Nonprofit Newswire | November 30, 2009

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The Nonprofit QuarterlyState legislators considering their approach to next round of cuts
Nov 29, 2009; Rapid City Journal | South Dakota lawmakers are preparing for a fairly grim legislative session where, facing a growing deficit, they will have to decide whether to cut programs across the board, or slash some programs more deeply, or just simply eliminate particular spending categories. One of the things that they will have to pay attention to is where they cannot cut spending for fear of losing ARRA stimulus dollars. What will this mean for fields that were not the recipients of these dollars and what will it mean for the landscape of our state budgets next year?—Ruth McCambridge

The Nonprofit Quarterly Strange Blip in Individual Donations
Nov 29, 2009; Spokesman-Review |
In this recession, it is often important to look at the specific impacts on and challenges facing nonprofits in different parts of the nation, because, as NPQ’s editor in chief, Ruth McCambridge, often reminds us, geography matters. This piece on safety net groups in Spokane is interesting in particular for the comments of a spokesperson from the local Catholic Charities outfit. Not unexpectedly, they report turning away people at the homeless shelter and waiting lists for affordable housing units managed by Catholic Charities, though in most cities, similar dynamics predate the “official start” of the recession. With a half million dollar deficit after the layoff of 25 staff, the Catholic Charities spokesperson added this interesting point about charitable giving: “A lot of the $10- or $20-per-month donors have stayed, and our $500-per-month donors have stayed, but it’s the $150-per-month donors that have disappeared.” The question that sparks with us is, what are the kinds of nonprofits that depend on that middle rung of small charitable donors? With the continuing and inevitably increasing unemployment in the U.S., which nonprofits are most vulnerable to the loss of those $150-a-month donors—who we’ll guess are frequently payroll deduction givers through federated campaigns?Rick Cohen

The Nonprofit QuarterlyA Blight on Our Collective Name
Nov 25, 2009; The Sacramento Bee | This first of a two-part story from the Sac Bee is not only awful on its face but also bad timing. Now is not a good time to betray peoples’ faith in us and our work. A venerable Sacramento nonprofit, known for years as the Sacramento Association for the Retarded, closed its doors this summer without warning. It turns out the nonprofit provided fewer and fewer services to its clients while a larger share of its charitable contributions went to the group’s leaders and their families. The damning evidence: Less than a quarter of the money the nonprofit spent in 2007 went to programs and services for the developmentally disabled. After adjusting for inflation, total spending on program services was almost 88 percent less that year than in 1999. At the same time, management and general expenses rose almost 46 percent. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. What’s worse, the state’s attorney general seems to be turning a blind eye. At what point does a nonprofit leader decide that diverting funds from developmentally disabled children and adults into the pockets of his family is acceptable?—Aaron Lester

The Nonprofit QuarterlyCreswell church coughs up almost $26,000 in real property taxes
Nov 24, 2009; Creswell Chronicle | In the debates over whether nonprofit property owners should pay some sort of property taxes or fees or payments in lieu of taxes, usually the question of religious institutional landowners is bypassed. While local politicians seem willing to slap taxes on hospitals, universities, and human service providers, they’ll typically sidestep the often larger religious property owners. But the county tax authority appears to have hit a local church with a $26,000 tax bill (for 5 years of unpaid taxes), due apparently to its housing a nonprofit child care center.  Apparently, the church hadn’t informed the locality that its use of the property wasn’t exclusively religious. Nonetheless, the church as the property owner was hit with the tax. The church has approached a state legislator to consider introducing legislation to forgive the tax assessment, but the legislator informed them that the law was changed to allow for some reduction or foregiveness if the forms were filed by a particular date—which neither the church nor the child care center accomplished. Was the county assessor surprised to discover that a child care center had been operating in the church for five years running? Or was the assessor pleasantly “surprised” to discover a way of adding 26 grand to local revenues by not tipping the church off to its filing obligations or its ability to get the penalty waived? The state of Oregon is in economic turmoil. Balancing government budgets from the hides of nonprofit service providers like child care centers—including this one which will probably end up paying some or all of the tax bill—simply pits struggling governmental agencies against struggling nonprofits.—Rick Cohen



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