, but checking out the most efficient and effective Troop and Veteran causes to team up with.

ROBERT L. HANAFIN, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, U.S. Civil Service-Retired, Veterans Issues Editor, Veterans Today News Network

[VETERANS TODAY is a network of 63 web sites that service the U.S. Military Veterans Community. With over 390,000 plus unique visitors per month bringing in over 22,000,000 page hits, we’re growing into a dynamic interactive conglomerate of information, service, and product sites serving the U.S. Military Family and Veterans Community. Created in 2004, Our “Veterans Today” brand name is growing and gaining mass acceptance.]

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Troop Related Cause Needed – Rock Bands wants to donate funds

This story begins back on October 8, 2010 when Mike Bertolami (seen at right in this photo) and Sunchunck first contacted Veterans Today for advise and guidance.

At that time Mike wrote us, “I’m hoping you may be able to help me. I’m representing the band Sunchunck – I’m simply writing to you today to see if you know who would be an appropriate patriotic cause or effort, and/or contact person, to talk to and discuss a fund-raising effort Sunchunck is working on.  Sunchunck’s currently looking into reputable support causes and efforts that are troop related.  We ideally desire to  team up with one that is more efficient and effective at getting funds raised to the troops intended – a cause or effort that will make a serious difference with the money it raises as well as work with us as a partner. The idea is to take Sunchunck’s popular rock rendition of God Bless America, and raise money for a troop related effort or cause through downloads of this song on iTunes, CD Freedom, etc. Folks can learn more about Sunchunck from our websites electronic press kit:http://www.sunchunck.com/epk

At this point I simply want to find the appropriate causes/person to talk to – so not to waste anyone’s time.”
Michael F. Bertolami, Sunchunck
www.sunchunck.com

Since that initial message, we at Veterans Today have been working with Mike to ensure he and Sunchunck were pointed in the right direction to get their questions answered. I personally was amazed that Mike Bertolami and Sunchunck were way ahead of any advice we could give him.

I asked Mike to stay in touch as he and Sunchunck progressed in finding a Veteran, Troop, and Military Family effort to team up with. What sources he referred to and what decisions Sunchunck made on which causes and efforts to approach.

Mike Bertolami of Sunchunck – Photo Credit John Hatch

On October 9, 2010 I received this update from Mike, “Here are 4 that responded to Sunchunck with interest. We want to give a fair portion per song download of our rock rendition of God Bless America to not only a good charity but one that will work with us more than, “sure you can use our logo …. or … ya we’ll put it on our website” any help Veterans Today can provide would be appreciative. Here are 4 that responded to Sunchunck with interest. We want to give a fair portion per song download of our rock rendition of God Bless America to not only a good charity but one that will work with us more than, “sure you can use our logo …. or … ya we’ll put it on our website” any help Veterans Today can provide would be appreciative.

These are the four causes we are considering:  Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF), Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and Homes For Our Troops, and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) because these are the only four to respond to our idea and appear willing to work with us. ”

What struck me was that each effort and cause mentioned above had high ratings for funds raised going to those the Support Our Troops effort was intended to help. More money was going to the Vets, troops, or military families than into admin overhead and advertisement to sell the cause or effort’s logo. I wondered at how Mike came up with these reputable efforts. When I learned that he had read previous articles on Veterans Today, and check out Support Out Troop causes on watchdog websites like Charity Navigator, I was blown away with admiration for Mike and Sunchunck.

In my response to Mike, I told him “Good timing Mike, I was planning on doing a follow-up on Support Our Troops Non-Profits. May I use your band (with a link to your homepage) as an example of someone doing the SMART thing and checking out a cause or effort BEFORE donating or associating with it? Attached you will find a recent article done by Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) on the Fallen Heroes Foundation Scam in Texas. As a Life Member of VVA, the best advice I can give you is :

Before you donate any money, associate, or participate in or to any organization claiming to be helping Veterans, Military Families, or assisting the wounded from Afghanistan and Iraq:

1. Ask how long they’ve been doing what they say they’ve been doing.

2. Ask them if they are recognized by the IRS as a tax-exempt organization.

3. Ask them what percentage of the money they raise actually goes to the troops or the veterans, and how much goes to overhead or advertising or to their own salaries.

The four efforts you mentioned considering have all been rated highly by Charity Navigator with three earning a 4 star and one a 3 star making them all efficient and trust worthy to associate with or donate to. The other highly rated efforts are:

Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust
One of my favorites – Fisher House Foundation
Armed Services YMCA
National Military Family Association
Army Emergency Relief (I may be mistaken but since military service charities raise even reserve funds from both active duty members, and retirees, they not only have sufficient fund raising ability but also do not solicit from the civilian community).
Special Operations Warrior Foundation
Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation
Another of my favorites since they’ve been around forever: USO

I’d also recommend the USO, since your band is a group that wishes to support the troops with your musical talents. This could also potentially lead to access to USO tours if your band would be into such.

Homes for Our Troops
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
Operation Homefront

All the above efforts have been rated 4 star the maximum most watchdogs rate an effort for a larger percentage of donations going to their stated cause.

