Thursday, June 25, 2015

How the Same-Sex Marriage Case Could Affect Religious Nonprofits

The New York Times has published a piece exploring how nonprofits could be affected by the pending Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which raises the issue of whether the United States Constitution establishes a right to enter into a gay marriage.  The gist of the article is that private religious schools across the nation impose codes of sexual conduct, including prohibitions of same-sex relationships, and these schools fear that their policies could risk the loss of their federal income tax exemption.  Why?  If the Court recognizes a constitutional right to enter into gay marriage, the Internal Revenue Service could find school policies on sexual conduct to violate fundamental public policy under Bob Jones University v. United States

Although many legal scholars seem to doubt that schools would face this risk in the near term, the schools do have cause for concern.  As I have written and illustrated previously in two law review articles, the public policy doctrine is poorly defined and easily manipulated.  Further, the NYT article observes that, during oral argument in Obergefell, Justice Alito posed the question of how the decision would affect the tax exemption of private religious schools to Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.  In an exchange that we previously covered on this blog, Mr. Verrilli admitted at oral argument that the exemption question “is going to be an issue.”

 

JRB

June 25, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Recent Articles on the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) is in the forefront of newspaper coverage these days, with the United States Supreme Court set to decide in King v. Burwell whether enrollees in federal exchanges in states that have not established their own exchanges have subsidized insurance under the ACA.  The ACA directly and indirectly impacts a significant portion of the nonprofit sector, both its service providers (i.e., nonprofit hospitals and other health care providers) and its service recipients (i.e., health care consumers).  Several articles may interest readers.  One is an article published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which discusses the consolidation of the health care industry (and its likely effect on pricing) wrought by the ACA.  Another article, this one from the Los Angeles Times, maps out the various legal arguments (e.g., textualism, administrative agency deference, and protection of states’ rights) that could sway Supreme Court justices as they decide the Burwell case.  Perhaps most interesting of all is a piece by Emily Bazelon, who, writing for the New York Times, takes a somewhat scholarly look at the role of empiricism and consequentialism in judicial decisions, and speculates how they might affect Burwell and other cases currently before the Supreme Court.

 

JRB

June 22, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

It’s a Trust! It’s a Corporation! It’s Sweet Briar College! (Part I)

One of my least favorite days in Nonprofits class is the day that we discuss the difference between trust and corporate fiduciary duties (Sibley Hospital, anyone?).  Lest one think that the distinction is purely academic, along comes the sad case of Sweet Briar College to reaffirm that this area of law remains completely and utterly confusing.

If you’ve not been following the story, Sweet Briar College’s operating entity is a “non-profit corporation” (Complaint, Para. 6) which was created by the Virginia General Assembly “to administer the trust created by the will” of its primary funder, Indiana Fletcher Williams.  The Complaint also asserts that SBC is a charitable organization under the Virginia Charitable Solicitation laws and is a “trustee” under Virginia’s version of the Uniform Trust Code.   (So I’m confused already….)

According to the Complaint, the provisions of Mr. Williams’ will place his residuary estate in a trust.  The trustees of that trust were instructed to create a corporation to run a women’s college in perpetuity.   It would appear that in 1901 in Virginia, a nonprofit corporate charter could only be obtained by act of the General Assembly, and so it was.   (Complaint, p. 17).   The corporate charter incorporated the terms and conditions of Mr. Williams’ will, which required the assets to be held in perpetuity for the women’s college and directed that the assets not be sold.

Fast forward to March, 2015, when the current Board of Directors of the college announced that it would close the doors of the college, and liquidate its assets, including its endowment (Complaint, p. 26)  due to the college’s poor financial condition.   Litigation, of course, ensued.

The Complaint alleges violations of the Uniform Trust Code, which it asserts is applicable not only the original funding of the College occurred through the trust under Mr. Williams’ will, but also because “the Act of the Assembly creating the College requires that the College be administered in the manner of an express or charitable trust” (Complaint, p. 55).  It then states, “Because the College is a charitable corporation, the assets held by Defendants are deemed to be held in trust for the public.” (Complaint, p. 56).  Among other things, the original Complaint requested a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction restraining actions in furtherance of closing the school.

