Is Water Resource Management a Matter of Concern for Veterans and Military Families?

Vörösmarty, C. J., McIntyre, P. B., Gessner, M. O., Dudgeon, D., Prusevich, A., Green, P., Davies, P. M. (2010). Global threats to human water security and river biodiversity. Nature. Vol. 468, pp. 555-561. In this landmark study, the authors found a strong correlation between the severity of water security threats for humans, on one hand, and biodiversity, on the other. 

Vörösmarty, C. J., McIntyre, P. B., Gessner, M. O., Dudgeon, D., Prusevich, A., Green, P., Davies, P. M. (2010). Global threats to human water security and river biodiversity. Nature. Vol. 468, pp. 555-561. In this landmark study, the authors found a strong correlation between the severity of water security threats for humans, on one hand, and biodiversity, on the other. 

A great deal of blood and sacrifice has been expended to protect America freedoms and the America way of life, both of which are now threatened by the most mundane sources imaginable: fresh water. 

Looking up the abandon boat ramp at Hite Marina, Lake Powell, Arizona. November 2016.

Looking up the abandon boat ramp at Hite Marina, Lake Powell, Arizona. November 2016.

Water resource scarcity is a severe challenge and one that grows worse by the day. When most people think about this issue their minds tend to race to the desert Southwest, where places like Phoenix and Las Vegas draw water from distant reservoirs and the complex latticework of pipelines and canals that connect these man-made bodies of water to the cities they sustain. 

While these desert cities certainly struggle with water resource management problems, many other locations - some of which are in the seemingly water rich Midwest - also face severe water resource challenges. In some instances these surprisingly water poor places were made so as a result of contamination. This was certainly the case in Flint, Michigan and Corpus Cristi, Texas. In both cases, industrial waste seeped into the municipal freshwater supply, contaminating the local tap water. In other instances, water managers attempted to overcome surface water shortages by drawing ever increasing volumes of water from underground sources. As the amount withdrawn exceeded the rate of recharge, water resource scarcity ensued. Changes in precipitation rates over time have exacerbated these trends, triggering prolonged droughts in some areas and more frequent and intense flooding in others. Indeed, the problem of water resource scarcity is now so widespread that few places in the US are immune to intensifying water resource management challenges. 

On a conceptual level, the issue of resource scarcity is nothing new; however, water scarcity is in a category of its own. Although we might imagine some alternative to oil or copper, there simply is no alternative to fresh water. If you run out of fresh water you die, it’s as simple as that. Every living organism needs fresh water to survive. And while technological approaches like desalination might seem like an obvious answer to our water resource challenges, at this point in time these approaches are all energy intensive and we all know that energy is another resource in short supply. 

When we view water in this context, it is not a partisan issue. It is not a topic that is or should be the subject of debate between democrats and republicans, liberals and conservatives. Rather, the issue of sustainable water resource management is or should be of concern to all Americans. It is the foundation of the America dream and the American way of life. It is therefore the principle for which scores of Americans across all generations fought and died to defend. There is nothing more patriotic than that! And yet, it is a principle that’s under threat. 

If you want to be a patriot, if you want to uphold the principles and values of American democracy, consider taking the time to learn about the water management challenges and strategies in your local community. If you see the opportunity to help, put your shoulder to the wheel of water resource policy by making your voice heard. Remember, citizenship is not merely a set of rights and privileges. Citizens also bear the responsibility to act to defend our way of life against threats foreign and domestic. There are few threats more pernicious, more corrosive to our way of life than water resource scarcity. 

Five of our favorite homemade holiday gifts

This holiday give a gift from the heart, not the pocketbook

This morning, December 3, we learned that the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6% and wages increased by 2.5% since the same month last year. While this is definitely good news, for far too many military families these broad measurements of labor market conditions have no bearing on their day-to-day reality. According to the 2015 Veterans Economic Opportunity Report, roughly 1/2 of post-9/11 veterans will face a period of unemployment. We also know that the holidays can be a period of significant economic stress for those military families on the razor's edge of financial solvency. According to a recent report by the National Consumer Federation, 9 in 10 consumers surveyed admitted they could be convinced to spend an extra $25 this holiday season that they didn’t originally budget for gift giving.  

