Friday, February 27, 2009

New GAO Report on Federal Funding of Nonprofits

The GAO has published a new report concerning federal funding of nonprofits (federally tax-exempt organizations, for this purpose). Here is their summary:

The federal government uses a variety of funding mechanisms to achieve national priorities through partnerships with nonprofit organizations, and the relationships are sometimes complex and multidirectional. Nonprofit organizations receive federal grant and contract funds both directly and through other entities, such as states, for performing activities or providing services to particular beneficiaries. Federal funds paid to nonprofit organizations as fees for services follow a somewhat more complex path. Credit through loan and loan guarantee mechanisms facilitate nonprofit organizations’ access to capital. Similarly, some tax policies result in benefits to nonprofit organizations by either reducing their costs or increasing their revenues. With direct federal grants and contracts, and with some loans and loan guarantees, federal agencies generally select the nonprofit participant, directly control the amount of funding provided, and monitor nonprofit performance. With other mechanisms, such as tax expenditures and fee-for service programs, the federal government sets criteria for acceptable recipients but does not directly select or monitor nonprofit performance.

Due to limitations and reliability concerns with tracking systems’ data, the data presently collected provide an incomplete, unreliable picture of the federal government’s funds reaching the nonprofit sector through various mechanisms, although they suggest these funds were significant. No central source tracks federal funds passed through an initial recipient, such as a state, and the nonprofit status of recipients was not reliably identified in FPDS-NG or FAADS. Factors contributing to data limitations include the nonprofit status of recipients being self-reported and no consistent definition of nonprofit across data systems. The development of a system to report funding through subawards, currently underway, may enable more complete estimates of funding to the sector in the future. However, until the accuracy of nonprofit status is improved, accurately determining the extent of federal funds reaching the sector is not possible, leaving policy makers without a clear understanding of the extent of funding to, and importance of, key partners in delivering federal programs and services. Funding data sources identified the following as the approximate amounts of federal funds flowing to nonprofits in 2006 under different mechanisms, although most sources did not reliably classify nonprofit status of recipients:
• $135 billion in fee-for-service payments under Medicare;
• $10 billion in other types of fee-for-service payments;
• $25 billion in grants paid directly to nonprofits;
• $10 billion paid directly to nonprofits for contracts; and
In addition, approximately $2.5 billion in loan guarantees and $450 million in loans were issued to nonprofits, and approximately $50 billion in federal tax revenues were foregone due to tax expenditures related to nonprofits.

(Hat Tip to Harvey Dale)


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