Saturday, May 17, 2008
Over the past several months, we have blogged often about the One Laptop Per Child nonprofit program. (See here, here and here). It seems that OLPC received a big boost recently because Microsoft has agreed to allow the program to use the Windows operating system. Previously, OLPC only used the Linux operating system, which did not sit too well with Microsoft. But, apparently, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte reached a meeting of the minds on a way in which Microsoft could assist the OLPC nonprofit effort to get laptops to poor children in developing parts of the world. Here is an excerpt from the May 16, 2008, issue of the New York Times discussing Microsoft's agreement to assist OLPC:
The first of the project’s child-friendly XO laptops running Windows XP will be tested next month in limited trials in four or five countries. Mr. Utzschneider declined to identify the countries, but he said XO laptops running Windows would be generally available by September.The pact with Microsoft is not an exclusive agreement. The Linux version will still be available, and the group will encourage outside software developers to create a version of the project’s educational software, called Sugar, that will run on Windows.
Windows will add a bit to the price of the machines, about $3, the licensing fee Microsoft charges to some developing nations under a program called Unlimited Potential. For those nations that want models that can run both Windows and Linux, the extra hardware required will add another $7 or so to the cost of the machines, Mr. Negroponte said.
The laptops now cost about $200 each, and the project’s goal is to eventually bring the price down to about $100.
For the entire article, see "Microsoft Joins Effort for Laptops for Children," in the May 16, 2008, issue of the New York Times.
Friday, May 16, 2008
On April 24, 2008, Steve Miller, TE/GE Commissioner at the IRS, discussed something he refers to as "jurisdictional gaps" in federal tax charity law enforcement. Sound like a great law review topic. Is anyone writing on this topic? Here is an excerpt from his speech:
But, back to the topic. Efficiency and effectiveness are not expressly within our jurisdiction. This is one of our jurisdictional gaps. But it is an issue of fundamental importance, and one that increasingly is attracting attention. Recently, there were Congressional hearings on veterans’ organizations. They were essentially about fundraising efficiency and compensation. It is an issue we cannot ignore if we are to faithfully administer the tax law.
I am not going to speak specifically about the veterans’ cases because that is not my point. My point is that the public and the Congress may and often do have an expectation that the Service can act when we see organizations spending 98 cents of every dollar on fundraising or compensation and 2 cents on services.
Now depending on the facts and just how egregious they are, such a situation may present issues of either private benefit or private inurement. But for the most part what we can do about efficiency and effectiveness is what we have been doing lately: pushing transparency so people can see for themselves just how efficient and effective an organization is, or is not. This means we need to give the public tools they can use to make apples-to-apples comparisons. As the public seeks a good "return" on its contribution dollar, we push for enhanced and meaningful transparency in the hope that market forces and the good sense of the public will bring about change.
We have taken a meaningful step in this direction with our work on the redesigned Form 990. One of our guiding principles was to create uniformity and transparency in reporting.
For the entire speech, see "Remarks of Steven T. Miller, Commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities, Before the Georgetown Law Center Seminar on Representing and Managing Tax-Exempt Organizations, April 24, 2008," on the IRS website.
The IRS continues to seek comments on its proposed instructions for the 2008 Form 990. Here is a link to comments received thus far: http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=181965,00.html
On May 13, 2008, the IRS posted on its website an announcement about its upcoming phone forum for TEO's on issues to consider during an election year. Here is the text of the announcement:
On April 28, 2008, the Chronicle of Philanthropy published an interesting story about a proposal for federal legislation that would implement online direct-to-donor disclosure rules for nonprofits. According to the article, this proposed system would eliminate the needs for national nonprofits, including political groups, to register in multiple state under charitable solicitation laws. Here is an excerpt from the article:
Mr. Fitzgibbons says his “direct-to-donor” system would be less cumbersome and costly for charities than registering in multiple states — and make it easier for donors and regulators to find information because it would be posted online. Organizations that did not “opt in” to the new system would be subject to traditional state-registration laws.