So the question then becomes, Sweet Briar College a trust?  Is it a corporation?  Does it matter? Should it?  

More on this Nonprofit Law Prof Blog Cliffhanger next time….

EWW

June 10, 2015 in Current Affairs, In the News, State – Judicial | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Return on Portfolios: A Concern for Donors Today?

        I have blogged often about the rise of a donor base that demands results from the nonprofits. My theory is that an efficient charitable market, where investment ends up in the hands of those charities that will put it to its most productive use, is crucial. Of course that necessitates reform to our US cross-border giving laws so that donors truly may have the ability to weigh the social impact (or return) associated with US versus non-US charities before deciding where to give. This was the subject of two parts of a three part series I have written. An efficient charitable market also requires the charitable sector to learn from the impact investing sector in terms of measuring and reporting social impact, which is the topic of my forthcoming final article in the series.

        CNBC dealt with the donor dilemma of where to give effectively earlier this month. It announced that well-known think tank in the nonprofit arena, Milken Institute, has developed the Center for Strategic Philanthropy (CSP), which is designed to help donors make better giving choices. The main arm of the CSP is the Philanthropy Advisory Service. As Executive Director of the CSP, Melissa Stevens, commented, donors "are spending so much more time on their philanthropy because they want to do it well." The need for providing donors with concrete information about return on their investments is no secret to other competitors in the space such as Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Pembroke and the Giving Pledge. With over $250 billion being given annually in the US, there is plenty of room for advising according to area of expertise. The CSP has already laid claim to the medical research area. According to Stevens, donors are focusing on “maximizing the social return on their philanthropic portfolios,” a phrase which necessitates the development of an efficient charitable market. 

Khrista Johnson

May 26, 2015 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 25, 2015

CA Donor Lists are a Do according to Justice Kennedy

        Earlier this month, we covered the 9th Circuit decision that denied the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) an injunction that would have restricted California Attorney General Kamala Harris from requiring a list of donors who had contributed more than $5,000 in a year. See Lloyd Mayer's post.

        Under current California law, nonprofit groups seeking donations from California are required to disclose donor names to the AG and to the IRS. The CCP and America for Prosperity have refused to surrender these lists asserting that their donors would be harassed. Harris has indicated that the lists would be kept confidential and used only for investigatory purposes.

        As an update, the Supreme Court has denied an emergency appeal from the CCP. The CCP filed the appeal with Justice Kennedy, who denied it without prejudice. David Keating, President of the CCP, has stated that the center will continue injunction efforts in the event Harris attempts to collect donor information. Interesting, Justice Kennedy is a proponent of free speech and free spending in terms of politics, two aims the CCP promotes; however, he is also in favor of disclosure laws. This case raises important First Amendment questions for the sector.  See LA Times.

Khrista Johnson

May 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Federal – Judicial, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Carneigie Corporation Awards $3.6 Million to New York Institutions

New York City seems to be in the news a lot this week.  In a press release issued yesterday, the Carnegie Corporation of New York announced grants totaling $3.6 million in support of education and enrichment programs in the greater New York City region.

The awards form part of the foundation's 2015 Presidential Discretionary Grants program.  Pursuant to that program, eighteen museums, libraries, and performing arts and science centers received grants of $200,000 each for existing programs aimed at K-12 students.  Grant recipients include the American Museum of Natural History; the Asia Society; the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Carnegie Hall; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Liberty Science Center; Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Morgan Library & Museum; the Museum of Modern Art; the National September 11 Memorial & Museum; New Jersey Performing Arts Center; the New York Botanical Garden; the New York-Historical Society; the New York, Brooklyn, and Queens public libraries; and Studio in a School

Commenting on the awards, Carnegie president, Vartan Gregorian, said:

New York City, one of the cultural capitals on the United States, has the largest public school system in the nation.  Carnegie Corporation is proud to support the City's cultural institutions in order to enhance the curriculum of our public as well as private and parochial schools with the riches these museums, libraries, and centers possess.  It speaks well of these organizations' leaders that they have developed education programs to help students overcome deficiencies in the arts and sciences that our schools can't provide due to financial factors.   

