Friday, January 2, 2009

Chronicle of Philanthropy Reports on Recent Reports by State AGs on Professional Fundraising by Nonprofits

Since December 29, 2008, the Chronicle of Philanthropy has reported on the states of California, Massachusetts and New York.  The AGs in each of these states have issued reports that look at how much money is being raised and what portion of that money reaches nonprofit causes.  The issue of the costs for fundraising versus the actual dollars that are directed to nonprofit causes is a hot issue for nonprofits.  I think this will be increasingly so in the months and years to come because of the difficult economic times we are in.  Donors will be more demanding, and steer clear of those nonprofits were fundraising costs are disproportionate to the actual dollars that reach nonprofit programs.  From a legal perspective, this issue raises the question of whether the "no private inurement rule" (one of several requirements for acquiring and maintaining tax-exempt status) has been violated when funds are paid out to the professional fundraiser.  Courts have yet to provide a clear standard in this area.  The best guidance is to stay within the average spending ranges for fundraising costs on similar campaigns of similarly situated nonprofits.  This point is made in one of the articles linked in the December 29 posting. 

Below are links to the various stories, which provide links to the stories as reported around the country.  For the Chronicle of Philanthropy report of December 29, 2008, please click here (California and Massachusetts).  For the Chronicle of Philanthropy report of today, January 2, 2009, please click here (New York).

AMT

January 2, 2009 in State – Executive | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Another Sports Celebrity Charity is the Focus of an AG's Office

As a follow-up to our recent blog (on December 31, 2008) about celebrity foundations and charities, another sports celebrity is in the news.  On December 31, 2008, the Boston Globe reports that Red Sox Player Kevin Youkilis's charity, Hit for Kids, is the focus of an investigation by the Attorney General's office.  The charity reportedly raised over $1 million this past year for various children's charities but the Massachusetts Attorney General says that the charity is not properly registered and that it has not filed required annual reports with the AG’s Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division.  See the brief excerpt below:

Red Sox slugger Kevin Youkilis . . . isn’t exactly a hit with state Attorney General Martha Coakley. The AG’s office has called foul on Youk’s charity Hits For Kids because the ballplayer hasn’t registered the nonprofit as required by law.

Youk and his new bride, Enza, have raised more than $1 million over the past year for charities that help children but did not file any reports with the state, officials said.

Coakley’s office sent out a letter to Hits for Kids this week notifying the organization it is in violation of state law. All Massachusetts nonprofits are required to file annual reports with the AG’s Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division to show how much money has been raised and how it was spent.

For the full story, please click here.

AMT

January 2, 2009 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Top Tax Stories Generally

Below is a link to the TaxProf blog that provides coverage of tax topics generally outside of the tax-exempt area.  Each year, the blog post the top tax stories.  I thought you might enjoy the fact that the top story getter was Joe the Plumber, followed closely by tax aspects of the 700 Bailout Bill (Tax Pork!), and tax policy under an Obama-Biden Administration.  Please click here for the full story.  Enjoy!

AMT

January 2, 2009 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Former Senator Pell, Creator of the Pell College Grant, Died Yesterday, January 1, 2009

Former Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island died at the age of 90 yesterday, January 1, 2009, at his home in Rhode Island.  Senator Pell was the creator and force behind the Pell College Grant Program, which became law in 1972 as the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant Program, and was named after him in 1980 ("Pell Grants").  The Pell College Grant enabled many low- and middle-income class students to attend college over the years (and still does).  (See article here).  We have blogged on numerous occasions in 2008 about the pressure applied by Iowa Senator Charles Grassley on Ivy-league institutions with significant endowments.  Many of these institutions responded by offering reduced or free tuition to low- and middle-income class students.  Not all institutions followed suit.  The Pell College Grant continues to be an important source of funds for these students who want to attend college. 

A lesser known fact is that Senator Pell "also shared a strong interest in the arts, and was chief Senate sponsor of a 1965 law establishing the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities."