The proposal would also force members of Congress to shine a light on their own fund-raising activities. Committees that raise money for federal political candidates, for example, would be required to indicate on the disclosure form whether they have transferred money to other candidates or committees — a practice Mr. Fitzgibbons says is not always disclosed in fund-raising solicitations.
For the entire article, see "Debate Begins Over Proposal to Overhaul Fund-Raising Disclosure Rules," in the April 28, 2008, online edition of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The comments to the story, also on the chronicle site, are worth a read.
Federal Authorities Investigate MLK National Memorial Project Foundation for Questionable Bidding Practices
On May 15, 2008, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Interior is investigating the bidding practices and other aspects of operations of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Foundation. Here is an excerpt from the article:
Among those questioned in the inspector general probe were Atlanta painter Gilbert Young and his wife, Lea Winfrey-Young, leading critics of the memorial foundation.
Winfrey-Young said the couple gave federal investigators records they had collected since they formed the group "King Is Ours" to protest the hiring of Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin, whose works for the Chinese government have included a statue of the late leader Mao Zedong.
Winfrey-Young said her concerns grew about the outsourcing of the project after she was told the foundation had not put the project up for competitive bidding among American artists and had not contacted American granite companies for the stone.
For the entire article, see "Probe targets King memorial group: Finances, bidding practices the focus of federal investigation of project's foundation," in the May 15, 2008, issue of the AJC.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
On May 7, 2008, Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire reported that MasterCard Foundation, a nonprofit private company, awarded a three quarter million dollar grant to Microfinance Information Exchange to share information on the financial strength of microfinance institutions. Here is an excerpt from the article:
The grant underscores the MasterCard Foundation's commitment to building the capacity of the microfinance sector, which provides financial services to low-income populations in developing countries. MIX Market 2.0 will improve the speed, accuracy and usability of the current MIX Market Web platform, which serves more than 25,000 visitors per month. The platform provides annual financial and operating information on more than 1,150 microfinance institutions, as well as profiles of 100 funders that invest in microfinance and almost 200 partners, including evaluators and development programs. However, significant technological improvements are needed to expand and upgrade the platform to support the growing demand for real-time information.
For the entire article, see "MasterCard Foundation Partners with Microfinance Information eXchange to Enhance Transparency of Microfinance Industry," in the May 7, 2008, on-line edition of Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire.
As we just blogged, in addition to the tax swap proposal, Florida voters will consider in November a constitutional amendment that will eliminate its so-called "Blaine Amendment" law. According to an article in the May 15, 2008, issue of the Washington Post, 37 states across the country enacted Blaine Amendments about one hundred years ago when the "Protestant majority" wanted "to block government support for catholic schools." It appears that the stakes in Florida are huge considering the potential loss of funding for a myriad of social service activities that many consider critical. here is an excerpt from the article:
Patricia Levesque, the commission member who pushed to add the measure, said she acted because a 2004 appeals court decision cited the Blaine Amendment while striking down then-Gov. Jeb Bush's effort to allow students in failing schools to enroll in parochial and other private schools at public expense.
Levesque said the 2004 decision, as well as a lawsuit recently filed against state prison chaplains, could endanger millions of dollars in state contracts that go to faith-based organizations running substance abuse programs, HIV education services, foster care programs and pre-kindergarten programs.
* * *
Opponents of the measure say that Levesque, Jeb Bush's former education policy chief and the current head of Bush's independent education organization, Foundation for Florida's Future, is using alarmist language as a way to revive his voucher program.
The warnings are a "scare tactic" said Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association. "It's Governor Bush's attempt to get vouchers for all." A coalition of education organizations has combined with Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Anti-Defamation League to contest the measure.
For the entire article, "Fla. to Consider Key Church-State Question: Funds Ban for Religious Groups at Issue," in the May 15, 2008, issue of the Washington Post.
