At today’s Marin Republican Women Federated lunch, the speaker was Aaron Negherbon, founder and Executive Director of TroopsDirect.org. TroopsDirect is a very interesting and very different type of military charity. Most military charities market themselves to the general public, and use money and in-kind donations to provide comfort items for the troops: cell phones, wet wipes, books, etc. TroopsDirect, however, doesn’t talk to the public; instead, it talks to the troops directly, getting them whatever it is they need to complete their missions or stay, whether it’s bootlaces, GPS devices, marking chalk (to identify safe paths through IEDs), helmets, body armor, etc.
It turns out that the Pentagon supply chain can be a lot like the DMV: Long waits, bizarre classification systems, failures to communicate, etc. TroopsDirect bypasses the military and goes straight to the supply part. If Navy SEALS land in Afghanistan or Iraq, and discovery that the GPS devices they ordered containing detailed information about IEDs are missing, TroopsDirect can get them replacement GPS’s immediately, rather than in six months. If Marines in an isolated forward position can’t keep their single generator running because the parts keep breaking, and the military has them “on the list” for replacement parts, TroopsDirect can get them two of everything within the week.
The deal with TroopsDirect is that the troops approach this charity directly, tell TroopsDirect what they need, and TroopsDirect supplies it, at no cost to the individual troops or the military itself. It has endless contacts and ingenuity, and is funded by a combination of corporate funding, wealthy angels, and the dollars and cents from ordinary people.
Now that I’ve given my spin on Negherbon’s talk (which was fascinating and impassioned), let me just quote directly from the TroopsDirect website:
Contrary to most groups providing smaller and seasonal care packages for individual soldiers,the TroopsDirect ‘on demand’ model ships our service members exactly what they request, delivered to almost any point on the globe in a matter of days. With a near real time response rate to these requests, TroopsDirect support is the most timely, accurate and adaptable amongst known support organizations. Supported by the generosity of citizens like you, over 90 cents of every dollar goes to providing our Americans with the specifically requested items that they urgently need.
TroopsDirect is not about endorsing war or the politics that may surround it. We are simply about providing for our Americans in an unprecedented manner. And until there are no more conflicts or terrorism, TroopsDirect will be there for our country and her service members.
Because the charity sounded almost too good to be true, I checked it out on the Better Business Bureau website, which it passes with flying colors. The only quibble the BBB has with TroopsDirect is that someone’s father (presumably Negherbon’s) serves as Treasurer, which raises the possibility of “indirect compensation.” Considering that Negherbon is the only paid employee, drawing a 89,900 in salary, which is a very small amount by modern non-profit standards, that he probably saves money employing his father, that it is a very lean operation, and that the organization fills a gap no one else fills, I think the BBB review is an enthusiastic two thumbs up and leaves me without any qualms about recommending TroopsDirect.org for your dollars should you be looking to donate to a military charity. (And do keep in mind that we still have 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, military actions in Iraq because of ISIS, and a military presence on every continent except Antarctica, the troops needs are still great even as wars are no longer in the headlines.)