At Challenge America we understand it can be tempting to spend beyond your means during the holidays, but we also know that the most meaningful gifts are often the ones that come from the heart, not the pocketbook. It is in this spirit that we decided to share a few suggestions for creating your own heartfelt homemade gifts this holiday season. Not only will your friends, colleagues, and loved ones likely appreciate these gifts, but you can make these gifts without breaking the bank. 

Earphone Cord Management

1. Earphone Cord Holder For That Special Music Lover

At one point or another, virtually everyone has to cope with the frustration of a tangled earphone cord. This simple and thoughtful gift helps that special someone avoid this frustration and it does this with a touch of love! If you are planning to make this gift for a service member or veteran, you can always decorate your heart with a patriotic theme. Head on over to the good folks at Wahsosimple to learn how it's done. 

2. Bacon!

The team here at Challenge America LOVES bacon. We just can't get enough of the stuff! If you have a bacon lover on your gift list, we feel certain he or she will love this delicious caramelised onion and bacon jam. We know it may sound a bit odd, but it sure is yummy. The Good Housekeeping website has all the details for creating this culinary masterpiece. 

3. Solar Mason Jar Lights

If you have a few mason jars sitting around the house, you can make these attractive and useful lights in no time. If they are well sealed, these little lights can withstand some extreme weather. And best of all your friends and family will think you are a solar power guru! For straight-forward instructions, check out this link on This Old House

4. Chocolate!

If there is one thing better than bacon, it's chocolate. Mmmmmmm, chocolate! This is without a doubt our favorite chocolate treat around the Challenge America offices, and it's marginally healthy. Marginally. Our favorite recipe comes from the culinary masters at Thug Kitchen. Warning: the language is this recipe is PG-17 at best, but if you can tolerate a few rough words, the reward will be well worth the bits of crude language. Here is the recipe from The Offical Thug Kitchen Cookbook. 

5. Vanilla Bath Salts

Everyone loves to take a nice hot bath at the end of a long stressful day and everyone appreciates bath products that wash their cares away. These bath salts definitely do the trick. This of this as the gift that keeps on giving. For something so simply to make, this gift will get you more appreciation for buck than any other item on our list.  For quick and easy instructions, see the folks at hometalk.

Do you have a favorite homemade gift that didn't make our list?

If so, feel free to offer it up in the comments area below (especially if they involve chocolate!)

Support The Victims of Military Sexual Trauma

The transition to civilian life can be difficult even under the best of conditions, but it is particularly hard for those who are the victims of military sexual trauma (MST). In the most basic terms, MST is the result of sexual harassment or sexual assault during the course of military service.

Unfortunately, MST is a significant problem. Although the vast majority of cases go unreported, researchers can use anonymous surveys to uncover the scope of the problem. According to these surveys, researchers estimate there are some 26,000 victims of sexual harassment each year, of which roughly 5,000 are victims of sexual assault. From these findings, researchers conclude that 15- 36% of servicewomen and 1-2% of servicemen are victims of MST. While cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault also exist on the civilian side, most studies conclude these problems are particularly acute in the military context.

Sadly, MST victims often suffer significant and long-term health problems. Women are 20 times more likely to be victimized than men and female victims are 2.37 times more likely to receive a PTSD diagnosis than men who did not experience MST. However, both male and female victims tend to have higher rates of mental and physical health disorders, including depression, liver disease, and obesity.

At Challenge America, we actively support the efforts of nonprofit partners that provide physical and emotional support to the victims of MST - and now you can too. Please visit our fundraising page and consider making a donation to support the efforts to help the victims of MST live healthy and productive lives. 100% of your donation will go directly to the cause or project of your choosing, empowering you to make a substantial and positive impact in the life of a service member.

Burgess, A. W., Lee, W. J., & Carretta, C. M. (2016). Online Reporting of Military Sexual Trauma. Military Medicine, 181(4), 350–355.