Two months ago we blogged about Florida's tax swap proposal which is aimed at eliminating a significant portion of the school portion of state property tax and replacing it with a sales tax revenue and other sources. The May 14, 2008, issue of the Orlando Sentinel reports that Florida citizens are poised to vote in November on three proposed constitutional amendments - one would approve the tax swap (Amendment 5) and the other two would essentially authorize the state to use tax dollars to fund private sectarian elementary and high school education (Amendments 7 and 9). Here is an excerpt from the article:
Amendment 7 would remove Florida's century-old ban on state dollars going to religious or "sectarian" institutions. Amendment 9 would spell out that the constitutional requirement to fund "public" schools couldn't prevent tax dollars from going to private schools. Both amendments were pushed by former Bush staffers on the tax and budget panel, which last month put them on the ballot.
* * *
Amendment 5 would eliminate $9.5 billion in required school-tax levies and require the Legislature to replace the revenue from higher sales taxes or other sources. Business groups including Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Retail Federation argue that this will lead to taxes on services such as lawyer fees, haircuts or pet manicures.
For the entire article, see "Teachers union poised to fight amendments: Group will challenge voucher revival, also may battle tax swap," in the May 14, 2008, issue of the Orlando Sentinel.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
We previously blogged about the trouble that charity aide groups are having trouble getting relief supplies and services to victims of the May 3 cyclone in Myanmar. Based on this article from the May 14, 2008, edition of the New York Times, it appears that charitable organizations may still be having trouble getting to hard to reach areas of the country. Estimates from the United Nations are that nearly 60,000 people will die as a result of the cyclone. Here is an excerpt from the article:
In a report from Yangon, the official news agency of China, Myanmar’s friend and neighbor, said international aid had been arriving in Myanmar since last week, with aircraft landing at the airport one after another. The Chinese reports made no mention of delays.
On Monday, several medical teams from the Swiss-based branch of Doctors Without Borders were ordered out of the Irrawaddy Delta with no explanation.
Andrew Kirkwood, country director in Myanmar for Save the Children, said he had surveyed the delta by air in recent days and had concluded that trucks and helicopters would not be enough to deliver the aid needed by the people affected by the storm. The Myanmar government reportedly has five working helicopters.
For the entire article, see "Myanmar Government Still Blocking Relief," in the may 14, 2008, issue of the New York Times. dab
On May 12, 2008, the University of Oregon School of Law announced on its website that a contributing editor to this blog, Professor Susan Gary, has been named Orlando J. and Marian H. Hollis Professor. Here is the announcement:
Susan Gary, an expert on trust and estate law and the current Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, has been named an Orlando J. and Marian H. Hollis Professor. Professor Gary's research examines the way inheritance laws apply to changing family structures, regulation of nonprofit organizations, and use of mediation in estate planning and probate. She currently serves as reporter for the Uniform Management of Institutional Funds Act.
Many congratulations Susan!
The May 13, 2008, issue of the St. Petersburg Times reports that residents of Tampa, Florida are upset over the prospect of a private nonprofit sell its waste water to private corporations. The nonprofit, Water Partners, Inc., will sell treated sewer water that would otherwise be dumped into Tampa Bay to corporate purchasers, including a local utility company, a fertilizer company and nearby county and city governments. Government officials in in Tampa are concerned that a private company is being hired to do what the city of Tampa has failed to do after 10 years of trying. Here is an excerpt from the article:
Why consider the public-private venture at all?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is pressuring Florida to limit its release of pollutants into coastal waters, and state lawmakers are taking steps to make rules for reclaimed-water use. That could take away Tampa's control of its water altogether.
At a recent meeting, City Council member Charlie Miranda said the city should participate in all conversations about plans for its water, or legislators would "take it away from us for distribution to the region without one penny to the citizens who create it."
The plans involve Hillsborough County and a small amount of its reclaimed water, too. Commissioner Jim Norman recently asked for more time to consider the proposal, saying he is concerned about having a nonprofit group in charge and how much the plan might cost the county.
