These comments are based on reports and facts, not emotions, imaginations, or personal perspectives. The figures come from accounting and CPA reports and responses are directly related to MR. AUSTIN... more
OPERATION LOOKOUT NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING YOUTH Reviews
Excerpt from the 2011 audit* performed by Martin Eller, CPA-Wyckoff, NJ December 15, 2012: Michael and Melody Gibson Co-founded OPERATION LOOKOUT in 1984 and their input and consulting continues 28 years later. Michael Gibson is the volunteer President, Chairman of the Board, and Head of Case Management. Melody Gibson is Executive Director of the organization and volunteer Treasurer and the wife of Michael Gibson. Michael Gibson was paid a wage of $18,394 and Melody Gibson was paid a wage of $16,979. Both Michael and Melody Gibson reduced their time in their organization and is now considered ‘semi-retired’. Any compensation received by either party in 2011 is based on unpaid past due wages from previous years that was approved by the Board of Directors. Melody Gibson, Executive Director and volunteer Treasurer, is a member of the Board of Trustees of Caring For Our Children Foundation, serving as the Treasurer. Caring For Our Children Foundation gave $1050 in grants** to Operation Lookout in 2011.***
COST-ALLOCATION: The use of funds, as shown on the IRS 990 reports, reflect that a portion of the ‘fundraising’ cost is allocated to a ‘program’ element, mandated by contract. The respective nonprofit websites provide full disclosure on the IRS 990, AUDIT and PIE CHART showing distribution of funds.
Caring For Our Children Foundation’s mission in 2001 was solely to raise funds for OPERATION LOOKOUT (and later included giving to other select under-funded nonprofits serving child victims of crime, poverty, and neglect). The mission has grown to include grant giving, job training, benevolence, fiscal sponsorship, and administrative assistance.
OPERATION LOOKOUT’S mission since 1984 has been singular to provide no charge crisis intervention and assistance to families whose children are missing, abducted, or runaway. Program includes but is not limited to providing case management, encouraging media and community participation and outreach, volunteerism, law enforcement and authorities liaison, and more.
The OPERATION LOOKOUT Helpline: 1-800-LOOKOUT and 1-800-771-SEEK is manned 24/7 by Kelley’s Answering Service Medical Emergency Division. This generous business has contributed its professional services over 20 years to OPERATION LOOKOUT. Their representatives screen and triage any ‘life-threatening situation’ (asking, “What is the nature of your emergency?”) Emergent callers are dispatched to an ‘on-call’ case manager - community volunteers have proven unable to provide this level of excellence required.
Dialing for Support - One of the business models used to raise funds since the founding of both nonprofits has been to outsource fundraising and encouraging Citizen involvement. Such promotional efforts include brand marketing, a call to action, and fundraising. Call centers are mandated by contract to provide a duel service including a programmatic element. A Public Service Announcement (PSA) such as asking for volunteer poster distribution in ones community, or telling a parent how to learn the whereabouts of registered sex predators nearby may be infused into the communication either at time of call or upon receiving a mailed packet. The call center must cover all costs with no portion of the cost falling on the shoulders of the nonprofit whether the venture is profitable or not. A percentage or revenue split of the weekly proceeds insures the nonprofit of having net, free and clear minimum income streams, insuring the organization of ongoing sustainable funds dedicated solely to ‘program’. On a quarterly basis, some contracts compare cost vs income assuring the charity of no over-charges vs income still due to the charity. In recent years, the economic environment has, more often than not, cost the call centers more than their payment. Such losses are not charged to the nonprofit.
REDUCED DONATIONS: From time to time, like with any business during an economic crisis, a non-profit may downsize to a skeleton crew or delay paychecks. Timely communication and resolve follow soon after. Authorities respect and understand this financial draught.
COMPUTER UPGRADES - Occasionally a nonprofit must upgrade its computer system to avoid loss of critical data and communications from a languishing computer system. In 2012 OPERATION LOOKOUT purchased 2 refurbished computers and a scanner in response to this critical need.
* The 2011 IRS 990 and audit is available upon request by email or mail. The reports are posted annually on the respective websites. The 2011 reports were released by the CPA for public disclosure January 2013.
** CFOC was founded in 2001 to provide free and clear grants from net funds to Operation Lookout for aid in locating missing, abducted and runaway children.
Caring For Our Children Foundation provided grants to OPERATION LOOKOUT in 2007 - $45,954; in 2008 - $61,561; in 2009 - $27,805 ; in 2010 - $4,850; in 2011 - $1,050.
