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Shining a Light on State Campaign Finance: An Evaluation of the Impact of the National Institute on Money in State Politics

September 19, 2014 Comments off

Shining a Light on State Campaign Finance: An Evaluation of the Impact of the National Institute on Money in State Politics
Source: RAND Corporation

The National Institute on Money in State Politics collects, processes, and makes public information on campaign contributions made to state-level candidates for public office. The Institute asked the RAND Corporation to probe user perspectives on the Institute and its data, on how the data are being used, and on how the utility of the data might be improved in the future. Drawing on experiences of a variety of users, as well as a review of the publications that have used the Institute’s data and research reports, this report provides an evaluation of the Institute’s impact on the public discourse over campaign finance at the state level. It is our view that the Institute serves an important purpose — to undertake the collection, centralization, and dissemination of state-level campaign finance data. No other organization has been successful in this effort or is likely to be so. All the audiences that the Institute seeks to engage have found value in the Institute’s efforts. The most successful of these are the scholarly, journalistic, and advocacy communities. The interviewees we spoke with were impressed, felt indebted to the Institute, and expressed an inability to do the sort of research, reporting, and advocacy on state campaign finance without the Institute. Overall, a variety of influential users engaged in campaign finance and public policy view the Institute’s work as being of high quality and adding value.

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The State of Nonprofit Governance

September 17, 2014 Comments off

The State of Nonprofit Governance
Source: Urban Institute

This report provides a snapshot of nonprofit governance policies and practices among operating public charities. Using IRS Form 990 data, we find that many public charities have good governance policies and practices in place. In 2010, more than 60 percent of organizations had a conflict of interest policy, an independent audit and a compensation review and approval process for their chief executive. We also find that organizational characteristics such as size, type of organization, government funding, age, board size and board independence all appear related to whether or not a public charity chooses to adopt these recommended practices.

Signifying the public: Celebrity advocacy and post-democratic politics

September 3, 2014 Comments off

Signifying the public: Celebrity advocacy and post-democratic politics
Source: International Journal of Cultural Studies

Celebrity advocacy has become an important part of the way in which development non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and charities more generally, try to achieve social and political change. Yet research into how different audiences respond to such advocacy is parlous. This article presents findings from two large surveys (1111 and 1999), focus groups (9) and interviews across the charitable sector and celebrity industries to explore those responses. These data suggest that celebrity advocacy is not a particularly popular phenomenon, but it is widely believed to be so. Celebrity advocacy is thus firmly entrenched in post-democratic politics and part of the public alienation from politics that term describes. Nevertheless, because celebrity advocacy also works well with political and business elites it may still be a good vehicle for pursuing some of the goals of development advocates.

See: Celebrity promotion of charities ‘is largely ineffective,’ says research (EurekAlert!)

Electioneering Rules for Private Foundations and Public Charities

September 2, 2014 Comments off

Electioneering Rules for Private Foundations and Public Charities
Source: Packard Foundation, Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation and Moore Foundation

The legal staff at the Packard Foundation, Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation and Moore Foundation developed this free, resource, which covers the basic legal rules around the electioneering prohibition. It takes about ninety minutes to complete and features “Maya,” a program officer that helps participants through the course. Participants can also return to the training at any time for a refresher and click on the individual modules to refer back to specific topics.

Some Tax-Exempt Organizations Have Substantial Delinquent Payroll Taxes

September 2, 2014 Comments off

Some Tax-Exempt Organizations Have Substantial Delinquent Payroll Taxes
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS
While tax‑exempt organizations are generally not required to pay income taxes, they are generally required to pay other taxes such as payroll taxes. If tax-exempt organizations do not pay their taxes and thereby abuse the Federal tax system, the Federal Government could lose millions of dollars in revenue.

WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT
The overall objectives of this review were to determine if, and to what extent, tax‑exempt organizations have known Federal tax debt and to identify actions the Exempt Organizations function has taken to address this noncompliance.

