April 2010

(BBC)  Armed groups in the Dominican Republic have led John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the United Nations, to investigate on site.  Aid workers are repeatedly confronted with violence, rape, and lootings in the Congo.  Though better security was promised to aid workers and civilians by the end of last year, uncertain violence remains a routine threat.  On Monday, Mr. Holmes plans to discuss security for civilians with President Joseph Kabila.

(The Associated Press)  Two aid workers have been killed in Oaxaca, Mexico in an attack Tuesday.  Finnish human rights worker Jyri Jaakkola suffered a gunshot to his head, and Mexican political activist Beatriz Carino Trujillo was also killed.  The shootings began when their caravan containing 27 people stopped in a roadblock.  Oaxaca state Interior Secretary Evencio Martinez expressed concern about the safety of the caravan: “Whoever organized this caravan will have to answer for it, whoever invited these people … without taking precautions, because I think these people did not know what the situation and problems in the area were.”  

Today, two journalists, photographer David Cilia and reporter Erika Ramirez, were rescued by Mexican authorities.  Mr. Cilia has three gunshot wounds, but they are not life-threatening.  Mr. Cilia and Ms. Ramirez are in stable condition and are undergoing treatment for their injuries and dehydration in the town of Juxtlahuaca.


(IRS) The IRS is offering informative workshops for small and medium-sized nonprofits.  Exempt Organizations specialists are running the workshops, which will include information about maintaining exempt status and following tax law.   The workshops are especially helpful for administrators and volunteers involved with tax compliance for a 501 (c) (3) organization.  The workshops will be held in Seattle, Washington from May 11-13 and in Washington, DC from May 25-27.  Attendees must pre-register.

Photo taken from Mirror.co.uk; Major Phil Packer raises money for charity in the London Marathon.

(BBC News, Mirror.co.uk)  Just as the Boston Marathon raised money for charity, our friends across the pond are likewise running for a cause.  In the London Marathon,competitors are racing to benefit everything from cancer patients to Britain’s wildflowers.  Perhaps one of the most incredible stories, however, belongs to Major Phil Packer, an army hero who suffered severe injury to his spine while stationed in Iraq.  He has raised £13 million on various charity walks since his injury in 2008, and in this year’s marathon, he completed the race in 25 hours and 55 minutes, stopping only once for physiotherapy. “Last year it took 14 days,” he said, “I think you could say this is some improvement. This was tough.”  He was cheered on by hundreds of supporters, including Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who interrupted his campaign to join him for part of the last leg.  Major Phil Packer raised money for 26 charities for this year’s race, and he plans to open a children’s center in West Sussex in the near future.

(BBC News)  Actor Jackie Chan is giving back to China after the earthquake that hit Qinghai in early April.  Mr. Chan and over 100 celebrities from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China put on a charity concert that raised over $4.8 million.  Over 2,200 have died from the earthquake.  Actor Andy Lau noted the intensity of the devastation:  “The quake area is located in a plateau. It’s ten times worse than we thought. And the winter will come soon. It is urgent to take action.”

(New York Times) Buried somewhere in the 393 pages of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 is a troubling future for some 400,000 nonprofits.  Effective May 16, one-fifth to one-quarter of about 1.6 million charities, trade associations, and membership groups will lose their tax-exempt status due to a federal provision made in 2006, mandating that all nonprofits file taxes the following year.  Before the 2006 provision, only nonprofits with a revenue exceeding $25,000 had to file.  The law also required the IRS to revoke tax exempt status to organizations who neglected to file for three years in a row, and on May 16, the time has come.  Fortunately, the IRS does not wish to revoke tax-exemption, and 665,000 letters informing nonprofit groups who had not filed or who had below $25,000 were sent in 2007.  Not surprisingly, the smallest nonprofit groups are the ones expected to be affected most, but the IRS is willing to give them time to meet the terms of the law.

(The Washington Post)  The anticipated 15% budget cut for Prince William County residents seems to have taken a happier turn.  The Prince William Board of County Supervisors began the initial approval process for an $844 million fiscal 2011 budget on Monday, enabling funding for local nonprofits and no closures for county libraries.  The budget is $8 million more than what was proposed, but it is still $1.3 million less than the fiscal 2010 budget.  Though nonprofits might not suffer as much as they thought, other negatives remain.  Job losses, salary freezes, and delayed road and park projects will be consequences of the new budget.  The final approval is scheduled for Tuesday.

(The Austin Statesman) Former director of Family Connections Louanne Aponte has stolen over $300,000 from the nonprofit, investigators said.  Family Connections, a nonprofit committed to early childhood education and positive parenting, was forced to shut down after Ms. Aponte reportedly stole $327,000 from the organization between 2004 and September 2009.  Part of the stolen money funded a $53,000 Mercedes.  Ms. Aponte has worked and volunteered for several nonprofits over the years and has stolen from former employers as well, spending some time in prison in consequence.  Some of Ms. Aponte’s colleagues suspect she may have left the country, as her husband has relatives in Venezuela.