For the full story, please click here

January 1, 2009 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Philadelphia's Mayor Taking Heat for an Unscheduled Grant of $250,000 to a Local Arts Organization

On December 30, 2008, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Mayor Nutter of Philadelphia is under fire for an unscheduled grant of $250,000 to the Philadelphia Orchestra Ensemble.  While it may not be unusual for a mayor to support a city's orchestra, which happens to be the premier orchestra in the city and of vital importance to the city's tourism and self-identity, it was out of the norm in this case.  In looking for the unbudgeted funds, Mayor Nutter tapped the funds of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, an independent nonprofit, with a board of its own.  Board members were not consulted, and many are upset that the Fund's internal review processes were ignored in this situation.  Board members owe fiduciary duties to the nonprofits they serve.  Those duties include being informed, actively participating in meetings, and ensuing that the nonprofits have internal processes for decision-making and that those processes are followed.  This is a good example of Board members doing the right thing and insisting on performing their duties.  For more, see the brief excerpt below:

Last spring, as city revenue projections began to look shaky, Mayor Nutter met privately with Harold Sorgenti, chairman of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, and agreed to provide a $250,000 unscheduled grant to the city's premier music ensemble.

No announcement of the gift was made, and no funds had been previously budgeted for the orchestra. Where would the money come from, officials wondered. They decided that the city's allocation for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund could be tapped without a problem.

It's a decision that has riled some members of the fund's board, who argue that the Nutter administration, while generous to the arts, has now undermined the integrity of an arts-funding process that was explicitly designed to steer clear of the muddying influence of politics.

"My understanding is that the amount of money decided on for the orchestra was a decision that the City of Philadelphia made," said Cheryl McClenney-Brooker, president of the board of the Cultural Fund, which is an independent nonprofit entity.

"That was outside of our process," she said. "We were told about it, and there were board members who took exception with that."

For the full story, please click here.

AMT

January 1, 2009 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Year-End Look at 2008 Legislation Initiatives Regarding Nonprofits

The Philanthropy News Digest, a service of the Foundation Center, provides a legislative roundup for 2008.  Please click here for the full story.

AMT

January 1, 2009 in Federal – Legislative, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Chronicle of Philanthropy Will Host Online Discussion for Nonprofits About 2009 Outlook

The Chronicle of Philanthropy will host an online discussion that is free to the public on January 6, 2009.  The discussion will feature experts from New York University's Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.  For the more information, see below:

What will 2009 mean for your charity’s fund-raising, grant-seeking, and budgeting efforts? What will the economic meltdown and shifting demographics mean to your bottom line?

Join us on January 6 at noon for an online discussion with experts from New York University’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. They will discuss economic trends, changes in Washington, donor demographics, and other key issues that are relevant to your organization’s operations in the new year.

The Chronicle’s online discussions are free and open to everyone. People who ask questions in advance have a better chance of getting answers.

For the full story, please click here.

AMT

January 1, 2009 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year and Goodbye to 2008!

HAPPY NEW YEAR AND MANY THANKS TO ALL WHO HAVE SUPPORTED THE NONPROFIT LAW PROF BLOG THIS YEAR FROM YOUR BLOG EDITORS!

WE LOOK FORWARD TO BLOGGING WITH YOU IN THE NEW YEAR!  2009 HERE WE COME!

YOUR EDITORS

AMT

December 31, 2008 in Other | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Study Finds that Foundations Established by Many NBA Players are Poorly Structured and Run

Yesterday (December 30, 2008),  the Salt Lake City Tribune highlighted the pitfalls of starting a foundation or charity without proper legal guidance.  The article focuses on NBA players who, with good intentions, setup foundations and charities in their names.  Based on a study of tax records and other resources, the article concludes that many of these foundations and charities underperform in charitable giving -- meaning that 51% of every dollar raised reaches the charitable cause while the national average is 65%.  Also, many of these charities maintain poor records and experience difficulties with federal and state reporting requirements.  I teach an introduction to nonprofits law course, and one of the main motivators for teaching this course for me is to produce a cadre of lawyers who are capable of properly advising persons, athletes or just common ole' folks, who want to setup and run nonprofits, and the nonprofits themselves.  This Salt Lake City Tribune article suggests that there is plenty need.  Please see the brief excerpt below:

But an analysis by The Salt Lake Tribune of hundreds of tax documents filed by NBA player charities has found these foundations face a dizzying array of problems, especially those set up by the athletes themselves, without outside expertise.

Among the findings of The Tribune's analysis of 89 stand-alone NBA player charities:

Together, they reported revenue of at least $31 million between 2005 and 2007, but only about 44 cents of every dollar raised - or $14 million of that $31 million - actually reached needy causes.  The average NBA player foundation put just 51 cents of each dollar it spent toward charitable programs, well below the 65 cents most philanthropic watchdog groups view as acceptable.  Tax records show budgets are quickly eaten up by poor planning and administrative costs.

While a handful of player charities appear to be well-financed and tightly managed organizations that do good, a larger number are unimpressively funded and their activities poorly documented. Up to a quarter of NBA player charities analyzed lacked even basic documentation required by the Internal Revenue Service.