VEJ

May 7, 2015 in Current Affairs, In the News, Other | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

PND: Rockefeller Foundation Working to Build "Resilience" in Africa

Today's Philanthropy News Digest is reporting that as Africa "struggles to address the effects of climate change and an unprecedented youth bulge, the Rockefeller Foundation is working across multiple fronts to build the resilience of African economies."

Attributing the report to the Voice of America, the Digest reports that current efforts includes the $100 million Digital Jobs Africa initiative, which was launched in 2013 with the aim of boosting the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in six African countries -- Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco, and Egypt.  Foundation president, Judith Rodin, told the VOA:

We are excited to see so much opportunity and such a growth market in the ICT sector more broadly across the continent.  [There are] so many technology parks growing [and] so many companies really growing on technology-based platforms.  We know that ... the continent has to focus on employing this extraordinary youth bulge that we are going to see.  We think ... a critical part of shared prosperity as we go forward [means] developing growth in the ICT sector which often yields some of the better paying jobs.       

Elsewhere on the continent, the foundation is working to help small farmers adapt to climate change by collaborating with local partners to capture run-off from flooding for use in irrigating fields.  It is also working in partnership with the World Food Programme and has bankrolled a technology called risk metrics that can help predict an impending drought.  As a final matter, the foundation is also -- again in conjunction with the World Food Programme -- creating a country-level insurance mechanism that enables countries to access resources in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster rather than having to wait for international development assistance to arrive.    

VEJ

May 7, 2015 in Current Affairs, In the News, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Chelsea Clinton Defends Foundation Before Global Initiative Meeting

The Washington Post is reporting that just as business, political, and philanthropic leaders gathered in Marrakesh, Morocco, for the first Clinton Global Initiative meeting on Africa and the Middle East, Chelsea Clinton, the former President's daughter, said there is a "political dimension" to the controversy over multimillion-dollar gifts from foreign governments and corporations to her family's foundation.    

Ms. Clinton, the Clinton Foundation's vice chair, said the scrutiny has intensified with the launch of her mother Hillary Clinton's White House run.  She dismissed the idea, raised by some Republicans and campaign watchdog groups, that foundation donors seek to curry favor with her powerful parents. 

VEJ

May 6, 2015 in Conferences, Current Affairs, In the News, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

President's Brother's Keeper Initiative Launches as a Charitable Organization

I was wondering what all the traffic gridlock was about when I got out of LaGuardia airport early Monday afternoon and tried to make my way to Poughkeepsie.  fearing the worst, I tuned in to 1010 WINS to catch the traffic report.  That was when I heard it: President Obama had been at Lehman College where he had announced the creation of a nonprofit called the My Brother's Keeper Alliance.  The new organization is a spinoff of a White House initiative of the same name aimed at uplifting African American and Hispanic boys from preschool through high school.  

In launching the new Charity, President Obama stated that the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance will "continue the work of opening doors for young people -- all our young people -- long after I've left office."

Reporting on the launch, TheNonProfitTimes reports that the President

told the audience at Lehman that the new organization has secured $80 million from companies such as Deloitte, News Corp and American Express.  The group's star-studded executive team and advisor board will include former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), basketball stars Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O'Neal, and former Attorney General Eric Holder, among others.

The new organization will be led by former Deloitte CEO Joe Echevarria and might serve as a vehicle through which the president can influence policy after his second term is up.  Speaking to reporters, White House Press Secretary Josh Ernest stated:

While I'm not in a position to describe the specific, detailed relationship between the president and this alliance that will continue after his presidency, I can tell you that this is an issue that the president intends to continue to be focused on long after he has left the Oval Office.