WHAT TIGTA FOUND
IRS records indicate that the majority of tax‑exempt organizations pay their Federal taxes. However, a small percentage are not paying their taxes. TIGTA determined that more than 64,200 (3.8 percent) tax‑exempt organizations had nearly $875 million of Federal tax debt as of June 16, 2012. While some organizations owed minor amounts, approximately 1,200 tax exempt organizations owed more than $100,000 each. Unpaid taxes were often associated with multiple tax periods. For example, nine organizations each had Federal tax debt spanning 10 or more years that collectively totaled more than $5.5 million.

TIGTA reviewed 25 tax‑exempt organizations – all Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) – that appeared to be among the worst examples involving unpaid Federal tax but are not representative of the population of all tax‑exempt organizations with unpaid tax. TIGTA determined that these organizations generally received government payments over a three‑year period of $148 million, including Medicare, Medicaid, and government grants; had annual revenue of almost $167 million; and owned assets of more than $97 million—but continued to not remit payroll and other taxes, including penalties and interest, totaling more than $25 million. The Internal Revenue Code does not authorize the IRS to revoke tax‑exempt status based on an organization’s failure to pay payroll taxes, and substantially all of the organizations that TIGTA reviewed were still recognized by the IRS as tax‑exempt as of May 2013. The Exempt Organizations function had completed several examinations but was generally not aware of the behavior of the organizations because another IRS business unit is responsible for collecting the delinquent tax debt.

WHAT TIGTA RECOMMENDED
TIGTA recommended that the Director, Exempt Organizations: 1) coordinate with Small Business/ Self‑Employed Division management to receive relevant collection information, 2) periodically complete analyses to identify tax‑exempt organizations that potentially abuse their tax‑exempt status for examination (if necessary), and 3) work with the Department of the Treasury to evaluate whether a legislative proposal is warranted to strengthen the IRS’s ability to enforce payroll tax noncompliance by tax‑exempt organizations.

In their response to the report, IRS management disagreed with the first two recommendations and agreed to apprise the Department of the Treasury of our third recommendation. TIGTA believes that the Exempt Organizations function should do more to oversee tax‑exempt organizations that repeatedly fail to remit payroll taxes, which include Medicare, Social Security, and Federal income taxes withheld from employees. This is particularly important because these organizations have the benefit of charitable status, and the Government has paid them millions of dollars of Medicare and Medicaid funds.

Americans Serving Their Communities Gain Well-Being Edge

September 2, 2014 Comments off

Americans Serving Their Communities Gain Well-Being Edge
Source: Gallup

Americans who actively work to better their communities have higher overall well-being than those who do not. U.S. adults who agree that they have received recognition for helping to improve their communities in the last year have an average Well-Being Index score of 70.0, while those who disagree have an average of 58.5. Importantly, this relationship between well-being and receiving recognition for community involvement persists even after controlling for the effects of age and income — two factors that are related to higher community well-being.

Aid Worker Security Report 2014 — Unsafe Passage: Road attacks and their impact on humanitarian operations

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Aid Worker Security Report 2014 — Unsafe Passage: Road attacks and their impact on humanitarian operations (PDF)
Source: Humanitarian Outcomes

Summary of Key Findings

  • The year 2013 set a new record for violence against civilian aid operations, with 251 separate attacks affecting 460 aid workers.
  • Of the 460 victims, 155 aid workers were killed, 171 were seriously wounded, and 134 were kidnapped. Overall this represents a 66 per cent increase in the number of victims from 2012.
  • The spike in attacks in 2013 was driven mainly by escalating conflicts and deterioration of governance in Syria and South Sudan. These two countries along with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan together accounted for three quarters of all attacks.
  • The majority of aid worker victims were staffers of national NGOs and Red Cross/Crescent societies, often working to implement international aid in their own countries.
  • Year after year, more aid workers are attacked while traveling on the road than in any other setting. In 2013, over half of all violent incidents occurred in the context of an ambush or roadside attack.
  • The advances in humanitarian security management have failed to effectively address this most prevalent form of targeting. While some good practice exists in protective and deterrent approaches to road security, more collective thinking and action is required, particularly in developing ‘kinetic acceptance’ strategies for negotiating safe access in transit.
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