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The Nonprofit QuarterlyHaiti in Ruins
January 13, 2010; New York Times | As the devastation unfolds in Haiti after the most damaging natural disaster in the country’s ravaged history, among the thousands of casualties, scores of aid workers remain missing or are confirmed dead. A Southern Baptist worker, Sherrie Fausey, of Jacksonville, Fla., who operates a home-based orphanage, has not been located, according to Jim Hambrick, field director for the Christian Light Foundation missions organization based in Jacksonville, Fla. The earthquake has left Haiti in a shambles, tangling efforts to provide relief to an estimated 3 million people who the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said had been affected by the quake. The Haitian president, René Préval, told The Miami Herald that the toll was “unimaginable”. The death toll is sure to rise as victims are recovered from the rubble. The quake struck just before 5 p.m. Tuesday about 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, ravaging the infrastructure of Haiti’s fragile government and destroying some of its most important cultural symbols, including the domed white presidential palace, the cathedral, and the Ministry of Justice. The country’s national prison suffered extensive damage and Parliament is said to have collapsed. Among the aid groups mobilizing are the French nonprofit Telecoms Sans Frontiers. They are sending two teams of responders to help facilitate communications as rescue workers dig through the country’s earthquake-battered capital. Only time will reveal the extent of the catastrophe and how well governmental, nongovernmental and private aid will mobilize, stop the bleeding, and begin a recovery.—Aaron Lester

The Nonprofit QuarterlyCalifornia ACORN Severs Ties
January 13, 2010
; Los Angeles Times | The plan for ACORN’s reorganization after the management review conducted by Scott Harshbarger of the Proskauer Rose law firm (full disclosure, Harshbarger is on NPQ’s board of directors) called for local ACORN operations to incorporate as 501(c)(3)s, but not like the California chapter has done. California ACORN has not only separately incorporated, but has left the ACORN family all together.  The new organization—Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE)—will basically have the old California ACORN staff and funders, according to California ACORN’s now former head organizer, Amy Schur. So why leave? In national federations with troubled cores (think of the United Way family), the affiliates will often complain that they’re being hurt by problems in the systems—problems not of their making nor their responsibility. That seems to be one of the motivations of California ACORN’s decision, per Schur’s public statement that “[t]he level of controversy had become a significant distraction for us.” The chair of the new board described the establishment of ACCE as “an opportunity to take what is best and leave behind what was not so good.” From a national perspective, however, it has to be a concern for the “new” ACORN leadership, as California reportedly represented one-eighth of ACORN’s total dues-paying members. Given that many foundations’ funders have cut or eliminated grants to ACORN, one might guess that longtime California-based supporters of ACORN are doing some of the bankrolling for the new ACCE, but that might mean even fewer possible foundations available to ACORN nationally. The story of ACORN is not simply one of how to deal with organizational crisis; it also is a story of how to manage through a crisis with a national operation with many federated or affiliated local entities. This is something that NPQ will be watching closely.—Rick Cohen

The Nonprofit QuarterlyWall Street Bonuses and Public Wrath
January 9, 2010; New York Times | Why should nonprofits pay attention to the news that the big Wall Street financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase that we taxpayers bailed out so generously in 2008 and 2009 are preparing to hand out mega-bonuses to their employees?  It’s partly the public policy question, and partly the charity and philanthropy angle. According to the New York Times, top executives at these banks and brokerages will be receiving six- and seven-figure bonuses this year. The average bonuses are astounding: Goldman Sachs reportedly paying its employees average bonuses of $595,000, and JP Morgan Chase $463,000. New York State AG Andrew Cuomo is demanding that the banks fully disclose details of the bonus packages, but the response from the White House has been a bit tepid (oddly, the Times article doesn’t contain a reference to, much less a statement from the Obama Administration, where Treasury Secretary Geithner has seemed to be averse to going beyond rhetoric to clamp down on these huge bonuses). Are financial sector bonuses a policy concern of the nonprofit sector? You bet. These banks are sucking up the money that they should be putting back into the economy and instead pocketing it for their execs. This is the same behavior that brought us to the brink of a full-fledged Depression. But what about charity and philanthropy? Do remember that these firms will try to assuage public opinion by announcing new charitable giving endeavors, new programs and funds ostensibly for nonprofits, but amounting to a tiny proportion of their new record-breaking profitability. Nonprofits ought to remind these corporations that the public—and the nonprofit sector—can’t be bought off and silenced with their corporate tax-deductible charitable contributions. The people served by the nonprofit sector have not made record profits this year and aren’t taking home big bonuses. Many don’t have jobs and paychecks, not to mention bonuses.  It’s time for the nonprofit sector to tell Wall Street, sorry, we can’t be bought on the cheap.—Rick Cohen


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