Few player-run charities hire full-time directors to manage daily operations, and players commonly put family members, friends and former sports associates on their boards, despite IRS rules requiring that a majority of board members be nonrelatives.

Some player charities hold lavish fundraising galas that cost tens of thousands of dollars but actually lose money.

Though shining examples of NBA charity work abound - including noteworthy efforts by the five Jazz players, all of whom run effective charities - player foundations' noble motives often go awry, as even the league acknowledges.

'We don't shy from it,' said NBA Senior Vice President Kathy Behrens, adding the league has tried with limited success to maintain a database on player foundations. 'There are horror stories . . . of guys who set them up because their agent said to or they thought it was a good idea and they had good intentions, but not a good plan. That causes trouble.'

For the full story, please click here.

AMT

December 31, 2008 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Willam R. Ferris, Senior Associate Director of the Center for the Study of the American South, Calls for a Cabinet-level Position for Culture

William R. Ferris is the senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He is a former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1997-2001.  In a recent op-ed piece (December 26, 2008), he calls for the creation of a Secretary of Culture.  He believes that the creation of this cabinet-level position would lessen conflict among national arts and culture agencies (i.e., the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, NPR, PBS, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Endowment for the Humanities), provide for cohesive leadership for the group of culture agencies, and provide for a more predictable funding and financing stream to these institutions. 

This is an interesting idea for a nation that puts a lot into cultivating and preserving its national identity.  Below is brief excerpt of this op-ed article:

But as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1997 to 2001, I learned firsthand that these institutions, though united by a shared goal, can sometimes run into conflict with one another. There were bureaucratic tangles, overlaps and missteps that, with foresight, could have been avoided.

Which is why I believe the president should create a cabinet-level position — a secretary of culture — to provide more cohesive leadership for these impressive programs and to assure that they receive the recognition and financing they deserve.

The president should initiate another change, too. The leaders of our cultural institutions should all have renewable 10-year appointments. (Some now serve only four-year terms.) Such a change would help to provide continuity and insulate the organizations from the tumult of political change. This move would allow each agency to develop long-term agendas in coordination with the secretary of culture in each administration.

Mr. Obama has an opportunity to revitalize our national spirit by strengthening our cultural programs at every level. It’s hard to imagine what could be a more important — and enduring — legacy.

For the full story, please click here.

AMT

December 31, 2008 in Federal – Executive, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Conservative Philanthropist View of the Times Ahead

In a recent Wall Street Journal Opinion Editorial, dated December 27, 2008, reporter Naomi Schaefer Riley interviews Mr. William (Bill) Simon, the son of the late William E. Simon who was a treasury secretary under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and who made his fortune in investment banking.  Ms. Riley reports that "the senior Simon spent almost a quarter century as president of The John M. Olin Foundation, where he worked tirelessly on behalf of the idea of donor intent, making sure that those funds were going only to causes Mr. Olin would have approved of."  The younger Simon, Mr. Bill Simon, credits his father with ushering in a conservative renaissance while running the Olin Foundation, which he says was the intent of John M. Olin, the foundation's founder.  Mr. Bill Simon, the younger Simon, today runs The William E. Simon Foundation, a foundation established by his late father in his late father's name.  For me, the article begins one way and ends another.  It further concerns me that Mr. Simon has political aspirations.  He intends to run for governor or lieutenant governor of California in 2010.  He worked in the presidential campaign of Rudy Giuliani, and he unsuccessfully ran for California governor in 2000 and 2003. 

Mr. Simon begins the interview discussing the importance of donor intent.  He applauds the A&P heirs who recently prevailed against Princeton University, insisting that the University more closely adhere to the donor's wishes that the monies be used for promoting public service.  Ms. Riley reports:

Respecting "donor intent" is a deeply significant issue, since it gets to the heart of why individuals are even willing to establish philanthropic foundations.  And Bill Simon's take on the Princeton dispute is unequivocal.  "I give kudos to the Robertsons for fighting the battle as long as they did.  It took a lot of guts and a lot of courage," he tells me.

As the article progresses, Mr. Simon discusses his father's approach to maintaining strict adherence to donor intent -- simply have the foundation cease to exist (i.e., sunset) after a certain number of years.  This sunsetting of the foundation prevents, in his opinion (and the opinion of his father), the foundation from drifting away from the donor's intent.  It is his belief that keeping the foundation alive for too long permits the donor's intent to be forgotten.  He says that the Ford Foundation is an example of a foundation that has existed so long that it has moved away from Henry Ford's intent (and will).  He further states that, "'As I get a little bit older I can see the wisdom of Dad's advice,' he says, noting that 'people's behaviors change.  . . . You have to be targeted in your focus and it's harder to do that as you . . . get further away from the donor.'"

