Friday, February 26, 2010

Barnes Foundation - a new movie and lots of comments

The New York Times reviewed "The Art of the Steal," a documentary about the Barnes Foundation.  The movie, which opens today in New York and Philadelphia, describes the controversy surrounding the move of the Barnes collection to a new museum being built in downtown Philadelphia.  As the title of the movie suggests, the former Barnes Foundation student who funded the project and the director have a point of view.

The movie will be of interest to those of us who have followed the Barnes saga for year.  Just as interesting are the posts to the NYT page with the review.  When I checked the page, there were already 56 posts - in favor of the move, against the move, in favor of following a donor's intent no matter what, in favor of allowing public access to a public commodity like art, blaming the neighborhood, blaming Lincoln University, and generally taking positions on all sides of the controversy. 


February 26, 2010 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Brian Galle on Keeping Charity Charitable

Brian Galle's forthcoming article Keeping Charity Charitable will appear in Volume 88 of the Texas Law Review.  Here is the abstract:

This Article responds to recent claims, most prominently by Anup Malani and Eric Posner, that much of the work of the charitable sector should be farmed out to for profit firms. For-profit firms are said to be more efficient because they can offer higher-powered incentives to cut costs. I argue, however, that because of the high costs of monitoring and the presence of externalities, low-powered incentives are preferable for firms that produce public goods. Further, allowing some for-profit firms to receive charitable subsidies would raise the cost of producing those goods in government or other firms, because it would diminish the

warm glowworkers enjoy from being recognized as self-sacrificing.


The "warm-glow"?  Obviously, Prof. Galle has never served in an administrative capacity at a college of university.  Most of us recognize that "warm glow" as plain old heartburn.


February 25, 2010 in Publications – Articles | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Are Misers more virtuous than Philanthropists?

I ran across an interesting essay recently entitled "In Defense of Charity and Philanthropy".  Interesting because it restates and then challenges the conventional law and economics wisdom that capitalism and its profit seeking "misers" are not only preferable to (what I will call) charitable socialism and its do-gooder philanthropists in an economic sense, but morally superior as well.  Imagine that.  The profit seeker is actually morally superior to the philanthropist.  The idea, espoused by Adam Smith and Ayn Rand in one form or another, is that individual profit seeking is the best way to ensure the most goods and services for the most people.  It is morally good to satisfy as many as possible and anything that sacrifices more than the necessary few for the sake of others is morally lacking.  Capitalism sacrifices the least number of people for the good of all, according to those who believe in it.  Indeed, much political discourse during the last presidential campaign regarding capitalism, socialism, and redistributionism had a moral flavor to it.  Obama, for example, was indignantly and pejoratively derided as a "socialist" by many, even those who believe that a healthy and vibrant charitable sector is to be desired in a capitalist world.  I understand, of course, that the three "isms" can be distinguished from the charitable sector in that the former are types of government while the charitable sector is comprised of the ungoverned, if not the ungovernable.  Still, a blanket condemnation of socialism seems necessarily to cast suspicion on the charitable sector as morally lacking since socialism's more equal distribution of wealth is often an important goal of the charitable sector as well.  Charities, as classically defined, seek the Utopia where nobody wants and everyone receives her subsistence, at least.  The indictment, though, is that in the absence of personal (as opposed to public) profit, more people will receive slightly or greatly less than their subsistence.  A society without a profit motive is morally lacking because it actually prefers and tolerates more poor people than does a society that embraces profit seeking.  Ergo, the miser is morally superior to the philanthropist.

I may very well be mixing my own ideas with those of the essayist.  But much of the law regarding nonprofits, tax and otherwise, is based on the implicit, if not explicit notion that capitalism is morally superior to socialism and, indeed, the charitable sector.  The essayist provides food for thought, at least, to the contrary.


February 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Indiana University Offers New Bachelor's Degree in Philanthropy

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University recently announced a new degree program leading to the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philanthropic Studies.  Here is the full text of the press release:

INDIANAPOLIS - Students who want to make a difference in the world will be able to earn a bachelor’s degree that prepares them to do so starting this fall, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University announced today.

A new Bachelor of Arts in Philanthropic Studies degree program was approved Friday by the Indiana Commission on Higher Education and courses will be available to undergraduates beginning with the fall 2010 semester.

The new program is designed to equip students with the knowledge and hands-on experience needed to succeed in entry-level positions in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. It will help them prepare for careers in fields as diverse as foundations, healthcare, human services, community development, education, the arts, and the environment.

“Many of today’s students want an education and a career that lets them use their hearts as well as their heads,” said Patrick M. Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy. “This new degree will enable them to turn their passion for helping others into their profession.”

“Philanthropy and the nonprofit sector are becoming increasingly complex, and those who plan to work in this field need more sophisticated education than ever before,” Rooney continued. “The undergraduate degree will attract more students to choose a career in philanthropy, and its graduates will be better prepared to help nonprofits serve their constituents and make a meaningful impact in their communities.”