Meanwhile, Broderick Johnson, chair of the White House initiative, linked the My Brother's Keeper with the unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray.  Writing on the My Brother's Keeper initiative's website, Johnson stated:

For so many of us, the My Brother's Keeper initiative is deeply personal.  As a proud son of Baltimore, this week's announcement comes at a time of unique and special resonance for me.  As the country reflects on our shared responsibility to ensure that opportunity reaches every young person, I urge everyone to look at their own capacity to make a difference.

The My Brother's Keeper initiative was designed to focus federal resources towards closing the opportunity gap experienced by African American and Latino males.  To that end, Johnson identified almost $1 million in funds from a number of federal agencies: the departments of Education and Health and Human Services announced $750 million in Preschool Development Grants for 18 states this past December, and the Department of Labor and the National Guard have programs that will together expend $100 million to improve career prospects for minorities. 

VEJ

 

May 6, 2015 in Current Affairs, Federal – Executive, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Los Angeles Hospital Sued for Patient Dumping

The Los Angeles Times reports that the City of Los Angeles has sued Gardens Regional Hospital & Medical Center for “repeatedly dumping patients … without appropriate treatment or discharge plans.”  According to the Times, L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer has sued several hospitals over the past two years on similar grounds, and he is currently investigating other facilities.  One example cited by the story is Glendale Adventist Medical Center, which is reported to have “paid $700,000 last year to settle dumping allegations without admitting wrongdoing.”

As to the predicament facing hospitals, the story explains as follows:

Some hospitals maintain they are hamstrung by laws that stop them from confining all but the most severely psychotic homeless people. State law requires discharge planning, but hospitals say there is nowhere for homeless patients to go — especially those with mental conditions.

But Feuer maintains that several hospitals have agreed to proper protocols.  The Times cites him as saying, “In each of the cases we've resolved with a medical care facility we've not had a single problem," and that "it is possible for a healthcare facility to adopt humane and decent treatment."

 

JRB

April 29, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NFL Punts Tax Exemption

The National Football League has announced that it will no longer file as a tax-exempt entity, notwithstanding its long-standing status as an organization described in section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code.  As reported in Bloomberg, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell characterized the decision as eliminating a “distraction.”  The Bloomberg piece also opines on the calculus behind the tax-exemption audible:

 

The league’s decision pre-empts a move to revoke the tax break that had been led by former Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. That effort has gained some momentum in recent years, but not enough to pass either the House or the Senate. The NFL’s action removes a point of leverage for Congress in its continuing inquiries into the league’s handling of concussions and domestic violence.

 

For the NFL, the costs of losing the tax break are minimal, an estimated $109 million over the next decade. There are benefits for the league, too, including the end of federal disclosure requirements that put Goodell’s salary and some other league information in the public domain.

 

The tax cost of the league’s foregoing federal income tax exemption is not precisely known.  According to the Wall Street Journal,

 

The size of the NFL’s tax bill is unclear. In 2013, a report by Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) calling for the NFL and National Hockey League to give up their tax-exempt status estimated that such a move would generate $91 million annually for the federal government. But Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation pegged the amount at just $109 million over the next 10 years.

 

As to the benefit of not disclosing salaries to Monday morning quarterbacks, the Washington Post makes an interesting observation:

 

[T]he NFL’s executives will gain cover from criticism over their paychecks. The league’s 2013 tax filing revealed that, besides Goodell’s $44 million, six other executives drew seven-figure salaries and 298 employees made $100,000 or more.

 

JRB

April 29, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Donating to Nonprofits Aiding Nepal Earthquake Victims

Charity Navigator has published a list of charitable nonprofits that are working to aid the victims of the tragic, enormous earthquake that struck Nepal about 50 miles from Kathmandu three days ago.  According to Charity Navigator’s website, “the charities on our list have indicated that they plan to assist in the relief efforts in some way,” and they “have a 3 or 4 star Charity Navigator rating.”  Donations to these charities also may be designated specifically for the relief of victims of the Nepal earthquake.     

