IMPORTANT UPDATE: As of August 12, 2011, it appears that Brave New Foundation had nothing to do with the spam reported below and in fact they are as much a victim as I am. Please see this posting for details.
Dear Nation of Change (along with Brave New Foundation),
Let me tell you about a little strategy I use to find out who’s buying and selling my email address… When I give my email address to an organization or Web site, I “tag” it to make it unique to that site while still ending up in my inbox. So when that site decides to sell or share my address, I know who did it.
When I put my address on a petition created by Brave New Films (now the Brave New Foundation) during the 2008 presidential campaign, I did not give Brave New Films permission to give it out to others. Guess what, folks, that’s spamming, and it’s evil, and I don’t support organizations that spam or help others spam. By giving out my address and others without permission, Brave New Foundation has permanently lost my support, and by using my and others’ illicitly obtained addresses, so have you.
But that’s not the end of it. Because I’d never heard of your organization before receiving your spam yesterday, and because it was sent to an address that should not have been shared, and because something looked a little, well, iffy about it, I decided to do a little research and try to learn more about you. And I can’t say I liked what I found.
It’s not because you’re advocating positions with which I disagree. I haven’t actually looked carefully at your positions, but from what little I glanced at, I didn’t see anything I found particularly shocking or offensive. No, what’s bothering me is that I get the distinct impression that you’re trying to lie and deceive people. And if you think I want to see progressives emulating the Koch Brothers, boy, you’ve got another think coming.
Let me give you some examples of what I’m talking about.
The email you sent me yesterday was the first one I’ve ever received from you, and yet there was no acknowledgment of that fact in the email. You made it look like it was just business as usual, as if you were someone I’d been corresponding with all along, just another political organization clamoring for attention in my inbox. That’s just wrong. If you’re going to start spamming people without their permission, then the least you can do is introduce yourselves and give them the opportunity to recognize that you’re someone new and they should make a conscious decision about whether they want to keep hearing from you. Trying to slip in under people’s radars is deceptive and slimy.
Like your email to me, your Web site is clearly and unequivocally designed to give the impression that you’re an entrenched, established organization. There’s nothing on the site about the fact that you’ve just launched, nor is there any historical information about you. Where did you come from? How long have you been around? What was the impetus for the creation of your organization? How long have you been working in progressive journalism? What are your progressive credentials? What are your journalism credentials? What are the biographies and qualifications of your leadership team and board of directors (neither anyone on your board nor your executive director have any easily found information about them on the Web)? All of this information is needed for people to be able to properly evaluate the credibility of your organization. Maybe after you’ve been around for a few years, your work will speak for itself, but it’s deceptive and slimy to pretend that it does when it really doesn’t.
How do I know that you just launched? Because when I searched yesterday, there wasn’t a single link to your Web site anywhere on the internet that isn’t controlled by you (i.e., your Facebook page, Twitter feed). Did you think nobody would notice that you sprang out of nowhere?
When I look up the whois information for Brave New Foundation, just as an example, I see real contact information about real people who work for that organization. In contrast, when I look up your whois information, I see:
Registration Private Domains by Proxy, Inc. 15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353 Scottsdale, Arizona 85260 Phone:+1.4806242599 FAX:+1.4806242598 Email:NATIONOFCHANGE.ORG@domainsbyproxy.com
What (or who) are you trying to hide?
If you think I’m going to want to have anything to do with an organization that proudly lists Noam Chomsky as one of its authors, you’re very much confused. He’s a nutcase and a crackpot, and any progressive who thinks he’s anywhere near on the same page as Chomsky is a progressive I want nothing to do with, thank you very much.
Your Web site claims, “We are directly funded by small donations from the public whom we serve. We believe that this distinction is essential to the production of reliable journalism and truly independent thought.” However, since you just sprang yourselves on the world yesterday, clearly none of the “public whom [you] serve” has had the opportunity to donate yet, and yet you’ve somehow managed to find the money to hire a staff, build a kick-ass Web site hosted in the Amazon cloud (which isn’t free), and do a big email blast which also isn’t free. Who bankrolled the creation of your organization? Who’s continuing to pouring money into it until it is really able to support itself from “small donations,” if indeed that ever occurs?
As far as I can tell, your mailing address is a private home within a housing development. What’s up with that?
Your Web site makes reference to your Bylaws, but said Bylaws are not published in full anywhere on the site.
Your Web site claims that you are a 501(c)3 organization, but neither Network for Good’s nor GuideStar’s database of all registered 501(c)3 charities lists you (at least not under the name “Nation of Change”, and rather than providing your EIN on your Web site, you say, “Your donation email receipt will include all relevant tax information, including the NationofChange Tax EIN number.” Again, what are you trying to hide? Why haven’t you published your EIN on your Web site?
Are you aware that BBB standards for charitable accountability require a minimum of five voting members? Your board has only four, one of which is your executive director, an arrangement which is discouraged by the BBB and charity watchdogs for reasons which should be obvious.
Should we be concerned about the fact that your Director of Development has the same last name as your Executive Director? Are they both paid positions? Nepotism is a big problem in poorly run charities.
For all I know, a year or two from now I will be awestruck by the good your organization has done after springing from out of nowhere. But right now, I’m not awestruck. Instead, I’m suspicious. Really, really suspicious. Is that the first impression you wanted to make on your potential supporters?