The program will explore the role and impact of philanthropy and nonprofits from a variety of perspectives and subject areas. Courses will examine issues such as the ethics and values of philanthropy, giving and volunteering, philanthropy’s history, fundraising for nonprofits and building civil society.

Students will have opportunities to interact with national nonprofit leaders, complete a capstone learning experience and participate in internships and service learning projects. They will learn firsthand from Center on Philanthropy experts and Indiana University’s Philanthropic Studies faculty members, many of whom are among the nation’s leading experts and researchers in philanthropy.

The program was developed by Dwight Burlingame, associate executive director and director of academic programs at the Center and Richard Turner, professor emeritus of English at IUPUI and former chair of the IU Philanthropic Studies faculty. The degree will be offered through the IU School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), of which the Center on Philanthropy is a part.

“Philanthropy is such an important aspect of human society that we believe it is well worth studying in a number of ways and from a variety of perspectives. Our graduate programs in Philanthropic Studies began with that idea, and the new bachelor’s degree option extends it to undergraduate students as well,” said Bill Blomquist, dean of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. “With this liberal arts foundation, graduates will be prepared to make a difference in nonprofits, public service, business or any career field and will be attractive candidates for graduate school opportunities or jobs in prestigious organizations.”

The Center on Philanthropy pioneered the field of Philanthropic Studies and created the world’s first Master of Arts and Ph.D. degrees in Philanthropic Studies.

“The new program will expand learning opportunities for undergraduates and extend the range of distinctive 21st century degrees offered by IUPUI,” said Charles R. Bantz, chancellor of IUPUI and executive vice president of Indiana University. “Offering a bachelor’s degree in this rapidly growing field will attract many of the best, brightest and most civically engaged students from Indiana, across the nation and around the world, who in turn will make an important impact on the cultural, educational and economic growth of our community and state.”



February 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

NYT Reports on the "Church"

And here's the New York Times story on the C Street Center.  


February 24, 2010 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More On Congressional Dorm "Church"

From the eyebrow raising department:  An interesting NPR report today raises the age old question "what is a church?" for purposes of 501(c)(3).  Apparently, the sole purpose of the "C Street Center" is to provide housing for Christian Congressmen who "can pray in the living room and walk to work."  According to the report:

The three-story, brick townhouse at 133 C Street S.E. sits a half-block from the Cannon House Office Building, roughly three blocks from the Capitol — the home-away-from-home for a regular contingent of fundamentalist Christian members of Congress, who can pray in the living room and walk to work.  The C Street Center, which owns the 1880-vintage townhouse, claims status as a church. And as with other religious organizations, the IRS takes the center's word that it is a church. As a result, the center doesn't have to file public tax returns, as most non-profit organizations must do.

All of can recall reading a case or two concerning a family that claims its homestead as a church, its members comprised of mom, dad, sisters and brothers.  But I have never seen a case involving [mostly Republican] Congressman claiming what is essentially their residence away from home as a church.  A group of ministers, relying on the infamous 15 factor test, has filed a complaint with the IRS asserting that just because you pray in your living room doesn't make your venue a house of worship.  You can listen to or read the report on NPR's website.


February 24, 2010 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Columbus Ohio Pastors Petition IRS re: C Street Center in DC

A group of Columbus, Ohio pastors have requested that the IRS investigate whether the C Street Center in DC should be entitled to tax exempt status as a church.  The Columbus Dispatch reports that the pastors will file a complaint with the IRS today, asking for the investigation.  The pastors are concerned that the Center is not a church and that by "masquerading" as a church, the Center "poses a threat to the integrity and legitimacy of all religious organizations in the United States."  

The C Street Center operates as a residential facility and a spiritual retreat for some members of Congress. The Center offers private Bible sessions and weekly dinners to members of Congress, and provides cheap rooms for a few Senators and Representatives.  News reports have said that the Center is run by the Fellowship Foundation, an evangelical Christian network also known as the Family, but the president of the Fellowship Foundation, Richard Carver, says that his organization does not own or run the C Street Center. Because the C Street Center is tax exempt as a church, the Center is not required to file the documents non-church exempt organizations file.  This lack of transparency is part of what concerns the pastors, who are concerned about the separation of church and state - and the fact that activities in the C Street Center may be attempts to influence public officials.  If the C Street Center is not a church, it will have to file tax returns that reveal its sources of income.  It will then be possible to determine whether private money is being used in attempts to influence members of Congress.
Last fall the District of Columbia revoked 66% of the property tax exemption the C Street Center had received as a church, because 66% of the Center was used as a residence and not as a church.

Marcus Owens, former director of the IRS tax-exempt division, is representing the pastors.


February 23, 2010 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)