As I read on, it occurred to me that Mr. Simon and I see the roles of foundation giving and charities through different eyes.  He speaks of the important conservative policy agendas ushered in by foundations like the Olin Foundation who he says "usher[ed] in a renaissance in conservative ideas over the past generation."  He also makes the claim that the Olin Foundation, under his father's leadership, "donated to institutions such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institution and the Manhattan Institute .  And it supported the work of scholars like Allan Bloom, Samuel Huntington [(just died, Dec. 24, 2008)] and Irving Kristol." [ed. - Links added by AMT]  I began to wonder if this was such a good thing for "me," an African American woman who grew up in a small low-income community in middle America. 

Mr. Simon went on to share his views in the wake of President-elect Obama's election, which he clearly sees as a sidelining (temporarily) of the conservative renaissance.  He suggests that this is a time for retooling the conservative agenda.  He lambaste Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley  for calling for increased spending of endowment funds or face more regulation, and efforts in the California legislature to achieve "increased racial  and gender diversity among the state's foundation boards, staffs and grantees."  He views these calls as unnecessary attempts to needlessly regulate charities.  I, on the other hand, welcome more diversity and less conservative viewpoints, and have, at times, felt "harmed" by the conservative policies advocated by the  think tanks he positively identifies with. 

In the end, I had an unsettled feeling that the war went underground.  I am unsettled because I am not quite convinced of the battleground and why we are fighting.  I saw the election of Barack Obama as a major step forward in race and class politics in America.  The America I have hoped for all of my life.  Upon reading Mr. Simon's views, it reminded me not to go to sleep.  The dream spoken of by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is still not at hand.  Surprise! Surprise!  We all don't think alike, nor should we.

I encourage you to click here to read the full article for yourself.  How did it make you feel?  Any thoughts?

AMT

December 31, 2008 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

UK Philanthropists Step into the Gap

The Independent, a major UK newspaper, reported on December 27, 2008, that many of the top UK philanthropists have pledged to maintain or increase their giving to the many charities feeling the pinch of the economic crisis being experienced by all sectors -- public, private and nonprofit.  Below is a brief excerpt of the story:

Britain's leading philanthropists have pledged to bail out charities whose services have been hit by dramatic falls in public donations triggered by the recession.

Today The Independent reveals Britain's top philanthropists, a list of 30 industrialists, financiers, entrepreneurs and celebrities who have made a habit of giving their wealth away. We canvassed the charity sector and philanthropic organisations to find out who were this year's biggest givers.

Homeless projects, international aid, medical research and educational trusts will all benefit from more cash and greater support from this group of wealthy donors whose combined giving amounted to £2.3bn this year.

The pledge comes as charities call for more money to stop job losses and further cuts in their services.

In a bleak assessment of the situation, charity leaders have told the Government that they are facing a "double whammy", with funding being reduced at the very moment they are being asked for greater help by victims of the recession.

Corporate donations have fallen by 20 per cent, while legacies have been badly hit by the crashing property market. And as tax revenues are further reduced, charities expect government funding to the charity sector to be affected.

But Philanthropy UK, which advisers [sic] wealthy donors, says that many industrialists, financiers, entrepreneurs and celebrities intend to come to the aid of the charity sector by maintaining or increasing their funding. The London-based organisation says that "pledged gifts remain firm", with many philanthropists recognising that it is during this time of financial crisis that charities need their support most.

For the full story, please The Independent.

AMT

December 30, 2008 in In the News, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Antipoverty Activist Calls for Nonprofit Leaders to Push for Stimulus Dollars to Benefit the Poor

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Government and Politics Watch, reported on December 26, 2008, about Angela Glover Blackwell, an anti-poverty activist, who recently, in a Huffington Post article, called for nonprofit leaders to push for federal, state and local governments to spend some of the multibillion-dollar stimulus funds to be received under President-elect Obama's multibillion-dollar stimulus plan to pay for projects that help the poor.  Below is an excerpt of the Chronicle report, with a link to the Huffington Post.

As President-elect Barack Obama develops his multibillion-dollar plan to stimulate the economy, nonprofit leaders should push federal, state, and local governments to use the money to pay for construction projects that help the poor, writes Angela Glover Blackwell, an anti-poverty activist.

