Altruism Today

Aid Charity Investigated by USAID Purges Senior Leadership

February 10th, 2015  |  Source:

More than half a dozen top executives at International Relief and Development resigned Friday amid multiple inquiries into alleged financial misconduct by one of the U.S. Agency for International Development's biggest contractors, according to The Washington Post.

The Arlington, Va.-based charity's chief financial officer, general counsel, and chief administrative officer were among those departing as the organization seeks to demonstrate accountability after it was suspended by USAID last month.

International Relief and Development has received $2.4-billion in government contracts since 2007, primarily for humanitarian and community-development work in Afghanistan and Iraq. Jean M. Hacken, the charity's chief of compliance from 2009 to 2014, said its executives charged Redskins game tickets, personal dining and travel, and alcohol at organizational functions to the government as overhead costs. The nonprofit's husband-and-wife founders, Arthur B. Keys and Jasna Basaric-Keys, retired last year.

Young Tech Donors Take Leading Role in Philanthropy 50

February 9th, 2015  |  Source:

America’s 50 most generous donors increased their giving by 27.5 percent last year—powered in large part by a $1.5-billion gift from Bill and Melinda Gates and a stunning rise in the number of tech entrepreneurs under 40, three of whom gave more than $500-million each.

The increase is striking compared with 2012, when giving by the Philanthropy 50 rose just 4 percent.

Two of the technology wunderkinder who are transforming the profile of big philanthropy have not previously disclosed the extent of their giving. They are Jan Koum, the 38-year-old founder of the messaging company WhatsApp, who donated $556-million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, putting him at No. 4 onThe Chronicle’s Philanthropy 50, and Sean Parker, the 35-year-old former Facebook president and founder of Napster, who ranked No. 5 by contributing $550-million, split between his family foundation and a donor-advised fund.

They are followed by Nicholas Woodman, 39, and his wife, Jill, 38, founders of the high-tech camera company GoPro, who donated slightly more than $500-million, also to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Why non-profits should consider a revenue-driven model

February 4th, 2015  |  Source: Globe & Mail

In a recent article in The New Zealand Herald, “Why Does Social Enterprise Matter?”, The Akina Foundation explores why now is a better time than ever for nonprofit social organizations to shift to self-sustaining (or even profitable) business models. We couldn’t agree more.

Our organization, The Global Good Fund, accelerates the development of young social entrepreneurs through a 15-month Fellowship. We pair Fellows with esteemed executives who serve in a coaching capacity, provide leadership assessment resources and offer a network of peer leaders, sector expertise and targeted financial capital. Until now, we have relied on donor funding to support these young leaders. But given the immense amount of time and resources invested in each Fellow, we realized that it would be impossible to scale our program and invest in more leaders each year without making fundamental changes to how we operate.

As a result, we are creating revenue-producing services that shift us from a donor-driven organization to a financially sustainable enterprise. With this critical shift, our objective is to scale and further accelerate the development of young social entrepreneurs tackling the world’s greatest challenges. For us, iterating to develop revenue streams is imperative to our long-term growth and ability to deliver global social impact.

And we are not the only organization that faces the crossroads of donor-driven versus revenue-generating operations. The reality is that it doesn’t need to be an either/or situation.
In response to The Akina Foundation’s article, we identified 10 reasons why shifting from a donor-driven organization to a revenue-producing social enterprise is more beneficial in terms of global impact.

Read on here:

Nonprofit Nursing Homes Seize Control of Residents--As Collateral

February 2nd, 2015  |  Source: NPQ/NYT

On the heels of the scandal about nonprofit hospitals’ aggressive collections practices, which can destroy the lives of poor patients, comes this story about nonprofit nursing homes that seize the patients themselves in an effort to collect their bills. We hope that readers will help us call this practice to the attention of legislators concerned with hospital collections.

Ninety-year-old Lillian Palermo is a resident at the nonprofit Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home. Recently, after protesting about changes in copayments and the quality of care, her husband, Dino Palermo, who visits daily and is described as devoted, found a six-page petition for guardianship waiting on her bed. The petition asked the court to give a stranger legal power over Mrs. Palermo and her finances.

Researchers at Hunter College found that this type of action has become routine. In a random sample of 700 guardianship cases filed over the last ten years in Manhattan, 12 percent were found to have been brought by nursing homes. Lawyers familiar with the guardianship process say that these petitions are primarily used by nursing homes as a means of bill collection.

“It’s a strategic move to intimidate,” said Ginalisa Monterroso, who left her employment at Mary Manning Walsh in 2012. “Nursing homes do it just to bring money.” She called the practice cruel.