Turchik, J. A., Pavao, J., Hyun, J., Mark, H., & Kimerling, R. (2012). Utilization and Intensity of Outpatient Care Related to Military Sexual Trauma for Veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 39(3), 220–233.

Wilson, L. C., Kimbrel, N. A., Meyer, E. C., Young, K. A., & Morissette, S. B. (2014). Do Child Abuse and Maternal Care Interact to Predict Military Sexual Trauma? Journal of Clinical Psychology, 71(4), 378–386.

5 Trips To Help Your Family Reconnect

Military families often struggle to reconnect as they navigate the transition to civilian life. In these situations, it is sometimes best to escape from the distractions and drudgery of daily life, load up the family car, and take a trip to our National Parks. With a bit of planning, it’s possible to visit the Parks without breaking the bank. Although they are climbing, gas prices are still relatively low and campground fees are often just $20 or less per night. If your family member is still on active duty or classified as a disabled veteran, your family may qualify for a free pass through the National Parks’ America The Brave program. For further inspiration, here is our top five list of National Parks along with additional sites to see along the way.

Yellowstone National Park 

Yellowstone is truly one of the most amazing places in the world. Every corner of the park offers a unique and inspiring experience, from the amazing hot springs at Old Faithful and Mammoth, to the magnificent views at Yellowstone Falls, to the relative tranquility of Yellowstone Lake and the Madison River. If you make the journey, we recommend a visit to the North Entrance, where you can see the old train station that greeted early visitors. Today it serves as the local library, with a friendly and knowledgeable staff who is more than happy to share the story of this historical building. Of course, no trip to Yellowstone is complete without a visit to nearby Teton National Park, with its awe inspiring views to the Teton Mountains and Jackson Lake. 

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest


While it is not part of the Park Service, Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest offers an amazing window into our past. One of the last remaining old growth forests east of the Mississippi, Joyce Kilmer allows you to sense the wonder of early explorers who thrilled at the majestic towering forests and rick ecological diversity of North America. It time allows, plan a side excursion to nearby Bryson City for a fun family float down the Nantahala River. 

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde is the Tikal or Machu Picchu of North America. The sheer scale and sophistication of this ancient civilization is hard to fathom, particularly given its improbably setting against the red cliffs of the Colorado desert. Families can easily spend entire week exploring the ruins and the surrounding area. If you tire of the arid desert vistas, take a trip North along the lush Dolores River, where you will find ample camping possibilities within walking distance of the river. 

Rocky Mountain National Park

Just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park offers exceptional hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing opportunities. A drive over Trail Ridge Road offers breathtaking views of 14,000 foot peaks and opportunities to see mountain goats, big horn sheep, elk, and marmot. If you are in the area, take a trip to the Stanley Hotel where they shot the exterior scenes for The Shining. If you have young children, a trip to the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery will provide a memorable experience. So too will a trip over Cameron Pass, with its moose and stunning views of the mountain peaks that line the boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park. 

The Oregon Coast, From Astoria to Coos Bay

It is easy to travel and camp along the Oregon coast, with its picture postcard lighthouses, impossible cliffs, and quaint fishing towns. To the north, you can explore abandoned WWII forts and see a recreation of Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark prepared for the long journey home. High-quality State and National Forest campgrounds are abundant and affordable. If you tire of the ocean scenery, take a drive up the Columbia River Gorge, where you can visit the Bonneville Dam and view breathtaking waterfalls. Just a short drive from Portland, Hood River offers a fun opportunity for the family to watch wind surfers, pick fresh berries, and soak in the majestic views of Mount Hood. 