Mr. Obama has proposed spending upwards of $300-billion to improve American roads and infrastructure; he says his proposal would create jobs and fight the country’s economic recession.

Ms. Blackwell, chief executive and founder of PolicyLink, a nonprofit group in Oakland, Calif., writes that the plan — if put together wisely — “could be one of the most successful anti-poverty programs the nation has ever seen.”

'First off, we must stop building more and wider roads out to far-flung exurbs. Instead, we need to fix the bridges, transit systems and roads we already have — especially those in low-income communities that have long been ignored in infrastructure spending,' she writes on The Huffington Post.

For the full story, please click here - Chronicle of Philanthropy.

In the Huffington Post article, Ms. Blackwell makes the following suggestions about how the monies can be better targeted to help the poor:

First off, we must stop building more and wider roads out to far-flung exurbs. Instead, we need to fix the bridges, transit systems and roads we already have -- especially those in low-income communities that have long been ignored in infrastructure spending.

We need smarter, more targeted spending. We must invest in the people, places and projects that will spread the most opportunity to communities that need it. These projects will create good-paying construction, technical and service jobs in the short-term -- but, more importantly, lay a foundation for more competitive, more inclusive, more opportunity-rich communities for generations to come.

Each investment in this massive recovery package should serve the long-term interests of America. If we improve and expand public transit, for instance, we can give working families a way to get to the good jobs they need. If we install new broadband lines in low-income communities, we can connect a new wave of entrepreneurs and small-business to the digital revolution. If we build new grocery stores in poor neighborhoods now reliant on junk-food laden convenience stores, we can improve healthy eating, cut down on obesity and diabetes, and create a source of permanent, good-paying jobs in these communities.

For the full story, please click here - Huffington Post.

I think that Ms. Blackwell is rightly focused on the strategic focus nonprofits, which focus on eradicating centuries-old racial and class disparities in this country, need to have to significantly change for the better and improve upon the quality of life poor Americans live.  What do you think?

AMT

December 30, 2008 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Distressed Homeowners Should Stick with Mortgage Assistance Nonprofits

On December 26, 2008, the Washington Post reported that for profit mortgage assistance companies are charging upwards of $2,500 (and sometimes, more) to assist distressed homeowners during this mortgage crisis, where nonprofits do it for a lot less and with better results.  Below is a brief excerpt of the article:

A growing industry has emerged to take advantage of the unprecedented wave of foreclosures, charging distressed homeowners for help negotiating better loan terms -- a service provided for free or for a nominal fee by many nonprofits.

Such companies charge $500 to $2,500 or more and are drawing the ire of consumer advocates, regulators and lenders, who say many are just the latest version of foreclosure rescue scams and can make it more difficult for homeowners to get help.

"You don't need to go out and hire someone to help you," said Michael Gross, managing director of mortgage servicing for Bank of America.  "It is very, at times, frustrating to find a homeowner who has paid a for-profit company $3,000 to $5,000 in an upfront fee, when they could have gotten the same or better assistance free."

Loan modification firms say they are taking up the slack left by unresponsive lenders and overwhelmed nonprofit groups. "Nonprofits are not as efficient as the regular market," said Moose M. Scheib, the head of Michigan-based LoanMod.com, a loan modification firm that charges homeowners $1,500 to help renegotiate their mortgages. "I think the difference is probably more attention you get from us."

. .  .

"We are extremely concerned about the huge proliferation of for-profit companies making a buck on these people," said Laurie Maggiano, senior policy adviser at HUD's Office of Housing. The department has certified 2,300 nonprofit housing counseling agencies across the country, which are required have at least one year of experience administering a housing counseling program, Maggiano said.

For the full story, please click here.

The article also includes a discussion of local Virginia, Maryland and District of Columbia laws and the extent to which these for profit companies and their practices are regulated.  The article also demonstrates the important role nonprofit legal service providers are playing in helping homeowners to resolve unfair practices by these for profit companies, and also the role that nonprofit legal service providers and other nonprofits are playing in helping homeowners restructure their mortgages avoiding foreclosure.

AMT

December 29, 2008 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The word, "Earmark," is the new Boogie Man!

Following on the heels of an "emotionally word-charged" political campaign season, an opinion column published in the Wall Street Journal on December 24, 2008, raises the word, earmark, once again. The writers of an op-ed column entitled, Congress Targets Philanthropy, take a swipe at California Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra's characterization of the tax-exempt benefits received by tax-exempt foundations as "a 32 billion earmark." Capitalizing on the Congressman's unfortunate word choice, i.e., earmark, the writers of the op-ed column attempt to marginalize the congressman's calls for greater racial diversity in grantmaking (in earlier blogs, we have referenced the congressman's calls for greater racial diversity on the boards of nonprofits and in grantmaking).