***The respective organizations are separate entities with different missions, different office venues, separate accounting and reporting procedures provided by 3rd party professionals to insure the public of disclosure transparency. The common thread between the organizations is the dedication of Ms. Gibson, whose heart and expertise has benefitted at-risk children and their families for many years. CFOC provides data entry and administrative assistance to OPERATION LOOKOUT, allowing it to remain focused solely on child search and case management.
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These comments are based on reports and facts, not emotions, imaginations, or personal perspectives. The figures come from accounting and CPA reports and responses are directly related to MR. AUSTIN'S FALSE REMARKS. We will note his comments as FALSE then issue the FACT. Ms. NETHERY'S FALSE remarks are addressed in the next box. It is not our goal to malign either party but solely to state the facts as they are. FALSE: The "foundation" is run in conjunction with Operation Lookout...
FACT: There is no similarity in the missions or boards of the two organizations. Melody and Mike founded both organizations that at one time shared an administration office which reduced the cost of personnel, rent and equipment. OPERATION LOOKOUT® National Center for Missing Youth was established in 1984 to assist parents in the search of their missing, runaway and abducted children –always free of charge having its own dedicated and trained staff. CARING FOR OUR CHILDREN FOUNDATION was founded in 2001 for the sole purpose of fundraising and giving grants to OPERATION LOOKOUT. A year or 2 after being founded the foundation’s fundraising efforts were so successful that the funds were divided between OPERATION LOOKOUT and various other nonprofit programs and projects. It's goals were to give 99% of its net income to grants. See examples of grant recipients at www.caringforourchildrenfoundation.org. The common denominator between the two organizations currently is that Melody Gibson is the volunteer treasurer on both nonprofit boards. CFOC’S Board of Trustees consists of retired females located in different states (WA, AK, CA).
FALSE: Mike and Melody Gibson, who, each year make close to $100,000....
FACT: There was ‘one’ year when both parties were fortunate enough to receive not only their full annual (board approved) salary, but a portion of the unpaid back wages from previous years. Both founders and directors retired due to serious budget cuts due to economic changes. In 2012 both parties became semi-retired at their respective workplaces, and receive a limited wage per board of director's authorization and Social Security rules and regulations. In addition, unpaid back wages will continue to be paid until paid in full.
FALSE: The COCF supposedly gives advice and money to other children's charities, but the bulk of the money goes to Operation Lookout....
FACT: Caring for Our Children Foundation does not give advice, however it has an original mission of giving financial grants to nonprofits serving adolescent victims of crime, abuse and neglect. OPERATION LOOKOUT was the original recipient of the largest portion of the grants as that was CFOC’S original mission—to raise funds for OPERATION LOOKOUT. Caring For Our Children Foundation’s mission expanded to include other nonprofits and it currently includes its own charitable programmatic activities within the community.
FALSE: ...and apparently into the Gibson's pockets
FACt: Mike Gibson, Head of Case Management received a salary and Melody Gibson, Executive Director received a salary, both for working full time at OPERATION LOOKOUT®. The amount received is board approved based on median wage reports, and it is publicly disclosed in each annual IRS 990 report. No wages are reported for Mike Gibson relating to CFOC and a salary is reported for Melody Gibson beginning in 2009 when she was hired to open and operate a thrift store, NXT2NU Family Thrift Shoppe located at 5612 Evergreen Way Everett, WA 98203.
FALSE & MISLEADING: On their 2010 IRS 990 forms $666,286 was raised, but $569,222 went towards fundraising, $35,510 went towards salaries and $4,850 went to Operation Lookout, leaving $56,704. Subtracting another $3,666 for payroll taxes, $21,165 for accounting services and $8,307 for bank charges leaves $23,566. In other words, only 3.5¢ of every dollar donated goes towards their cause. But their rent was $38,839, which means that not only does no money go towards their cause, but nothing goes towards it.
FACT: The interpretation is askew of accounting reality. See 2010 IRS 990 disclosures and related PIE CHART at www.caringforourchildrenfoundation.org for a cost allocation breakdown of the proceeds. READ BELOW for additional details relating to previous years. OPERATION LOOKOUT National Canter For MIssing Youth will be an annual recipient of grants so long as CFOC has net proceeds to give to it and other board selected nonprofit programs.
FALSE: This and Operation Lookout appears to be a way for the Gibsons to pay for their mortgage or their rent and living expenses...