 

JRB

April 28, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 27, 2015

FASB Proposes Changes Affecting Nonprofits

Accounting Today reports that the Financial Accounting Standards Board has issued a proposed accounting standards update that would modify how nonprofits must report information in their financial statements and notes thereto.  Proposed changes address the reporting of restricted assets, results of operations, expenses by both nature and function, investment returns net of expenses, operating cash flows, and quantitative and qualitative information about liquidity.    

 

JRB

April 27, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Articles on the Clinton Foundation

The Clinton Foundation is obviously making headlines these days.  I hardly know anything at this point begging for this nonprofit law professor’s comment.  But for those who would like a sampling of stories from the past week’s news cycle, here is coverage from the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

 

JRB

April 27, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Happy Tax Day 2015

Happy Tax Day all - and a special happy statute of limitations day to all of those involved in the preparation of tax returns!

In honor of Tax Day, the Obamas and Bidens released their tax returns earlier in the week.  According to the Washington Post, the Obamas donated $70,712 to charity and the Bidens donated $7,380.   

EWW

 

April 15, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

New Rules of the Nonprofit Road?: Attorney-Charity Confidentiality in PA

        The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has decided to consider an issue that could have far-reaching consequences for the way attorneys and charities interact.  The issue before the court is whether an attorney who has reason to believe that charitable assets are being diverted to private individuals may inform the Attorney General.  This issue deals with Rule 1.6 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, which permits breaching attorney-client confidentiality in very limited cases, e.g., to prevent death or serious bodily harm.   Not surprisingly, a cloud of secrecy has surrounded the case since late last year, and the order permitting consideration of this issue was only made public in March.  A recent article explores this case and its possible implications. 

 

        Interestingly, the petitioner’s argument is not based upon Rule 1.6 but rather on the idea that counsel has a fiduciary duty to report unlawful diversions of charitable assets to the Attorney General since the general public is affected.  In addition, the petitioner claims that since the charity is a tax-exempt entity supported by the public, it has waived its rights under Rule 1.6.  As pointed out in the article, Rule 1.13 is also relevant.  Rule 1.13 details the steps an attorney may take within an organization before going outside of it.  For example, an attorney may choose to report the matter to higher-ups within the organization.   As noted, attorney-client confidentiality serves an important purpose in our society.  Overall, we want to promote the seeking out of legal counsel when there is a problem, and this will not happen if potential clients are afraid their confidences will be shared.  As noted above, limited, dire circumstances must exist for an attorney to breach attorney-client confidentiality. 

 

            At the same time, one must ask whether the attorney-charity relationship calls for a different rule, particularly in the case of public charities.  After all, these charities are accountable to the public.  Also, given the recent problems associated with IRS oversight and the growing number of charities, attorneys may provide a more helpful, rather than hurting, hand in the quest to monitor an ever-increasingly large number of organizations. 

 

Khrista Johnson

April 2, 2015 in Current Affairs, State – Judicial | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

From Nonprofit to Benefit Corporation: A viable solution for colleges with a mission

        Earlier this month, the blog featured a piece on for-profit college conversions. Citing a recent New York Times article, the post noted that several for-profit colleges have decided to become nonprofits to escape certain governmental regulations and bad publicity. Interestingly, a third option is becoming apparent for colleges as reported in Inside Higher Education: becoming a benefit corporation. As you may know, a benefit corporation exists in the space between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors and focuses on achieving a double bottom line: profit and social impact. The first regionally accredited college to take the route of benefit corporation status is Alliant International University in California. Alliant was previously a California nonprofit accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (“WASC”). Last summer, WASC approved Alliant’s change of status. It is anticipated that other nonprofit institutions will follow suit due to the desire to participate in a new system of health sciences institutions known as Arist Education System. Arist Education System is headed up by University Ventures Fund and supported financially by Bertelsmann, the German media giant. Its purpose is to train health professionals who can work in collaborative teams, which is a new focus of a significant number of hospitals and health systems. It is envisioned that this goal will be accomplished through a focus on student outcomes, and Arist is convinced that such focus will be achieved if the social mission of universities is protected.

