Saturday, December 31, 2011
When civil rights icon Rosa Parks died in 2005, she left most of her estate to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, a nonprofit she had founded in 1987 with her friend, Elaine Steele. The nonprofit's purpose is to teach young people leadership and character development. Her heirs, nieces and nephews, challenged her will and trust and in 2007 entered into a Settlement Agreement with the institute. Last April the Michigan Appeals Court held that statements by counsel regarding fees in the appellate case had breached a confidentiality provision of the Settlement Agreement between the institute and Rosa Parks' heirs. The Appeals Court had ordered the institute to transfer property to the heirs in compensation for the breach. The Supreme Court reversed that decision and remanded the case to the Probate Court with instructions to implement the Settlement Agreement. The decision "will allow the institute the financial solvency and ability to carry on Rosa Parks' legacy," said institute lawyer Steven G. Cohen. Parks' estate included memorabilia that may be worth millions. A New York auction house, Guernsey's Auctioneers, will try to find buyers for some of the memorabilia. See stories in the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.
The New York Times reports that just two days after raids on as many as ten human rights organizations, the Egyptian government has signaled that it will back off and return confiscated property. The groups raided included several American-financed organizations and a German organization. The government said it was investigating illegal foreign financing of NGOs, but Egyptian activists argue that the government is trying to block criticsm because groups have called for the military leaders to cede power to civilian leaders.
The story notes that the future of human rights groups in Egypt remains uncertain, because nearly all are technically illegal. Under Mubarak era law, the groups must get licenses that are almost never issued and most groups depend on foreign financing, which is tightly regulated. A U.S. state department spokesperson said that the military council had issued assurances that the organizations would be able to resume work. The groups said they had been told they would soon be able to work on getting legal status.
Friday, December 30, 2011
An AP story in the Houston Chronicle reports a growing need for - and growing development of - low-income housing for GLBTQ seniors. Kathy Matheson reports that Philadelphia developers have secured a site for a gay-friendly, low-income housing project in Philadelphia. Of course, housing developments cannot discriminate in favor of gay seniors, but a facility known to be gay-friendly and marketed as such will be appealing to gay seniors.
The first gay housing complex was built in LA by the nonprofit, Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing, founded in 2001. The organization is "committed to constructing and maintaining high-quality affordable residential communities that provide a safe nurturing environment for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults." Approximately 90% of the residents of the LA facility, Triangle-Square Hollywood, identify as LGBT.
In addition to new housing developments, the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, a nonprofit serving seniors, has begun offer cultural competency seminars to health care workers who will be working with increasingly diverse populations. The goal is to have better training so workers will be sensitive to the needs of all seniors.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Michigan tax credits for charitable gifts will expire at the end of 2011. The state has provided tax credits of 50% of amounts given to Michigan charities of three types: homeless shelters and food banks; public institutions such as universities, libraries, public broadcast entites and the Detroit Institute of Arts; and community foundations such as the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. Credits are limited to $100 for an individual or $200 for a couple, for gifts to each of the three categories (total credits of $300 or $600) Charities report a disproportionate share of donations in $200 increments, and they fear the end of the credits will mean a loss of donations in 2012. The actual effect on charitable giving is hard to predict, and the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University has announced that it will study the effects of the change. Even if their overall charitable giving does not decrease, some taxpayers may have been influenced by the credits to focus their giving on Michigan charities. For now, charities are trying to get the word out that gifts should be made before the end of the year to take advantange of the credits. See the story in the Detroit Free Press.
A Washington Post story discusses the link between contributions made to American Solutions for Winning the Future, a 527 organization started by Newt Gingrich, and Ginginch's shifting stands on energy policy.
Gingrich started American Solutions in 2007 to fund his travel and speaking engagements. The organization went bankrupt in August 2011, after Gingich the candidate had to sever ties with the nonprofit. See a New York Times story describing the closing of the organization, which had raised and spent over $50 million.
The Post story explains that in 2008, shortly after joining with Nancy Pelosi to voice concern over climate change, Gingrich began advocating drilling and greater use of coal and also worked to block cap-and-trade legislation. Energy companies responded by making substantial contributions to American Solutions. The changes in Gingrich's stands on energy issues seem to reflect both opportunism on his part and the growing force of money in politics and policy.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
There is no immediate news on the efforts to link nonprofit groups with CA state parks to keep the parks open, but I wanted to share a blog that is posting reports on the efforts for anyone who wants to keep up on the latest news for the CA parks. On October 4, 2010, the CA legislature enacted AB 42, a bill that adds §5080.42 to the California Public Resources Code. The new provision modifies the statute that gives control of the state park system to the Department of Parks and Recreation. The new section gives the department the authority to enter into "an operating agreement for the "development, improvement, restoration, care, maintenance, administration, or operation" of a state park with a "qualified nonprofit organization." The goal is to keep parks open, using nonprofits to help find resources to manage and maintain the parks.
Christine Sculati's Blog has posted a number of stories about the efforts of nonprofit organizations to work with particular parks in California. Her most recent post on the subject describes efforts of the Portola and Castle Rock Foundation to save Castle Rock and Portola Redwoods State Parks. She notes that 70 state parks have been identified for closure, with 18 of those in the Bay Area. The parks located near populous areas may have a better chance of generating the kind of fundraising that will be needed to keep them open. Her posts provide excellent descriptions of the problems and the efforts to save the parks, and are worth a read if you're interested in this topic.
Two days ago the LA Times reported that hackers (a group called Anonymous initially claimed responsibility) had attacked Stratfor, a company that provides security consulting. The hackers stole credit card information and charged donations to a variety of charities. Initially, the group taking responsibility said its goal was to donate $1 million to charities. The LA Times story said that phony charges had been discovered to charities that included Red Cross, CARE, and Save the Children. A blog post in the NY Times blogs describes the problems for charities. The obvious problem is that the charges are invalid, but the question is what happens next. Charities will lose time and money trying to identify the invalid charges and work with credit card holders to refund the donations. The charities may even be hit with penalties by the credit card companies due to the time lag in sorting all this out. Perhaps the credit card companies could make exceptions for penalty fees in this sort of situation, but the complexity of the situation - multiple charges and multiple charities - makes this unlikely.
Whoever the hackers are - Anonymous now says it was not responsible - they haven't done the charities any favors.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Oregon's Attorney General recently posted a list titled "Oregon's 20 Worst Charities: 2011." The charities on the list are those that spend most of their revenue on telemarketing or administrative work. This is the third year the AG has posted a list, which represents an attempt by the Attorney General's office to educate consumers about charitable giving. The charity topping the list is Shiloh International Ministries, labeled the worst in 2010, too. The charity raises money to provide medical necessities and moral support for needy children, but its financial filings show that 96.8% of the money spent by the nonprofit went towards management and fundraising. The organization is based in California. Number 2 on the list is a Florida organization, American Medical Research Organization, which spent 4.2% of its annual expenditures on its charitable purposes. The Attorney General's office posts Tips for Charitable Giving and uses the list to educate the public about careful philanthropy.
Charity Navigator gives Shiloh International Ministries zero stars and shows that 83.8% of expenditures in 2009 went to fundraising expenses and most of the rest went to salaries for three people. Total expenditures in 2009 were $829,220, with revenues of $825,928. Because the states cannot regulate fundraising by charities, the Attorneys General and sites like Charity Navigator try to educate the public about the uses made of charitable dollars.