Opinion: Impact, Not Overhead, Key to Measuring Charities

Donors weighing what charities to support should worry less about fraud and waste and more about a group’s effectiveness in achieving its goals, a Yale University economics professor and nonprofit leader writes in a Los Angeles Times column.

News of charitable waste, such as recent exposes about Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, “goes viral quickly” and instills fear in donors, but closer study reveals “that fraud in charities is not rampant,” says Dean Karlan, founder of the nonprofit Innovations…

Foundation Troubles Jeopardize Grants to N.D. University

North Dakota is withholding some $663,000 in awarded or pending grants to Dickinson State University because of issues with its nonprofit fundraising affiliate, which went into receivership earlier this month, the Grand Forks Herald and the Associated Press write. The money was due under a two-year-old state program that provides $1 for every $2 raised by state universities’ foundations.

State officials cited several concerns about financial problems at the DSU Foundation, including a dispute wi…

Property Magnate Weiser Gives $50-Million to U. of Michigan

Real estate entrepreneur and former diplomat Ronald Weiser and his wife, Eileen Weiser, have donated $50-million to the University of Michigan, in large part to support programs aimed at helping countries make the transition from authoritarian to democratic rule, the Associated Press and campus newspaper The Michigan Daily report. Half of the gift will go to two centers launched by the Weisers within the university’s International Institute that study emerging democracies and why autocracies end…

Boston Museum Receives $10-Million Gift of Women’s Art

Cambridge, Mass., philanthropist and art collector Barbara Lee has donated 43 works by female artists to Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, The Boston Globe writes. Ms. Lee estimated the value of the collection, which includes works by Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman, Tara Donovan, and other major figures, at more than $10-million.

The gift expands by 30 percent the size of the permanent collection, which the 78-year-old museum began amassing in 2005 after decades of exhibiting only borrowe…

Twin Cities Nonprofit Leader Pleads Guilty to $460,000 Theft

The head of two St. Paul, Minn., social-service charities admitted in court Thursday to stealing more than $460,000 in state and federal funds earmarked for the organizations, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Prosecutors said Roberta Barnes, 57, of St. Paul, funneled the money into payments to family members and personal expenses.

Ms. Barnes led the Sierra Young Family Institute and Agape House for Mothers, which received state-administered grants aimed at combating teen pregnancy and housing…

Charities Pop Up in Ukraine to Help Under-Equipped Troops

Hundreds of volunteer groups across Ukraine are raising money and providing food, clothes, and other supplies for poorly armed and ill-equipped soldiers fighting pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east, Bloomberg reports. Along with small charities mounting campaigns on social media, Ukrainian business leaders are also raising money and making donations to support military units.

The Ukrainian army, 900,000-strong when the Soviet Union broke up, has shrunk to as few as 128,000 soldiers, an…

Federal Report Says IRS Falling Short on Charity Oversight

With its budget falling and its workforce shrinking, the Internal Revenue Service lacks the resources to go after suspect charities or sufficiently assist state regulators of nonprofits, the Tampa Bay Times writes, citing a report released Wednesday by a federal watchdog agency.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that audits of tax-exempt groups have declined along with staff and spending at the IRS’ nonprofits unit. Only 0.7 percent of filing charities’ tax returns are being review…

Senate OKs 1-Year Extension for Charity Tax Breaks

The Senate voted Tuesday night to extend three charitable tax breaks that expired at the end of last year, allowing taxpayers to claim them on their 2014 returns if President Obama signs the measure as expected, reports Forbes. The temporary tax-extenders bill included a one-year reprieve for a popular provision allowing individual retirement account holders aged 70½ and older to donate up to $100,000 in IRA assets without reporting the withdrawal as taxable income.

Nonprofit groups had lobbied …

‘Dark Money’ Groups Doubled TV Ads in State Races in 2014

Forty nonprofit groups that are not required to disclose their donors collectively spent an estimated $25-million on television ads to influence elections for state office this year, producing nearly twice as many commercials as they did during the last midterm election cycle, according to an analysis of campaign spending data by the the Center for Public Integrity.

Politically active 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) groups were more successful in state campaigns than other independent political entities…

Questions Surround Young Philanthropist on L.A. Scene

The Los Angeles Times writes about Sean Lourdes, a 32-year-old Angeleno who has built a high philanthropic profile and hobnobbed with celebrities while backing unrealized charity endeavors and failing to pay vendors.

A Los Angeles native and self-described “third-generation heir” of a well-to-do publishing family, Mr. Lourdes returned to the city in 2009 after living abroad for many years and established the Lourdes Foundation, which aims to provide mentors for needy youth. While his social medi…