        The benefit of the change to Alliant is that it may now solicit much needed private funding while still maintaining a public commitment to its mission and public purpose. As a California public benefit corporation, Alliant is required to remain accountable not only to board members and in terms of profit but also to the larger society and in terms of social good. In contrast to for-profit colleges that are changing to nonprofits, Alliance will actually face more regulation as a result of its change in status. As Alliant President Geoffrey Cox noted, by becoming a benefit corporation rather than a for-profit, colleges can preserve their unique missions and attract investors who are looking to leave their funds with them for the long-haul. Finally, I would add that benefit corporation status will keep accountability and transparency in the equation of measuring the performance of colleges in terms of both bottom lines.

 

Khrista Johnson

March 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dewey Winburne Awards to Honor Community-Service Projects in Far-Flung Countries

The Chronicle of Philanthropy is reporting that ten individuals using technology to improve the world will be honored tonight at the Dewey Winburne Community Service Awards at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference.  The awards honor the late Dewey Wineburne, a co-founder of SXSW Interactive, who had deep interests in education and technology.

According to the Chronicle:

This year’s honorees, selected by a panel of previous winners who live in Austin, represent five countries and a range of interests, including literacy, economic opportunity, and journalism. Each will receive $1,000 for the charity of their choice.  

Among the honorees are: 

  • Rebecca McDonald of Australia who, after seeing footage of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, quit her job in Australia and moved with her husband to the Caribbean country where she founded Library for All, an online digital library accessible using tablets distributed to schools across Haiti.  Books are carefully selected to be culturally relevant and language-appropriate, with most written in French or Creole.  The organization pays local publishers for texts and asks larger companies, which do not usually sell books to Haiti, to donate books.
  • Jukay Hsu, a native of Queens, New York, who founded Coalition for Queens, a nonprofit designed, according to Mr. Hsu, to foster "a more inclusive tech ecosystem" and "pioneer a pathway from poverty to the middle class."  The organization's keystone program, Access Code, trains people — many of them immigrants — to create mobile applications and prepare for entry-level developer jobs.  So far, the average income of participants going into the program has been $26,000, while their average income after completion is $73,000. 
  • Libby Powell, of London, England, who has used her training as a journalist to found Radar, a communications-rights organization that trains citizen reporters and promotes the stories they tell through social media and other ways online.  Based in the United Kingdom, the staff offers editorial guidance to local correspondents who report from the field.  The group has generated coverage about elections and Ebola in Sierra Leone and slavery in India and is working on new projects that give voice to people living with dementia and those who are homeless.  Created with money raised through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, Radar works to raise awareness among the public, policy makers, and service providers about issues affecting marginalized groups.  The organization has helped place articles in The Guardian and the BBC. 
  • Tembinkosi Qondela, of Cape Town, South Africa, who founded Whizz ICT Centre, an organization that seeks to facilitate the use of information communication technology (ICT) tools for development efforts of the community in Khayelitsha, one of the largest and poorest areas of Cape Town, South Africa.  Mr. Qondela observed that marginalization of poor people in the use of ICT and the lack of access to information perpetuates the inequalities and poverty that face most young South Africans.  Whizz ICT runs a center which gives young people access to computer training, other ICT related services and training in a range of income generating skills.  To date Whizz ICT has provided training to over 1000 youth.

The names and brief profiles of the other six honorees are available on SXSW's website.   We congratulate them all.

VEJ

March 12, 2015 in Current Affairs, In the News, International, Other | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Study Finds Combination of Employment and Income Policies, New Tax Credit, Could Cut NYC Poverty Rate

I just came across this 116-page report commissioned by the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, and the UJA-Federation of New York titled How Much Could Policy Changes Reduce Poverty in New York City?  The report was actually prepared by the Urban Institute.  According to the report, a combination of employment and income policies, in-kind benefits, and a new tax credit could significantly reduce the poverty rate in New York City, where 20 percent of all residents currently live in poverty.