For the entire article, see "Letting Nonprofit Control Water Reuse Worries Tampa," in the May 13, 2008, issue of the St. Petersburg Times.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
"Hey brother, can you spare a dime?": San Francisco's Attempt To End Panhandling as a Form of Direct Philanthropy
The May 13, 2008, issue of the San Francisco Chronicle has an article about San Francisco's innovative new way to deal with what it calls the problems of homelessness - set up 10 meters around the city that accept change from the public that is given directly to charities that help the homeless. Here is an excerpt from the article:
Money deposited in the meters would go directly to charities that help the homeless. The goal, officials say, is to reduce panhandling and to educate tourists and residents about the problem of giving money directly to people on the streets.
"The reason people are panhandling is because there's a market for panhandling," Mayor Gavin Newsom said Monday. "We're not helping these individuals by handing out cash. If there was strong evidence to suggest this helped people turn their lives around, we would not be using this approach."
* * *
Local advocates for the homeless, however, laughed - and gasped - when told about the idea Monday.
Sister Bernie Galvin, executive director of Religious Witness with Homeless People, called the meter idea "utterly ridiculous." She said it was based on a stereotype that all panhandlers use every nickel and dime to buy drugs and alcohol.
"Forget the children, forget the mothers who are struggling to raise their family homeless or in inadequate housing," she said. "Will the city never give up on trying to find ways to make the lives of homeless people harder?"
For the entire article, see "S.F. parking meters retooled to aid homeless," in the May 13, 2008, issue of the San Francisco Chronicle.
I don't usually comment on my posts to this blog, but this idea is nuts! Sister Galvin is absolutely correct in stating that this idea is based on, and will likely promote, a stereotype about panhandlers using donated money exclusively for drugs and alcohol. Each of us should give money to panhandlers if we choose to do so. If panhandlers are breaking laws concerning when and where to panhandle, the public officials should enforce those laws. If panhandlers are breaking other laws concerning illegal drug use, then public officials should enforce those laws. But giving money to a 501(c)(3) charity as a substitute for direct giving to someone in need is just ludicrous.
As a follow-up to an earlier post this week about "piggy bank philanthropy," the March 12, 2008, issue of the Boston Globe has an interesting article about an effort to educate middle and high school students about philanthropic ways in which they can help relieve world poverty. The article describes a program being organized by MicroLoan Foundation USA, a nonprofit that plans to recruit college students to teach middle and high school students about microlending - "a loan system for people in developing countries." Here is an excerpt from the article:
The program, which will be taught by volunteer college students in partnership with classroom teachers, is designed to show students that "just because they're in high school and half a world away doesn't mean they can't actually help someone in an impoverished community in rural Africa," said Lauren Galinsky, 20, a junior at Boston College who is recruiting schools and college students to participate in the project.
On the contrary, Galinsky added: Even small amounts of money raised by large numbers of students can have a powerful positive effect on the lives of disadvantaged people thousands of miles away.
Modeled after globally acclaimed microcredit organizations like Grameen Bank - which with its founder, Muhammad Yunus, won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize - the MicroLoan Foundation USA is a spinoff of the MicroLoan Foundation, a London-based organization founded in 2002 to provide microfinance services in Malawi, Zambia, and the Philippines. The Cambridge entity was created to bolster the organization's US fund-raising efforts, and to enable US donors to receive charitable tax deductions for their contributions, said David A. Rice, executive director of MicroLoan Foundation USA.
For the entire article, see "Seed money: MicroLoan Foundation USA plans to make big changes by teaching students about poverty and microlending," in the May 12, 2008, issue of the Boston Globe.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy announced on May 12, 2008, that Jeffrey S. Raikes will be the new CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest foundation. Mr. Raikes, a former Microsoft executive and founder of his own $100+ million foundation, will start in September when the current CEO, Patty Stonesifer, steps down after 11 years as the founding CEO of Gates Foundation. Here is an excerpt from the article:
Ms. Gates said the foundation chose Mr. Raikes, in part, because of his demonstrated success at managing during periods of high growth. Mr. Raikes had most recently been president of Microsoft’s business-software division, which is responsible for such things as the Office software suite.