FACT: The Gibson’s have and do receive a salary that is approved by the Board of Director’s of the respective organizations. A 3rd party bookkeeping service oversees the balance of past due salary and a CPA company audits the books annually. The amounts actually paid to the Gibson’s is disclosed to the CPA who makes these details public in the annual OPERATION LOOKOUT and CARING FOR OUR CHILDREN FOUNDATION IRS 990 reports. Visit www.operationlookout.org and www.caringforourchildrnefoundation.org for a copy of the IRS 2010 990 Report and related PIE CHARTS The 2011 IRS 990 reports will be available in November of 2012.
FALSE: ...until both organizations' credit lines run out and they declare bankruptcy and both organizations fold.
FACT: Since the Gibson’s are the respective organization(s) founders, and their hearts are in their future growth, it would just be silly to run up lines of credit for personal gain or bankruptcy. OPERATION LOOKOUT was established in 1984 and it has no open line of credit; CARING FOR OUR CHILDREN FOUNDATION was established in 2001, and at this writing it has no open line of credit. In previous years the Gibson’s have placed their mortgage on the line to obtain lines of credit to keep OPERATION LOOKOUT’S doors open during times of economic drought hoping to prevent inevitable lay-offs.. Melody Gibson has made a small loan to CFOC for a Capitol Project. Those loans have been repaid by the organizations.
NOT FALSE: The governor of South Carolina publishes an annual Angels and Scrooges list of charities, based upon how much of the donations go to the charity. COCF would go to the top of their Scrooges list.
FACT: Many donors do not like the cost related to hiring professional fundraising services. The costs are steep and both organization encourage donors to become DIRCET GIVING PARTNERS whereby their gift is 100% designated as they wish to the program of their choice; no middleman expense is involved therefore their gift goes farther for the purpose intended. Direct Donations can be made online at the websites mentioned above, or by mail to the mailing addresses shown on the websites.
Both organizations appreciate that outsourcing to professional call centers means that there is always free and clear net income streams each week for their missions. The contracts require that when the recipeint of the call will allow, a ‘programmatic’ element is to be made. This permits the organizations to remain focused on their mission while the professional call services focus on raising funds and education and public service awareness. Visit the financial sections on the website at www.caringforourchildrenfoundation.org and www.operationlookout.org to learn more about how funds are allocated using IRS cost allocation rules.
Going directly to CFOC IRS 990 reports:
In 2007, CFOC gave OPERATION LOOKOUT 45.5K in grants; approximately 20K went to others. CFOC was generous in its earlier years until the economy took a turn forcing CFOC to change its course. The principal female board is volunteer.
In 2008, CFOC gave OPERATION LOOKOUT 61K in grants and Kenya received 25K to open and operate a new Orphan’s Home. This giving kept the doors of both nonprofits open. The principal female board is volunteer.
In 2009, CFOC gave OPERATION LOOKOUT 27K in grants and Kenya’s Orphans Home received 10K for facilities and overhead. In October of 2009 CFOC opened its thrift store which became a job training program work site for young unemployed parents facing poverty. The thrift store expanded CFOC’S benevolence program. The principal female board is volunteer. Melody Gibson who was given a set salary by the board of trustees to serve as the store's general manager of the thrift facility.
In 2010, CFOC gave OPERATION LOOKOUT 5K in grants and Kenya’s Orphanage received 1.4K, India’s Orphans received 1.4K. Because economic times have changed and Kenya’s Orphans home was closed down due to civil war that endangered the young director’s and children’s lives, reduced grants were given. CFOC on growth of the thrift store and its job training program. Melody Gibson made a 3K loan to CFOC for working capitol. Melody Gibson resigned from OPERATION LOOKOUT in May of 2010 to dedicate time as a volunteer treasurer to Caring For Our Children Foundation and OPERATION LOOKOUT.
2011 IRS 990 will be completed in November 2012. Melody Gibson is semi-retired and her wage reflects a decrease as a recipient of Social Security. Mike Gibson is semi-retired and continues as Head of Case Management as well as continues to volunteer as OPERATION LOOKOUT’S President since 1984. Both parties receive past due wages from OPERATION LOOKOUT.
THis writing comes form the desk of Melody Gibson, Treasurer for both organizations, thus responses are regarding both organizations which are not related, but separate with different community roles and missions.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
many fulfilling ways. Both organizations fulfill emotional and civil responses to great community need.
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
work harder, spend even more time fundraising. No organization should suffer economically when its mission is lifesaving.
Will you volunteer or donate to this organization beyond what is required of board members?
How much of an impact do you think this organization has?
Will you tell others about this organization?
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?
How did you learn about this organization?
