Author Archives: Caroline Preston
October 18, 2012, 3:09 pm
In an e-mail last night to her group’s membership, Vikki Spruill, the new leader of the Council on Foundations, announced a campaign to convey the value of philanthropy to lawmakers.
She painted a picture of philanthropy under threat from politicians who are looking for new ways to increase revenue.
“Both President Obama and Governor Romney have put forth plans that will affect giving, and Congress is eyeing all tax deductions as potential revenue raisers,” she wrote. “This would be a grave mistake and would negatively affect significant numbers of Americans.”
Since joining the Council in July, Ms. Spruill said, she has assembled a team of “seasoned political strategists, communications tacticians, and tax-policy experts with deep ties to federal policy makers.” The campaign will focus on educating lawmakers at the local, state, and federal levels, she said, showing them how…
February 16, 2012, 4:34 pm
The Internal Revenue Service’s annual “dirty dozen” list of the top 12 tax scams in the United States includes schemes that involve charities—in particular, the misuse of noncash donations.
The IRS says that it’s investigating cases in which donors try to maintain control over donations or income from contributions of assets.
The tax agency says it has seen cases in which several charities claim the value of the same donated products.
“Often these donations are highly overvalued or the organization receiving the donation promises that the donor can repurchase the items later at a price set by the donor,” the IRS says.
The Pension Protection Act of 2006 imposed higher penalties for inaccurate appraisals of noncash gifts, says the tax agency.
Last month, the IRS imposed a fine on Food for the Hungry, an international charity, for allegedly misleading the public about the…
March 9, 2011, 11:46 am
With Washington scurrying to try to avoid a federal government shutdown, now might not be the easiest time for foundation officials to bend the ear of Congress members. But about 250 foundation employees are scheduled to be in town this week, as part of the Council on Foundations and the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers’ annual “Foundations on the Hill” day, to try to make their case to federal legislators about the value of philanthropy.
At a lunch on Tuesday, they heard from Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, who shared his perspective on tax issues that affect nonprofits.
His message about the importance of foundation advocacy was simple: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
Given the enormous pressure on legislators to reduce the federal deficit, Mr. Blumenauer said that some people are…
February 16, 2011, 8:35 am
President Obama’s proposed 2012 budget calls for a modest increase—1 percent—in spending on foreign affairs and development.
The proposal would provide slightly more than $47-billion for the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, when costs for operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan are excluded. That compares with roughly $46.5-million in 2010.
The proposal was met with relief at international charities.
“Given the fiscal and political pressures that abound right now, this is a sensible and responsible request by the administration for 2012,” said Todd Shelton, senior director of public policy at InterAction, a Washington group that represents international aid organizations.
Areas that would see increases include global health and child survival (which would rise from $7.8-billion in 2010 to $8.7-billion); the Peace Corps (from …
February 11, 2011, 11:16 am
Officials from several foundations are scheduled to meet today in Washington with representatives from the Department of Homeland Security as part of an effort by the federal government to learn what philanthropy is doing to fight terrorism and other violent acts spurred by ideology.
The meeting will “explore how the philanthropic community supports community-led efforts to counter violent extremism and assess what additional efforts may enhance this work,” according to an invitation sent to foundation leaders from David Heyman, assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Policy.
Mr. Heyman said he expected the meeting to begin a “fruitful dialogue” about how to foster local programs that reduce the risk of extremism. “We are looking to engage in an exchange of views about support to community efforts to directly counter and disrupt terrorist efforts to …
December 14, 2010, 1:22 pm
Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett have been inviting the country’s billionaires to dinner to persuade them to give more of their money to charity. Today, the Gateses and Mr. Buffett had an invitation of their own: to the White House, to talk about their “Giving Pledge” effort to convince the America’s wealthiest people to give half their wealth away.
The Gateses and Mr. Buffett met with President Obama in the Oval Office this morning, according to a statement from a White House official. In addition to talking philanthropy, the three billionaires spoke with the president about ways to strengthen the economy, support innovation, and improve America’s schools. The flagging U.S. education system is a central focus of the Gateses’ philanthropy. (See this article from The Chronicle’s archive about their education gifts, and those of other major donors.)
No word on whether the…
November 23, 2010, 7:00 pm
After trying for seven years to convince the Treasury Department to significantly alter its antiterror guidelines for giving abroad, charities are ending discussions out of frustration.
Nonprofits have long argued that the voluntary guidelines hype the potential of U.S. charities being exploited by terrorists and create a cloud of suspicion that dissuades people and foundations from giving abroad.
In a letter sent to the Treasury Department on November 8, a group of more than 70 nonprofit organizations complained that the department hasn’t made any major changes based on their suggestions and sticks by what the charities believe are exaggerated claims.
Through its representative, Marcus Owens, the Treasury Guidelines Working Group which was convened by the Council on Foundations, said it was ending its dialogue with the government and disbanding as a result. “We are at an …
June 1, 2010, 1:31 pm
Florida’s governor signed legislation last week aimed at curtailing how much state and local governments can do to regulate foundations and their diversity practices.
Drafted with help from the Alliance for Charitable Reform, the law prohibits Florida government officials from requiring that foundations disclose the race, religion, gender, income level, sexual orientation, or certain other characteristics of their employees and board members, as well as those of their grant recipients.
The new law also bars state and local government officials from requiring that private foundations appoint board members based on such characteristics and preventing them from selecting trustees who are family members.
In addition to introducing restrictions on how government officials might regulate foundation governance, the law prohibits governments from forcing foundations to give money to groups and …
May 18, 2010, 1:14 pm
The Humane Society of the United States and Mothers Against Drunk Driving filed an ethics complaint last week charging the American Beverage Institute, a group that represents restaurants, of engaging in illegal lobbying.
The beverage group is led by Richard Berman, a Washington lobbyist who oversees several nonprofit organizations that have attacked charities including the Humane Society and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. (See this Chronicle article on an anti-Humane Society advertising campaign conducted by the Center for Consumer Freedom, which is run by Mr. Berman).
The two charities registered a complaint with the New York State Commission on Public Integrity, saying that the American Beverage Institute violated the state’s lobbying law in 2008 when it ran advertisements in The New York Times and New York Post without being registered in New York as a lobbyist. State law requires…
May 12, 2010, 4:03 pm
More than 30 nonprofit organizations wrote to President Obama today urging him to ease antiterrorism restrictions that the groups say hinder legitimate charitable giving and aid work abroad.
The organizations — which include American Jewish World Service, the Charity and Security Network, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council — reminded Mr. Obama of a statement he made last June in Cairo in which he said that some charitable rules have made giving difficult for American Muslims and that he would work with them to help fulfill their religious obligation to donate.
“While the speech was in the context of U.S. relations with the Muslim world, the problems you cited adversely impact all kinds of charities, humanitarian aid groups, grant makers, and donors,” the organizations wrote.
Among the problems they cited: harassment of donors by law-enforcement officials; absence of clear standards …