The tax exemption foundations enjoy, says Mr. Becerra, is a '$32 billion earmark.' As he explains: 'I have an obligation to make sure that those $32 billion that would have gone to the federal government are used for a . . . public good.'

The writers state that Congressman Becerra and others now see private and community foundations as "political treasure." The writers claim that Congressman Becerra is inflaming (i.e., by using the boogie man word, earmark) the debate over the tax-exemption of foundations so that he can "direct" foundation's resources to suit his own preferences (again, in earlier blogs, we have referenced the congressman's calls for greater racial diversity on the boards of nonprofits and in grantmaking).

The column further makes reference to remarks Congressman Becerra allegedly made at an annual meeting of the Council on Foundations where he is to have "complained about the lack of grants to racial minorities[, and that he further stated that,] '[w]e're not trying to mandate something,' he told the audience about his colleagues' foundation plans in Congress, but 'we will, if you don't act.'"  (For an earlier article capturing the views of the congressman, see the Cohen Report in the Nonprofit Quarterly, January 2008)

The writers of the op-ed column urge Congress to back-off of foundations and the supposed earmark strategy, arguing that a study has found that $1 dollar of foundation spending accounts for $9 dollars of direct economic benefits received by communities across the United States.  The study, funded in part by the Philanthropic Collaborative (a newly-formed coalition of charities, foundations and elected officials) found that, "[for the $43 billion that foundations spent on grants in 2007, they created direct economic benefits of $368 billion." The study also found that these "nonprofits . . . consistently outperform government programs, . . . saving taxpayers a bundle."

The writers opine that their preference for resolving the issue of taxation of tax-exempt foundations would be:

to eliminate most charitable deductions in return for a simpler, flatter tax system. Also eliminate the estate tax, a primary source of distorted tax behavior, and surely charitable giving would continue even with fewer foundations. Americans gave money to charity before the tax deduction existed, and we're confident they'd continue to do so. We also wish foundations had to give away all of their money over a fixed period of time, so they couldn't be captured by interests that don't agree with a donor's intent.

The debate over the charitable tax deduction and philanthropy will continue for the foreseeable future on Capitol Hill and the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Just in case you are wondering, I am in favor of retaining the charitable tax deduction, but enhancing the deduction for targeted types of giving that more closely track need-based, rather than aesthetic, charitable giving.

AMT

December 28, 2008 in Federal – Legislative, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jewish Charities and Foundations Disproportionately Affected by Madoff's Ponzi Scheme

In a recent AP story, Jennifer Peltz, reporting for the Associated Press, makes the observation that Madoff's Ponzi Scheme disproportionately affected Jewish Charities and Foundations.  Mr. Madoff has been identified as a member of the Jewish faith. This tendency to disproportionately target members of one's own affinity group is called "affinity fraud."  The excerpt below highlights some of the Jewish charities and foundations negatively affected by Madoff's Ponzi scheme, and raises the additional concern that Madoff's actions have unfortunately resulted in a rise in religious stereotyping and an increase in anti-semitic comments.  See excerpt below:

There's nothing new about con artists targeting their own kind. There's even a word for it — affinity fraud — and it has struck numerous religious, ethnic and professional groups.

But the allegations against Madoff are particularly wrenching for some in the Jewish community, who fear that the sensational case is fanning vicious stereotypes about Jews that go back to the Middle Ages.
The Anti-Defamation League cites a spike in anti-Semitic comments online after Madoff's Dec. 11 arrest. A columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz lamented the case as "the answer to every Jew-hater's wish list."
And the American Jewish Committee's executive director, David A. Harris, wrote a letter to The New York Times criticizing what he saw as "a striking emphasis" on Madoff's faith in one of the paper's many stories about the scandal.
The case is "fodder for the bigots," Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL's national director, said in an interview this week with The Associated Press. "It's both embarrassing and it's painful."
.  . .
Yeshiva University, one of the nation's foremost Jewish institutions of higher education, lost $110 million; Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, lost $90 million; director Steven Spielberg's Wunderkinder Foundation acknowledged unspecified losses; and a $15 million foundation established by Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel was wiped out. Jewish federations and hospitals have lost millions and some foundations have had to close.
For the full story, please click here.
AMT

December 28, 2008 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)