Mike and I founded OPERATION LOOKOUT in 1984 as a grass roots nonprofit to assit parents whose children were runaway and missing. Soon it became apparent that countless hundreds of parents were suffering on a national leave. Many volunteers came together to establish a computerized system and office to accommodate the need at a time when missing children organizations were few and far between. Gratefully, the government has established a strong and compelling child search department and many other nonprofits have stepped up to assist with this tragic issue of missing children. Caring For Our Children Foundation was founded for the sole purpose to raise funds to assist OPERATION LOOKOUT during lean times so that no missing child case registered at OPERATION LOOKOUT would go unserved.
What is this organization's top short-term priority?
Both organizations must become or remain fiscally responsible, lean and effective at their missions.
What is its top priority in the long run?
Mike and Melody are both semi-retired and it is time for the next generation to step in and make the organizations stronger and better at what they do. Both have vital missions and both deserve life a long time after its founders leave this planet. Both organizations have been considering whom will eventually take over leadership of the respective organizations. From a personal perspective, it is our opinion that so long as there is breath and energy, whether funding is strong or reduced, the Gibson's will remain the backbones holding things together-until then.
WHEN WHAT SEEMS ‘COSTLY’ IS ACTUALLY COST-EFFECTIVE…
Accounting rules require a nonprofit to clearly communicate when it allocates a portion of its budget to ‘programmatic’ efforts. OPERATION LOOKOUT® National Center for Missing Youth makes this distinction and has done so for many years. A duel ‘cost allocation’ is reported in the IRS 990 reports and annually audited Financial Statements (public documents), yet there are times when watchdog groups miss this valuable point and are responsible for passing forward 'part' of a picture. Out of respect for our donors’ sacrificial dollars and volunteer support, we feel compelled to clarify.
OPERATION LOOKOUT has outsourced a ‘public service outreach message’ integrated with ‘dialing for dollars’ to outbound promotional calling centers for many years. Yet when a watchdog group or the media question, dispute, or over-look this ‘coupling’, the charity and call center can be misunderstood and unwittingly maligned calling the cost to be ‘excessive’ or ‘ineffective’. These judgments take on a cyber-life of their own leaving the general public in a quandary about the ‘effectual’ use of their contribution.
In 2010 according to the IRS 990 report and the CPA, 53% of every dollar raised overall goes to public outreach, including where to turn for help and asking for financial support; on top of that another 44% goes to investigative missing children casework, so combined you can see this outreach benefits Missing Children more than has been perceived.
The implication that OPERATION LOOKOUT is unable to make solid cost-efficient business decisions on its behalf is a misleading notion. Refuting statements, wherever such statements appear these days, takes away time and dollars from their intended use—finding a missing, abducted or runaway child. But, some things simply must be addressed for the sake of the charity’s future survival and the recovery of the children--the primary focus.
A supporter is welcome to respond over the phone or go online. ‘Public Outreach’ and ‘Resource Development’, combined, have greatly expanded the chance to find a child and provide child-search support.
Whichever method is selected, because someone called and asked for tangible hands on help, countless caring citizens pinned up a poster with missing children images on it – increasing participation—always with an intention to find the kids.
Combining two tasks in one action is as frugal and noteworthy today for the organization as it was in 1984 when the charity was founded to provide assistance to desperate families —always free of charge. How to do it quickly and to the masses has been answered by outsourcing the duty to call centers. Other than blast email, we have not found a lower cost manner of outreach these past 27 years.
OPERATION LOOKOUT®, its retired founders-Mike and Melody Gibson of Washington State, its dedicated staff and volunteers will continue to provide ‘free’ child-search services for desperate searching parents in the USA (and other countries) as long as the public works together with us. Any action taken to find a missing child continues to be needed, and gratitude is expressed to the many Americans taking action in hopes of a deserved parent and child reunion.
To become a Direct Giving Partner whereby none of the donation goes to the cost of a middleman, contact 1-800-LOOKOUT (566-5688) or visit at http://www.operationlookout.org; click on the secure PayPal DONATE NOW button—’because every missing child deserves the chance to be found.’
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
I have served this organization since 1984. The dedication of volunteers and staff are what makes it all happen. Since 1984, overall approximately 82% of the cases have been resolved, so you know it works when the nation works together on their behalf.
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
I would market the images of missing children to a much broader global audience and find a way to spend less doing so. I would influence the laws to change whereby call centers have a legal obligation to release donor lists at the end of every campaign whereby renewal of supporters would become a less expensive venture. WE must press forward regardless--This is about the kids and not our wishful thinking.