Attorney Brett D. Nussbaum, who represents a number of nursing homes including Mary Manning Walsh, said, “The Palermo case is no different than any other nursing home bill that they had difficulty collecting.” Nussbaum says he has brought 5,000 guardianship cases in his 21 years of practice. “When you have families that do not cooperate and an incapacitated person, guardianship is a legitimate means to get the nursing home paid.”

Though many judges do approve such petitions, Alexander W. Hunter, Jr., a longtime State Supreme Court justice in the Bronx and Manhattan, has strong opinions about the practice. In response to two guardianship cases in 2006 and 2007, Justice Hunter required nursing homes bringing such actions to bear the legal costs, ruling that these kinds of petitions to collect funds was not part of the legislature’s intent when it enacted Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law. In a case involving the Hebrew Home for the Aged last year, Justice Hunter did appoint a guardian, but he directed the guardian to investigate whether there was reason to refer the case for criminal prosecution for financial exploitation.

Here is the way the case is described by the New York Times:

“The decision describes a 94-year-old resident with a bank balance of $240,000 who had been unable to go home after rehabilitative treatment because of a fire in her co-op apartment; her only regular visitors were real estate agents who wanted her to sell. After Hebrew Home’s own doctor evaluated her as incapable of making financial decisions, the decision says, the nursing home collected a $50,000 check from her; it sued her when she refused to continue writing checks, then filed for guardianship.”

In the Justice’s decision, he wrote:

“It would be an understatement to declare that this court is outraged by the behavior exhibited by the interested parties—parties who were supposed to protect the person, but who have all unabashedly demonstrated through their actions in connection with the person that they are only interested in getting paid.”

NFL president Roger Goodell made $44 million last year, as head of a not-for-profit

February 1st, 2015  |  Source: Fiscal Times

Football fans are unhappy with the cheating scandal that has roiled the Super Bowl. What should worry them more is this: NFL president Roger Goodell made $44 million last year, as head of a not-for-profit. You know – a not-for-profit like the Salvation Army or the March of Dimes. That’s right – even though the NFL teams raked in about $9.5 billion in revenues last year, and the CEO of their industry association takes home one of the highest paychecks in the land, the sports league pays no taxes. Not only is the NFL tax-exempt, so is an organization called the NFL Management Council that undertakes “labor negotiations on behalf of NFL Member Clubs.” That’s how screwed up our tax system is.

Half the diehard fans tuning in to Sunday’s Super Bowl think the New England Patriots cheated. That’s the news from a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling: 50% of NFL followers are convinced that Tom Brady’s team intentionally deflated those famous footballs. Affection for the Pats has plummeted, with a majority of fans now rooting for the Seahawks.

The NFL has dragged its collective cleats, just like in the Ray Rice scandal, taking its time to interview the participants in the Pat’s blow-out defeat of the Colts. As of today, officials had still failed to speak with rather pivotal figures such as, for example, QB Tom Brady, who was the obvious beneficiary of the “Deflategate” scandal.

As unhappy as football fans are with the cheating scandal – they should be even angrier with the management of the NFL. A recent article in GQ magazine reported Goodell’s out-sized compensation package at $44 million per year for seven years, which makes Goldman Sach’s Lloyd Blankfein’s $24 million take-home look downright measly by comparison. Goodell’s comp was determined by a three-owned committee including -- guess who? -- Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft. Kraft and Goodell are known to be close buddies, raising questions about conflicts of interests; some suggested an aggressive inquiry into the deflated balls was unlikely, given that relationship. Goodell reportedly visited Kraft’s home after the AFC Championship game with the Colts.  Cozy.

Even more questionable, though, and more important to the country, is the NFL’s tax-exempt status, which it claims as a 501c(6) organization. Eligible groups for that designation include: business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, board of trade and…professional football leagues.   

As a not-for-profit, the NFL files a form 990 each year. For the 2013 fiscal year (ending March 2013), the NFL reported revenues of $327 million and a profit of just under $9 million. A public for-profit company with modest numbers like that would surely not be doling out tens of millions to its CEO. And, it’s not just the CEO earning big bucks. Several other officers are highly paid as well; all told, the NFL dishes out $60 million in compensation to its staff. Some 298 individuals earned $100,000 or more.  Admittedly, it is the hefty revenues earned by the teams that also influences the money paid Goodell and his staff. Still, it is pay that is subsidized by taxpayers. 