“We really wanted somebody to build on the organization that we have today,” Ms. Gates said.
She said that all three of the foundation’s presidents — Allan C. Golston, who heads the U.S. Program; Tadataka Yamada, president of the Global Health Program; and Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Global Development Program — approved of Mr. Raikes’s selection.
“I have much to learn, but being able to work with a tremendous team will be very exciting for me,” Mr. Raikes said.
For the entire article, see "Gates Foundation Picks Microsoft Veteran as New CEO," in the May 12, 2008, issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Public Inspection and Disclosure of Form 990-T
The IRS has provided interim guidance on the requirement that section 501(c)(3) organizations (charities) make available for public inspection Forms 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return. Notice 2008-49 provides as follows:
- Guidelines in Treas. Reg. § 301.6104(d)-1 and Notice 2007-45 for making annual returns available for inspection and copying generally continue to apply, except that a return covered by the guidelines includes an exact copy of a Form 990-T filed by a charity after August 17, 2006. The return also includes any schedules, attachments, and supporting documents that relate to the imposition of tax on the unrelated business income of the charity. Schedules, attachments and supporting documents that do not relate to the imposition of the unrelated business income tax do not have to be made available for inspection and copying.
- A charity must make Form 990-T available only for the three years beginning on the last day (including extensions) for filing the return.
- The IRS now must make Forms 990-T filed by charities publicly available; Announcement 2008-21 sets forth procedures for requesting Forms 990-T from the IRS.
The IRS and Treasury Department invite comments on implementation of the new public inspection requirement for Form 990-T, including what schedules or attachments should not be available for public inspection when attached to Form 990-T. See section 4 of Notice 2008-49 for additional information.
Professors Francine Lipman (Chapman) and James E. Williamson (PhD, CPA) posted an abstract of their Practical Tax Lawyer article about charitable contributions of property on SSRN's Nonprofit and Philanthropy Law Abstracting Journal. The article is entitled "Avoiding Malpractice Traps in Noncash Charitable Contributions" Here is the abstract:
Substance usually rules over form, but form is a very necessary and critical component of any tax practice. This maxim is especially true when taxpayers claim tax deductions for the FMV of their noncash charitable contributions. As the recent Tax Court decision in Hewitt v. Commissioner, 109 T.C. 258 (1997), and that decision's subsequent affirmation, 166 F.3d 332, 98-2 U.S.T.C. (CCH) P50,880 (4th Cir. 1998), demonstrate, taxpayers must follow very detailed and technical rules to substantiate deductions for charitable contributions of property. The Internal Revenue Service and the courts have confirmed that unless taxpayers (and their tax attorneys) follow the letter of the law, their noncash charitable contribution deductions may be limited to the taxpayers' cost basis in the property. Tax attorneys should use this clearly stated position to support and not undermine their clients' noncash charitable deductions.
Goodwin Posts "Ask Not What Your Charity Can Do for You: Robertson v. Princeton Provides Liberal-Democratic Insights into Cy Pres Reform"
Professor Iris Goodwin (Tennessee) posted an abstract of her draft Arizona Law Review article about the cy pres doctrine on SSRN's Nonprofit and Philanthropy Law Abstracting Journal. The article is entitled "Ask Not What Your Charity Can Do for You: Robertson v. Princeton Provides Liberal-Democratic Insights into Cy Pres Reform." Here is the abstract:
This article centers on a long-standing problem in the law of public charity: how to ameliorate the force of restrictions imposed by donors on large gifts in the face of societal change. Seeking to advance personal beliefs or social agenda, donors of large gifts commonly limit the application of donated funds to particular programs. Under current law, such restrictions obtain in perpetuity. A restriction, if socially apposite when made, often functions as a dead hand upon the charity with the passage of time. What has long been sought by the legal community is a substantive standard by which to evaluate the continued social efficacy of these donor-imposed restrictions and to justify interpreting them more liberally in the face of change. This article sheds light on this challenge by first understanding these restrictions as private views of the public good, and by then locating charitable mission and in particular restricted gifts in the context of liberal democracy. At that point, we can discern the deep, normative reasons for which this criterion has eluded commentators, judges and legislatures operating in a tradition of political liberalism. This argument is grounded in John Rawls's use of the distinction, fundamental to liberal political thought, between the concepts of the right and the good, to locate within a liberal democracy certain claims about the public good.