Giving a summary of the report, the Philanthropy News Digest states that

the report . . . analyzed the potential impact of a transitional jobs program, increased earnings supplements, a $15/hour minimum wage, increased Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits, more housing vouchers, guaranteed childcare subsidies, and a tax credit for non-working seniors and people with disabilities.  Among the individual policy options, the study found the jobs program likely to be most effective (assuming that 50 percent of the unemployed living under the poverty line participate), reducing the poverty rate from 21.4 percent to an estimated 15.9 percent, followed by the tax credit for seniors and people with disabilities, a $15/hour minimum wage, and increased SNAP benefits.

The combined effect of multiple policy options, however, would be far greater, the report argues.  Based on an analysis of three scenarios, the study found that even the least extensive combination — increased SNAP benefits, Earned Income Tax Credit, and childcare benefits; the tax credit for non-working seniors and people with disabilities; and 25 percent participation in the transitional jobs program at $9/hour but no change in the minimum wage or housing subsidies — would nearly halve the city's poverty rate to 12.1 percent. In the scenario with the most extensive combination of policy options, including 50 percent participation in the jobs program at a minimum wage of $15/hour, Paycheck Plus earning supplements, and housing vouchers for half the people on the waiting list, the poverty rate would fall by more than two-thirds, to 6.7 percent.

The study also found that the most effective individual policies, the jobs program and the tax credit, were the most expensive, and that total costs for the combination of policy options was estimated to range from $6.5 billion to $9.1 billion. While the costs are substantial, the report concludes, the analysis shows "that a package of policies can greatly reduce the number of people living in poverty," with potential long-term effects "that differ from those in the short run, especially if less near-term poverty helps more of today’s children avoid poverty in adulthood."

I guess the question we need to ask is this: who would pay for the program?  And if your ready answer is "The taxpayers," I have a follow-up question: Which taxpayers? American taxpayers?  New York State taxpayers?  New York City taxpayers?  A combination of all three?
 
VEJ

March 11, 2015 in Church and State, Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 9, 2015

In 2013, California Professional Fundraisers Kept 45% of Donations Raised for Charities

I have always found it troubling when people donate to charity but the donees receive a very small share of the donation.  And yesterday's Orange County Register published a story about such a practice, a story that made me see, well, not orange, but red.  According to the Register, in 2013, the for profit firms that raise money for charities collected $361.3 million from well-meaning Californians and pocketed $161.2 million, or 45.4 percent, of the take, this according to the latest figures from the Office of the Attorney General.  Incidentally, those figures were better than those for 2012, when the for-profit firms pocketed 63 percent of the money raised in nonprofits' names.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has bemoaned "the alarming extent to which charitable donations are often diverted to for-profit companies."  However, Assemblywoman Jaqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, noted that at least the trend seems to be going in the right direction (i.e., from 63 percent last year to 45.4 percent this year).  Meanwhile, here's an interesting statistic: "generally speaking, charities with the words 'police' or 'firefighter' in their names kept less than one-third of what was raised on their behalf, with the overwhelming majority going to the for-profit fundraiser," reports the Register.

The Register continues:

In their defense, officials said some campaigns costing millions were strategic investments that will pay off far more than they cost, in future contributions.

Others, however, are run-of-the-mill, we-need-your-money-now-please affairs, where for-profit firms kept huge chunks of what donors believed would fund good works.

Charities often argue that it’s not really money out of their pockets, since professional fundraisers take a percentage of proceeds, or a pre-determined amount if a minimum is not met, said Sandra Miniutti, vice president of Charity Navigator, a nonprofit watchdog.

“However, from a donor’s perspective, that argument does not hold, since it is actually the donor’s money that is going to a professional fundraiser as opposed to the charity they thought they were supporting,” Miniutti said by email. “In large part, it is still professional companies taking advantage of the lack of education on the giving public’s part.”

And that’s why the Attorney General’s Office started gathering these numbers to begin with.

Well, I hope the Attorney General's Office can use these numbers to do something to change this sad situation.

VEJ

 

March 9, 2015 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)