The NFL spent $1.2 million on lobbying in 2013; undoubtedly some of that money went to maintaining its tax-exempt status. (It states in its filing that the organization admits to some “uncertainty in income taxes.”) It also dished out more than one million in grants and gifts to organizations like $20,000 each to the National Association of Black Journalists, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of New York and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. More curious is $639,000 given to the NFL Foundation for “Charitable Gifts – Coach/Club Fines.” Are taxpayers underwriting club fines?

 Senator Tom Coburn’s parting gift to voters upon his retirement last year was a scathing indictment of our tax system, called Tax Decoder. In it, he pillories many of our country’s 165 tax giveaways, including the exemptions allowed the NFL. It wasn’t his first salvo against the football franchise. In 2012 he identified the handout in his annual Waste Book, and then in 2013 he proposed the PRO Sports Act, which would forbid any professional sports organization earning revenues above $10 million from filing as a nonprofit organization. His bill would have prevented not only the NFL, but also the PGA and the National Hockey League from receiving taxpayer assistance. 

The bill failed to gain widespread support. "If you are in a state that has a pro football league or runs a pro golf tournament, the career politicians are afraid to touch it," Coburn said at the time. He also noted, “Tax earmarks are essentially tax increases for everyone who doesn’t receive the benefit…In this case, working Americans are paying artificially high rates in order to subsidize special breaks for sports leagues. This is hardly fair.”

 That seems an understatement. Football’s popularity is huge, and despite the controversies, more than one hundred million people will tune into this weekend’s Super Bowl. Americans love the NFL – but as questions about the league’s governance pile up, they may get tired of helping to foot the bill. It’s up to Congress to clean up our tax system.

- See more at:

When Board Members Get in the Way of a Great Redesign

January 28th, 2015  |  Source:

Boards of Directors are key to the functioning of successful nonprofits.
They look out for the long-term direction and fiscal sustainability of the organization and open new opportunities. They hold leadership accountable. A lot is asked of board members in terms of financial contributions, connections, and time – often for little in return except for a few networking opportunities and the satisfaction of having helped out.

However, while organizations should be grateful to their hardworking board members, too often members overreach and can have a negative impact on decision making. This is especially true when it comes to marketing, design, and communications, disciplines that seem to attract an outsize share of unqualified participation.

Familiar patterns include a longtime board member who is understandably attached to a charity’s history, logo, name, and brand or a new trustee who mistakes his general business skill for specific marketing and design expertise. In either case, the interference often hinders the process.

A nonprofit hiring a financial consultant would be shocked to see a board member with little or no finance background suggesting major modifications to a carefully thought-out fiscal plan, but many executive directors regularly anticipate such intervention on marketing and communication projects.
I once worked on a project in which a board member neglected to participate in a rebranding effort until after a logo had been chosen, only to perceive a resemblance to a common retail brand he didn’t care for. His reservations threatened to derail what had been a long and hard-fought process.

This resemblance was not observed by the CEO, director of marketing, or our team, and luckily with some careful diplomatic maneuvers the issue was resolved, and the logo has been a great success for the organization ever since.

I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident, but I see it all too often. Most board members trust their CEOs and executive directors and have a healthy awareness of their limitations. However, some board members fail to see where their participation is unhelpful to the process.
Here are a few suggestions for everyone involved in a major communications overhaul that can be especially effective in mitigating the issues above.

Involve the right people early. Start any major rebrand by talking to a large number of relevant constituents (board members, donors, staff, clients, partners) and look for common insights in their narratives. If you know some decision makers have the power to derail a decision, bring them on early in the process so their concerns can be integrated into the thinking and their objections can be evaluated. People who are too busy to get involved should understand their opinions cannot be fully informed, so they need to allow the process to unfold without their full participation.
Create a framework. Far too often someone chimes in that a logo should be red instead of blue.

Typically this advice comes from someone who is neither an expert in color theory nor an active participant in the communications process. A framework — a list of necessary conditions — allows you to highlight in advance the key attributes that are needed for a design or communications decision to be successful and then to weigh input against that framework. In this way, we know to implement the change from red to blue only if it serves a strategic need, like if red better fits our goal of being bold than does blue.

Educate participants on the psychology of change. As humans, we prefer the familiar over the new, and we typically fear loss more than we see opportunity. A once ambitious rebranding can easily morph into a cautious and ineffective crawl toward mediocrity and compromise when excitement about the process starts to encounter the reality of its permanence. Recognizing these tendencies can help counteract them.

Sometimes board members need to put egos aside and be open to uncomfortable but necessary changes. That may not be easy, but it is crucial for a successful evolution of a brand in an increasingly dynamic world.