By way of illustration, this article also examines aspects of the ongoing legal dispute between the Robertson family and Princeton University. The Robertsons allege that the University has failed to comply with a restriction that the family imposed on a gift made decades earlier and, further, has applied Robertson funds far outside the compass of the grant. Now valued at almost $800 million, the gift represents 6% of Princeton's endowment. The Robertsons' gift was made in response to President Kennedy's challenge to Ask not what your country... The Robertsons claim that, consistent with the patriotic impulse that motivated the grant, funds were to be used to establish a graduate program to educate students for careers in the U.S. government. As one family's response to Kennedy's challenge to the nation, the Robertson restriction is a quintessential example of a private view of the public good. Within a few short years, however, the moment of idealism that inspired the gift came to an abrupt end with the assassination of Kennedy, the mire of Vietnam and other national embarrassments, and young people were not interested in working for the U.S. government. No case or controversy better illustrates the role that restricted gifts play in the charitable sector or demonstrates the particular inadequacies of the current law in guiding charities in their stewardship of such gifts over time.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Crimm Posts "Muslim-Americans' Charitable Giving Dilemma: What About a Centralized Terror-Free Donor Advised Fund?"
Professor Nina J. Crimm (St. John's) posted an abstract of her draft Roger Williams University Law Review article about the challenges Muslim-Amreicans face when giving to some charities on SSRN's Nonprofit and Philanthropy Law Abstracting Journal. The article is entitled "Muslim-Americans' Charitable Giving Dilemma: What About a Centralized Terror-Free Donor Advised Fund?" Here is the abstract:
In the post-9/11 national security oriented environment, many Muslim-Americans face an inhospitable philanthropic environment and the dilemma of how to satisfy their religious charitable giving obligations and goals. The Article addresses the chilled philanthropic climate by suggesting that it might be moderated through the creation of a centralized terror-free donor advised fund aimed specifically at enabling Muslim-Americans discreetly to direct their diaspora philanthropy to needy Muslims in a few targeted regions and communities abroad. It presents the financial feasibility of, and the essential requirements for, creating such a terror-free donor advised fund. The Article suggests how the benefits of a terror-free donor advised fund would inure not only to Muslim-Americans and the neediest Muslims abroad, but also to the American public.
The May 9, 2008, issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy announces that the nonprofit, Nature Conservancy, has hired a former investment manager as its new chief executive. In 2003, the Nature Conservancy was the subject of a series of investigative articles by the Washington Post that resulted in a Senate investigation into its business practices. Here is an excerpt from the article:
The Nature Conservancy today named an investment manager with a deep background in environmental issues to be its new chief executive.
Mark R. Tercek, 51, managing director at the investment firm Goldman Sachs and head of the firm’s Center for Environmental Markets, will replace Steven J. McCormick, who left the charity in October.
* * *
The Nature Conservancy is also working to regain its momentum following a a 2003 investigation by The Washington Post into its business practices that sparked a Senate investigation and prompted the organization to restructure its board.
Given the Nature Conservancy’s size and complexity, some observers had speculated the organization would hire its new leader from within.
For the entire article, see "Nature Conservancy Hires Investment Banker as Its New Chief Executive," in the May 9, 2008, issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.