(The Nonprofit Quarterly) According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Arnold Schwarzenegger has earned a spot on the list of 11 worst governors partly because of his manipulation of nonprofits.  CREW’s report shows that Gov. Schwarzenegger used a group of several nonprofits to fund his cushy lifestyle and various public events.  Nonprofits are typically exempt from campaign finance regulations, including limits on donations.  Two utility companies donated $200,000 to the nonprofit network after Gov. Schwarzenegger told the public he would not be receiving donations from utility companies due to his state energy policy.  CREW concluded that Gov. Schwarzenegger “used non-profit and campaign funds for personal benefit,” making his spot on the list obligatory.

National Geographic Photo, by Jim Richardson. Sheep in Scotland.

(The New York Times) After 40 years of encouraging, as Joni Mitchell put it, “spots on our apples,” Earth Day has gone decidedly corporate.  Earth Day’s original, nonprofit intent to foster recycling and raise awareness about our dwindling environment in 1970 has now prompted a business and a new vocabulary.  “Going green” so that we can reduce our “carbon footprint” is the latest trend.  Just look at big companies like F.A.O. Schwartz, which is peddling  Peat the Penguin, an emerald green toy made from earth-friendly soy fibers and who claims to be “an ardent supporter of recycling, reusing, and reducing waste.”  The national coordinator of Earth Day, Denis Hayes, is sickened by the corporations that are taking charge and stimulating eco-consumerism.  “This ridiculous perverted marketing has cheapened the concept of what is really green,” Mr. Hayes said.  It seems, in many ways, that Earth Day’s mission is being stifled by piles of organic commodities, and as any contemporary consumer knows, items boasting sustainability like Peat the Penguin certainly aren’t restricted to F.A.O. Schwartz.

Corporations’ support does have its charms, however.  The New York Times reports that environmental nonprofits team up with big companies in order to spread the message, and it is positive that such powerful groups choose to raise environmental awareness.  Google and Cisco, for instance, are joining hands with Greenpeace to produce a Webinar on video conferences and “cloud” computing, both of which reduce environmental destruction.

Ultimately, however, the regression in true Earth Day ideals is just part of our progressing culture, says independent filmmaker Robert Stone: “Every Earth Day is a reflection of where we are as a culture.  If it has become commoditized, about green consumerism instead of systemic change, then it is a reflection of our society.”  Mr. Stone is making a documentary on the history of American environmentalism to be aired on public television this week.

(Phoenix Business Journal) Generating nonprofit funding requires a touch of techie know-how.  Google Business Development Manager Jaime Casap led a presentation on drumming up funding for nonprofits during the Third Annual Nonprofit Business Summit.  “The future is social,” Mr. Casap said, “Social is going to be huge.”  Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and mobile device applications are essential vehicles for nonprofit success.  Mr. Casap cited the American Red Cross, which raised $47 million for Haiti relief through text messages alone, as an example.  “They get it,” he said.  Mr. Casap further emphasized the importance of website accessibility, saying that nonprofits must clearly state their missions and goals and then have a place for viewers to donate.

(ABC News) Campaign finance laws limit donations to political candidates, party committees, and PAC’s to $115,500, an amount equaling the mere hourly wage of some hedge fund managers.  An analysis from ABC news’ Center for Responsive Politics reported that the five biggest hedge fund donors contributed most of their money to Democrats.  Here is a brief summary the top five hedge fund donors, disclosed by ABC news:

  1. Mr. Jim Simons, founder of hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, gave almost all of his $94,100 donation to Democrats, including Senators Harry Reid (Nevada) and Chris Dodd (Connecticut), and Charles Schumer (New York)
  2. Mr. Eric Mindich, former Goldman Sachs trader, gave $89,600 to Democrats alone, including Senators Reid, Dodd, and Kirsten Gillibrand (New York).
  3. Mr. Michael Sacks, CEO of Grosvenor Capital Management, gave $76,425 to Democrats alone, including $1,000 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (California) and $2,300 to Senator Al Franken (Minnesota).
  4. Mr. Henry Laufer, a part of Mr. Simons’s Renaissance Technologies, gave $73,600 to Democrats alone.  HILLPAC, the PAC initiated by Hillary Clinton to help Democratic candidates, was one of the beneficiaries.
  5. Mr. Scott Nathan, who works for the Baupost hedge fund in Boston, donated $73,050 to Democrats alone, including $4,800 to Alan Khazei who failed to fill the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat.

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