USAID suspends its largest nonprofit contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan

January 27th, 2015  |  Source: Washington Post

The U.S. Agency for International Development announced Monday that it has suspended one of its largest nonprofit contractors from federal work after investigators found “serious misconduct” in the nonprofit’s performance and management of taxpayer money.

For years, International Relief and Development, headquartered in Arlington, Va., served as one of USAID’s key contractors, undertaking ambitious humanitarian projects in some of the most dangerous places in the world.

The suspension comes after months of internal USAID reviews of IRD’s performance in the field and reports from the agency’s inspector general that the nonprofit allegedly mischarged millions of dollars in overhead costs. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and the FBI are also investigating the organization.

“The Agency’s review revealed serious misconduct in IRD’s performance, management, internal controls and present responsibility,” USAID said in a statement Monday. “USAID has a zero tolerance policy for mismanagement of American taxpayer funds and will take every measure at our disposal to recover these funds.”

Since 2007, USAID has awarded more than $2.4 billion in contracts and cooperative agreements to IRD, much of it to fund stabilization and community-development projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several of those projects have been the subjects of investigations following allegations of waste and fraud.

IRD also has been criticized for providing lavish salaries and millions in bonuses to its employees, including the husband-and-wife team who ran the organization, as well as their family members. Many of the allegations were contained in a Washington Post investigation published last May.

The suspension takes effect immediately, blocking IRD from new federal contracts. The nonprofit will be permitted to complete projects that are underway.

“It is what it is, and we have to deal with it,” said Roger Ervin, who took over IRD as president six weeks ago. “I take this as an opportunity to make some changes, and many of them are already underway. I think we can show in short order that we can demonstrate that we are a good service provider for USAID, and I think we can address this pretty quickly.”

K9s For Warriors Asks: Can We Stop 22 Veterans From Committing Suicide Today?

January 22nd, 2015  |  Source:

22 veterans and active duty military personnel commit suicide in the United States every day.

K9s For Warriors wants you to know, we have a solution to STOP22.

"I went to grab my pistol and before my hand even touched it, my service dog started barking non-stop, which is not like him. He was jumping in my face and wrapping his head around the arm I was going to grab the gun with. When I finally pulled away, he stopped barking and just stared at me." - A K9s For Warriors Graduate.

In launching the "STOP22" campaign on January 22, 2015, K9s For Warriors wants every American to know we have a veteran suicide epidemic and that there are solutions.

K9s For Warriors provides service dogs to post-9/11 veterans with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and/or military sexual trauma (MST) at no charge to the veteran. We give rescue dogs and military heroes a new leash on life. To date we have had a 100% success rate preventing soldier suicide.

How we are asking for help? Awareness. K9s For Warriors is asking you to share our message of #K9sSTOP22. We want you to get creative and share this message in a Facebook post, a Tweet, or an Instagram post using the number 22. You can share your photos on K9s For Warriors

website and help us bring awareness to this epidemic.

"Today, tomorrow, the day after that, 22 veterans will commit suicide in America. This sobering fact can't be ignored and we are asking for your help," said Shari Duval, President of K9s For Warriors.

Fig-leaf philanthropy and the costume of chaste concern

January 19th, 2015  |  Source:

A few weeks ago I wrote about a problem that arises when generosity is kept neatly and conveniently aloof from the means that make generosity possible. I suggested that philanthropy can be a compromised and compromising affair when the gifts given are ill-gotten in the first place.

In thinking more about this I was reminded of a passage in a new book titled The Demise of Virtue in Virtual America: The Moral Origins of the Great Recession, by David Bosworth (Front Porch Books, 2014). It is an elegant and intelligent book I cannot recommend emphatically enough.

Writing about the movie industry’s ability “to stage a convincing pretense of perpetual innocence,” Bosworth compares almost in passing the profitability of cinematic sexual allure to a problem that bedevils philanthropy:

Just as the rapacity of greed was frequently concealed in modernizing America by the fig leaf of philanthropy (the more money given, the better the person, no matter how his money had been earned), Eros in these older movies was often disguised by a saintly costume of chaste concern.

I leave aside what Bosworth is up to in this section of his book (as it happens, making a case against Ronald Reagan, who “enlisted as an enthusiastic participant in staging this pretense” of chaste concern) to draw attention to this apt and felicitous image of the fig leaf.

How is it that, unlike the deity walking in the garden in the cool of the day, demanding of that first fig-leafed pair how exactly they came by the knowledge of their nakedness, most of us seem to be impressed by the fig leaves but inexplicably incurious about what’s behind them? And since when does a lump sum cover a multitude of sins?

Read more here:

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