DONOR SECURITY FAQ

One of the core values of the Modest Needs community is that giving should be a fun, personally fulfilling and - most of all - a safe experience.

At Modest Needs, we've worked hard to create a community where you can genuinely enjoy the giving process without having to worry about whether or not an applicant has been truthful about his or her situation.

This FAQ sheet details the steps we take to ensure that the applications for assistance we've received have been made in good faith and to safeguard the gifts of our donors.

Does Modest Needs actually validate each qualified application it receives?

Yes. As soon as an application clears our 'pre-screening' process, and before it becomes available for donor review, we require an applicant to provide a documentation packet to support his or her application for assistance.

Applicants generally have 10 days to submit this information to us by uploading it to our secure server once we notify them that their requests have cleared pre-screening.

An application moves to the 'donor review' phase of our application process and becomes eligible to receive a grant from Modest Needs' donors only after we've received this documentation packet and checked it for consistency against the information provided in the original application.

What documentation does Modest Needs require its applicants to provide?

In order for an application to move from the 'pre-screening' phase to the 'donor review' phase of our approval process, an applicant must provide us with the following documents:

  • Proof of Identity - usually in the form of a state-issued ID, like a driver's license;

  • Proof of Address - usually in the form of a utility bill in the name of the person who has applied for assistance from Modest Needs.

  • Proof of Employment / Income - usually in the form of a letter from the applicant's employer, on letterhead, with daytime contact information, or other documentation sufficient to demonstrate the applicant's ability to remain self-sufficient with our assistance;

  • Proof of the circumstances surrounding the request - For example, if the person is asking for help to pay an insurance deductible that was the result of an accident, we ask for a copy of the related accident report; and

  • Proof of the Expense and Amount of Assistance Requested - For example, if a person has requested help with a utility bill, we request a copy of the bill. If a person is asking for help with an auto repair, we ask for an estimate from a certified mechanic, etc.

Applications become available for donor review and/or adoption by one of Modest Needs' partners only after we've received each of these documents and checked them for consistency against the original application.

What does Modest Needs do with the documentation it receives?

We keep the entire documentation packet for each pre-qualified request on file in our office. This is not just a fundamental part of the record keeping required of Modest Needs as a registered non-profit organization; having these documents on hand allows us to move with all haste to fund an application, once our donors have indicated that they would like for us to do so.

Can I see an actual example of a complete documentation packet?

Of course. Just click 'View Sample Documentation Packet', below. You'll need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer in order to view the sample documentation packet.

The documentation packet we have on display is for request 38199, which our donors helped to fund in June 2004. The request was from a man in Nebraska - Michael McConnell - who had recently undergone below-the-knee amputation of his right leg.

He requested $319, the cost to move his car's gas pedal from the right side to the left side, thereby enabling him to return to work.

Thanks to Michael for allowing us to post his documentation packet publicly. Please note that sensitive personal information (such as Michael's actual street address and driver's license number) have been removed for obvious reasons.

View Sample Documentation Packet

What other steps does Modest Needs take to prevent applications made in bad faith from going forward in Modest Needs' evaluation process?

There are several. For example:

  • We do not allow 'substitutions' in documentation. We request documents that an applicant ought to have immediately on hand. We simply do not allow persons to substitute one type of documentation for another document that we have requested.

  • We do not issue checks made out to individuals, or fund requests seeking reimbursement for a legitimate expense the applicant already has incurred. When Modest Needs disburses funding, our checks are made out to creditors - a utility company, an insurance company, an apartment complex, mortgage lender, etc. Applicants cannot cash our checks because the checks they receive are not made out to them. We likewise do not fund requests for reimbursement because this would require us to release cash to an applicant.

  • We do not allow our checks to remain outstanding for more than 30 days. When we disburse funding, we do so under the impression that the need for assistance is immediate. When a check remains outstanding for more than 30 days, we take this to mean that the person who received the check could not use it. In that case, we stop payment on the check and re-allocate those funds to someone else who has requested help.

  • We do not issue our funding checks more than once. Occasionally, a person we've assisted will write to request that we re-issue it, for example, in that person's name. We never do so. We disburse funding one time, and one time only to the creditor indicated in a person's documentation packet, and to the address we already have verified.

In addition, we take several steps to prevent potentially inauthentic applications from moving forward in our review process. These include:

  • Carefully examining an applicant's request history with Modest Needs. Experience shows that a long and varied request history with Modest Needs may indicate that the person is a 'treasure hunter.' The more varied a person's request history is, the less likely we are to seriously consider future requests for help.

  • Looking for evidence of duplicate user accounts with Modest Needs. When persons create duplicate accounts and use them to file multiple applications at once, this again is usually a sign that an applicant is 'treasure hunting.' Our standard practice is to disable all logins tied to duplicate accounts and reject outright any related applications.

  • 'Googling' the name and e-mail address of an applicant prior to offering assistance. If we discover that the applicant has a 'cyber-begging website', then we take this as an indication that the person involved is trolling the Internet looking for handouts, not a hand up. We generally do not allow an application to go forward under these circumstances.

  • Using common sense. If a person uses his/her high-speed Internet connection to request help with food, or writes an application saying 'Hey, everyone send me $1', it's pretty clear that the application in question has not been made in good faith. We take common-sense issues such as these into consideration before putting a request forward for donor review.

At what stage of the application process does Modest Needs screen applications in this way?

We perform each of these steps BEFORE an application reaches the 'donor review' phase of our evaluation process. If an application appears on our ledger for donor review, you can rest assured that we have thoroughly screened it and already have in hand the documentation necessary to demonstrate to our satisfaction that the application has been made in good faith.

What action does Modest Needs take when it discovers that an application has not been placed in good faith?

We 'kill' the application. That is to say, applications we suspect to have been made in bad faith do not ever make it to the all-important 'donor review' process.

In addition, if we discover that an applicant is defrauding a State or Federal agency (receiving total disability while working several full-time jobs, for example) or another charitable organization, we are legally obligated to report this information to the affected agencies. This is precisely what we do.

How effective are Modest Needs' controls against applications made in bad faith?

Historically, these controls have proven EXTREMELY effective. No loss-prevention system is ever fool-proof, but ours works very well, both in terms of creating the 'presumption of safety' at Modest Needs and discouraging persons from applying for help in 'bad faith.'

Thanks to these controls, the few bad faith applications we receive are detected and closed almost immediately, leaving us to direct our attention (and our funding) to the solid applications of hard working men and women who have turned to Modest Needs for help during a time of temporary financial crisis, and who have done so in good faith.

I have a safety-related question or concern not answered here. Can someone answer that question for me?

Of course. If you have a question not answered here, you should feel free to contact us either by e-mail or phone. We'll address your question or concern as quickly and thoroughly as possible.