3 Considerations For Collaborative Agreements

Veteran-related nonprofit organizations face growing competition for increasingly scarce financial resources. The vast majority have annual operating budgets of less than $100,000, with revenues that have remained more or less constant since 2001. According to one report, private philanthropy for veteran-related causes may be declining even as many state and local governments cut back on veteran-related programs as they continue to cope with the fallout from the Great Recession. Meanwhile, the demand for veteran-related services has reached an all-time high and is expected to increase over the coming years. Inter-organizational collaboration offers one possible means of coping with this volatility and uncertainty: collaboration can increase the pace of program innovation, speed the transfer of technology, increase access to financial resources, and enhance resilience to financial shocks. However, there are several issues nonprofits should consider before they rush to establish a collaborative agreement.

Is Your Organization Attractive?

Before you get too excited about forging a relationship with another organization, you should first consider what your organization brings to the table. To make yourself attractive to a potential partner, your organization will need to identify and play to its strengths or assets. If you manage a small nonprofit, what you likely lack in technological or financial resources you make up through your access to and detailed knowledge of local issues and clients. Larger regional or national organizations may be willing to share their technological and financial prowess in exchange for your insights into the potential applications of their strategic initiatives. As a relatively smaller player, collaboration with a national organization also endows your nonprofit with reputational benefits, which you can potentially leverage to attract new donors and strengthen community support. 

In addition to leveraging your assets, your staff will also need to keep an open mind and guard against opportunistic behavior. It is often not enough to bring something of value to the bargaining table, you also need to demonstrate your capacity to absorb the knowledge gained through a partnership. If your team exhibits biases against new or outside ideas, it will be more difficult for you to hold up your end of the collaborative bargain. Opportunistic behavior, such as shirking your responsibilities and withholding valuable information, can also undermine a collaborative relationship. As the risk of opportunism increases, potential partners will be more likely to mitigate this risk with formal contracts, which can complicate the relationship by making it more difficult to build trust between the partners. 

Is Your Organization Willing To Pay The Transaction Costs?

Economists use the term transaction cost to describe the costs involved in establishing and maintaining an exchange or relationship. Forging a new collaboration requires a significant investment of resources, including time and money. The leadership from each organization will likely meet on several occasions to discuss the terms and expectations of collaborative agreement, so that over time these interactions will cement a sense of mutual understanding and trust. Although this process is costly, it often yields more positive interactions among collaborators while reducing transaction costs and biases. 

Are Your Policies And Expectations Transparent?

A collaborative arrangement between nonprofit organizations typically relies on informal agreements rather than formal contracts. Generally informal agreements reduce transaction costs, provided they are built on robust systems of trust and reciprocity. To capitalize on the potential benefits of an informal arrangement, it is critical that organizations develop clear and transparent policies for managing the collaborative agreement. This is particularly true when the collaboration involves significant differences in organizational cultures, structures, and processes. Transparent policies reduce uncertainty and therefore accelerate the development of mutual understanding and trust. Informal collaborative arrangements also work best when each organization is explicit about its expectations for the relationship. Transparent expectations tend to reduce the likelihood of negative interactions and therefore yield more productive collaborative agreements.

Collaboration, Innovation, and Financial Security

Moving forward, veteran-related nonprofits of all types and sizes will need to weigh the pros and cons of collaboration as they face the prospect of intensifying competition for a shrinking pool of resources. To survive these volatile and uncertain times, nonprofits will need to innovate and they will need to professionalize. As the vast majority of nonprofits operate on very modest budgets, collaboration offers one possible means of enhancing their resilience. However, collaborative arrangements can be risky and costly endeavors. The mutual benefits that flow from collaboration may well outweigh the costs, provided nonprofits enter these arrangements prepared and with their eyes wide open. 

Works Referenced

Ahuja, G. (2000). "Collaboration networks, structural holes, and innovation: A longitudinal study." Administrative science quarterly.

Ahuja, G. (2000). "The duality of collaboration: Inducements and opportunities in the formation of interfirm linkages." Strategic management journal.

Carter, P., & Kidder, K. (2016). CHARTING THE SEA OF GOODWILL (pp. 1–24). Center for a New America Security.