American Red Cross
Air Force Aid Society
Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation
Veterans of Foreign Wars National Home for Children

Even those rated 2 star, such as the  Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund
reflect balance in their fund raising efficiency, so they aren’t that bad either.

Keep in mind also that various watchdog organizations (and there are quite a few) use diverse measures to rate a Vet and Military Family related effort. Some Veteran, Troop, and Military Family causes also are set up in such a way that they do not have to report fund raising to the IRS. However, even these should have nothing to hide, be willing to make their fund raising efforts public, and even post their accounting statements on-line.

Mike, the Key is simple common sense, stay away from any effort that was born overnight (fly by night) or apparently has something to hide. The advise offered by Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is so essential to your decision on who to donate to and how that I must repeat it.

Before you donate any money to, associate with, or participate in any organization claiming to be helping Veterans, Military Families, or assisting the wounded from Afghanistan and Iraq:

1. Ask how long they’ve been doing what they say they’ve been doing.

2. Ask them if they are recognized by the IRS as a tax-exempt organization.

3. Ask them what percentage of the money they raise actually goes to the troops or the veterans, and how much goes to overhead or advertising or to their own salaries.

If your band should associate with some group or organization that proves to be a fraud or scam, your band could go down with the negative publicity due to guilt by association.

I hope this helps!

SOURCE: Charity Navigator – Support Our Troops

http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=531

If you want the most reputable and trustworthy efforts go to their websites and check to see if they have for instance a Better Business rating or rating seals from more than one watchdog organization.

Charity Navigator AND American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) seals. Charity Navigator uses numerical stars while AIP uses an alphabetical rating from A to F with F being Failure. AIP rates Homes for Our Troops with an “A.” http://www.homesforourtroops.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5905

You can do this for each of the four efforts who stated an interest to you. As John Allan our managing editor said, once you make a decision on which effort to go with, and the non-profit agrees to accept your offer in some detail, please let us know and we will do a story to promote it.

Since my last response to Mike, a lot of messages were exchanged as we kept in touch with Sunchunck’s progress. The fruits of Mike and Sunchunck’s labor, insight, and researching the right mix is evident in this recent press release on December 6, 2010.

Sunchunck Launches “Help Our Troops; Donations Through Downloads” Initiative

— Boston-Area Band Directs Proceeds from “God Bless America” Song Purchases to Support Our Troops Cause

[The source link for this effort is www.sunchunck.com/HelpOurTroops]

NEWBURYPORT, MA – December 6, 2010 – Sunchunck, a power-pop rock band based near Boston, MA, today announces the launch of its “Help Our Troops – Donations Through Downloads” initiative. The band will donate proceeds from downloads of its famed rendition of “God Bless America” to causes and efforts that support American soldiers. This is the latest philanthropic effort from the group, which is committed to giving back to its community and country.

Sunchunck is comprised of three members: Mike Bertolami, bass and vocals; John Catino, guitar and vocals; and Brett Manoloff, drums.

Formed in 2002, Sunchunck creates original music with positive messages, and has played “God Bless America” at every live show since the band’s inception. The bands rendition of “God Bless America” is gaining momentum and has been: Performed at LaLacheur Park, home of the Lowell Spinners; In the Patriots/Gillette Stadium Game Day rotation; And asked to be part of a compilation CD project – for the Kevin Youkilis foundation, “Youk’s Kids” – with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Dave Mathews and Godsmack to name a few.

With this initiative, Sunchunck encourages fans to download “God Bless America” from iTunes and/or CDFreedom and, as a result, donate 60 percent of proceeds to causes and efforts such as Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF), Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and Homes For Our Troops. These funds are paid directly to the above causes  from iTunes and/or CDFreedom.

Check out the promo video on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fVnzc9nsUk

The program will run indefinitely, and Sunchunck may be adding to the list of reputable troop causes in the coming months. All Support Our Troops causes and effort are thoroughly vetted, and are given a four-star rating by Charity Navigator.

“The band is so grateful to our American troops for their sacrifices and service, and we want to give something back. We’re doing that by donating part of the proceeds from our music,” said Bertolami. “We’re looking forward to our fans’ participation, and to working together to support our soldiers through our collective love of music.”

Interested fans can visit http://www.sunchunck.com/HelpOurTroops to buy the song, and are encouraged to share the link with others.

For more information on Sunchunck and its Help the Troops initiative, please visit www.sunchunck.com.

[The source link for this effort is www.sunchunck.com/HelpOurTroops]

 

About Sunchunck

Sunchunck is a power-pop rock band based in Newburyport, MA. Formed in 2002 by Mike Bertolami, John Catino and Brett Manoloff, the band focuses on positive, original music. With three albums released to date and 26 songs on iTunes, the band has developed a significant following, and has worked to give back through various philanthropic efforts, including the formation of the children’s music cause Kidz Rock. Honors include the recognition of Top Rock Band in the 2006 Boston Emergenza Music Festival. For more information, please visit www.sunchunck.com.

Author Details
Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I’ve posted on Veterans Today, I’ve had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner. My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me. Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000. I’ve been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I’m now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house. I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.
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