Greenport American Legion gets hit by Facebook fundraising setback

The Greenport American Legion hit a fundraising snag after donations made through Facebook had to be returned after the organization had been approved for the campaign.

The Burton Potter Post No. 185 received $2,500 in donations toward its purchase of 315 gently used skates that were sold for less than half price by Brookhaven Town, general manager Mindy Ryan said Thursday. The fundraising push was part of #GivingTuesday, a day meant to kick off a charitable holiday season following Black Friday.

The funds put the legion close to the $15,000 needed for the skates, which will be delivered next week, Ms. Ryan said. But about a week later, she received a message from Facebook which said the legion does not meet its legal requirements to be eligible for raising donations on the social media site.

Facebook disabled the legion’s ability to fundraise and refunded donations. Ms. Ryan said while Facebook is taking full responsibility for the mistake in letters it sent out to those who donated, “they’re not doing anything to help us in particular.”

The Greenport American Legion has status as 501(c)(19) nonprofit for veterans. Facebook representatives told Ms. Ryan that nonprofits with 501(c)(3) status are eligible for the online donation campaign, but the legion’s veteran status makes it ineligible.

Ms. Ryan said it took her weeks to get the legion approved by Facebook with proper documentation to show the it is a legitimate not-for-profit organization and was eligible to receive donations.

“It’s pretty disappointing and embarrassing,” Mr. Ryan said. “But people are stepping up to go to our website and give us their donation through PayPal and I’m sure people are going to be mailing checks.”

The legion is in the midst of major renovations to get its skating rink up and running and spaces available for community events.

It will host a New Year’s Eve party as a soft opening for participants age 21 and over. It will include dinner, a champagne toast and cash bar — proceeds of which will go toward the legion’s building fund. The event will not involve roller skating, Ms. Ryan noted. No tickets will be sold at the door. For information on ticket purchases, check here.

There are a number of projects the legion is working to complete in the new year, including its kitchen, concession stand and second-floor meeting room, Ms. Ryan said.

“We also want to raise money so we can offer skating to our kids at low, reasonable costs,” Ms. Ryan said. “Skating is not going to be a money-maker for us, but we want the kids in here to enjoy it.”

Photo caption: The Greenport American Legion is undergoing a major restoration after spending a decade out of commission. (Credit: Kelly Zegers) 

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