Gesing, J., et al. (2014). "Joining Forces or Going It Alone? On the Interplay among External Collaboration Partner Types, Interfirm Governance Modes, and Internal R&D." Journal of Product Innovation Management 32(3): 424-440.
Schilling, M. A. and C. C. Phelps (2007). "Interfirm Collaboration Networks: The Impact of Large-Scale Network Structure on Firm Innovation." Management Science 53(7): 1113-1126.
Zahra, S. A. and G. George (2002). "Absorptive capacity: A review, reconceptualization, and extension." Academy of management review.

4 New Initiatives For The Military Community And Other News

 Check Out Our New Website

If you run a national nonprofit organization, how do you reach the individuals and organizations you want to serve? Online marketing offers one possible solution. However, given the dramatic growth in online content, an organization has to produce a professional website if it hopes to compete and succeed in this virtual space.  These days you need an attractive site with responsive web design that is carefully calibrated for search engine optimization. 

Of course, we have no idea how to do these things, so we reached out to the professionals at Fix8media for help. Within two short months, Josh, Tina, and the gang at Fix8 walked us through the mostly painless process of developing a brand new site from scratch. This process forced us to do a bit of soul-searching along the way, the result of which is a suite of new initiatives that allow us to leverage our sparkly new site to more effectively support the military community we want to serve. 

We hope you will be pleased with the results. When you have a spare moment, please navigate to the site and give us your feedback. While we always love to hear accolades for a job well done, we also welcome any constructive criticism you are willing to share. We thank you in advance for taking a peek and we hope you will share our site with the non-profits and military families in your community.

To visit our website simply copy and paste this URL into your browser:


New Initiatives

Did you know there are more than 42,000 veteran-related non-profits? Did you also know that these non-profits make up roughly 3% of the non-profit sector and their revenues have remained relatively constant since 2001?  At a time when demands for veteran services are at an all-time high, many veteran-related nonprofits have been struggling to survive. 

At Challenge America, we work to connect military members, veterans, and their families to resources in their local communities. Among other things, this means we help create resources when and where they are needed. It also means we try to enhance the resilience of existing veteran-related non-profits. 

Along with the launch of our new website, we are pleased to announce a suite of new initiatives to support local veteran-related nonprofits. Foremost among these is a new fundraising initiative, which guarantees 100% of all donations flow to the cause or project of a donor’s choosing. Partner organizations can take advantage of this program at no cost and with very few strings attached. This initiative is intended to relieve the heavy fundraising burdens that often tax the limited resources of smalllocal organizations while also providing a hand up to the military communities they serve. 

In addition to this fundraising initiative, Challenge America also launched a website development initiative as well as a new military spouse career initiative. Our website development program offers free basic website development to partner organizations, so that they too can more effectively connect to and communicate with the military communities they serve. Our military spouse career services offer free aptitude tests and career counseling services to unemployed or underemployed spouses of active duty, reserve, or separated military members. Nine out of ten military spouses want a job yet are unemployed or underemployed. Through our initiative, we hope to connect military spouses with career opportunities that align with their work-life balance. 

Golf Classic

Join us for a day at the beautiful Foundry Golf Club and support Challenge America as well as local veteran-related non-profits. Threesomes will team up with one wounded vet, active duty or retired military personnel. Robert Wrenn, Rich Beem and Todd Anderson will be on hand to lead a golf clinic before the tournament. 

The tournament includes the golf clinic, buffet lunch, cart, caddy, snacks, drinks and the post-tournament reception. Visit our registration website to sign up:

Coming Soon . . .

Although they are still under development, look for additional new initiatives over the coming months. At the moment we are hard at work developing the curriculum for Challenge America Academy, with online courses custom designed forveteran-related services. Built and taught by academics and non-profit professionals, Challenge America courses offer cutting edge instruction for intrepid entrepreneurs interested in launching a veteran-related non-profit in their local community as well as established non-profit managers who are interested in improving the performance of an existing organization. 

Keep your eyes open as well for news of the latest iteration of our resource tool. The team at Warrior Gateway has been busy these last few months developing an entirely new version of this acclaimed resource tool. Unfortunately, the latest version became too unstable and had to be shut down. However, I am told the features currently in development will make this tool more powerful than ever.