August 2010

(The Wall Street Journal)  Pro-Israel nonprofit Z Street filed a lawsuit against the IRS regarding free speech rights.  The lawsuit is based on a claim that an agent from the IRS informed Z Street that it could lose its tax-exempt status because its opinions on Israel conflict with the Obama Administration.  Z Street president Lori Lowenthal Marcus said in a statement, “This situation is the same as if the government denied a driver’s license to people because they were Republicans or Democrats. It goes against everything for which our country stands.”


Mohammad Saleem walks through his flood-damaged house near Moro, Pakistan.

Photo from the Washington Post.  Mohammad Saleem peruses his flood-ruined home in Moro, Pakistan.

Photo Credit: Shakil Adil

(The Washington Post)  The US is reconsidering its five-year, $7.5 billion dollar aid package to Pakistan in light of the horrific floods.  One fifth of Pakistan is now submerged due to the floods, and damages have affected over one million homes.  Chief of the US Agency for International Development Rajiv Shah said of the aid package, “I fully envision some of the priorities will have to shift, and shift so that there’s more of a recovery and reconstruction focus.”  Though the money was initially meant to foster development in Pakistan, it is now being adjusted according to the floods’ devastation.

(ABC News)  Six international aid workers in Darfur have been expelled; the violations are undisclosed as of yet.  Local Darfur officials informed the aid workers that they would be deported individually because their security could not be guaranteed.  Eleven international aid organizations have been expelled since March 2009 due to an indictment charge against the Sudanese president for crimes against humanity in Darfur.  “It’s not about the individuals or the organizations,” Samuel Hendricks, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan, said.  “The point is these people are working in a humanitarian capacity and trying to help the population of Darfur.”

(The Wall Street Journal)  As evidenced by a June 2010 survey from Guide Star USA, public charities and private foundations are suffering from the recession but still maintain a solid fight.  Approximately 40% of charities received fewer donations this year than at the same time last year, yet the demand for services has increased for 63% of charities.  “For the most part,” the report says in its introduction, “the pain was pretty well spread among different types of organizations.”  Interestingly,  mental health and crisis management charities are taking a harder hit than most.  They have experienced fewer donations this year coupled with a 78% increase for service need.  Fortunately, only an estimated 8% of charities are facing a possible fold, and a high majority–88%–said they will come out of the recession in decent shape.

(CNN)  The second World Humanitarian Day is tomorrow, and the UN has already issued a statement regarding the perils aid workers face, particularly in Afghanistan.  In the first six months of this year, 19  UN staff workers and aid workers were attacked; 63 have been abducted, and 7 have died.   Special representative of the UN Secretary-General Robert Watkins is encouraging all involved with the Afghan conflict to allow aid workers to do their work without being attacked or killed.

(The New York Times)  Ten aid workers were shot to death last week in Afghanistan in the worst massacre of aid workers in years.  Six Americans, a Briton, a German, and four Afghans were approached by red bearded gunmen.  The aid workers had just finished having a picnic in the Sharrun Valley; they were returning home after a three-week trek when the gunmen escorted them to the forest, lined them up, and shot 10 of them.  By Friday, the police found the bodies of three women and seven men, and the names of the victims have been identified.

It has been confirmed that the Taliban is behind the shooting; the Taliban claims that the group of aid workers were Christian missionaries and spies.   The group’s leader, Dr. Tom Little, belonged to International Assistance Mission, a nonprofit organization committed to bringing healthcare, community development, education, and eye care to Afghanistan since 1966.

Though IAM is a Christian organization, it maintains its position to never proselytize and to abide by Afghan law.  Its press release regarding the recent devastation reads, “IAM is a Christian organization – we have never hidden this.  Indeed, we are registered as such with the Afghan government. Our faith motivates and inspires us – but we do not proselytize.  We abide by the laws of Afghanistan.  We are signatures of the Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs Disaster Response Programmes, in other words, that, ‘aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint.’  But more than that, our record speaks for itself.  IAM would not be invited back to villages if we were using aid as a cover for preaching.  And in particular, this specific camp led by Tom Little, a man with four decades experience in Afghanistan, has led eye camps for many years to Nuristan – and was welcomed back every time.”

Dr. Little raised three daughters in Afghanistan and has been a trusted optometrist in the area for forty years.  Dirk Frans, IAM’s executive director, is deeply upset by the tragedy, but the group nevertheless will continue its mission to provide aid for Afghanistan.

(BBC)  As a result of The Giving Pledge, a charitable effort propelled by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, 38 American billionaires have pledged the majority of their wealth for charity.  403 billionaires currently reside in America, according to Forbes.  Mr. Buffett is pleased with the result of the call the pledge, saying in a statement, “We’ve really just started but already we’ve had a terrific response.”

(The Wall Street Journal)  For the Susan G. Komen For the Cure, imitation is hardly the sincerest form of flattery.  Beginning in 1982, Komen is the global leader in the breast cancer movement and has invested almost $1.5 billion. As such, the clause “for the cure” has been cropping up in other names of unaffiliated nonprofits, which is no surprise given Komen’s success.  However, Komen isn’t pleased to start a trend.  Fundraisers such as Kites for the Cure, Bark for a Cure, and Juggling for a Cure are facing legal battles from Komen due to imitation.

For instance, Kites for the Cure, a lung-cancer fundraising event, was told it must change “for the cure” to “for a cause” or some other name.  Moreover, Kites was told to stay away from pink, Komen’s choice color.  Mary Ann Tighe, who ran the lung-cancer fundraiser and subsequently became caught up in the dispute, thinks Komen went over the line.  “It is startling to us that Komen thinks they own pink.  We cannot allow ourselves to be bullied to no purpose.”  A central argument behind large charities’ reactions to other nonprofits’ similar names is that donors will make out checks to the ‘wrong’ charity; where a check might be intended for Komen, it will instead go to Kites for the Cure.  Andrew Price, a trademark attorney at Venable LLP in Washington, commented that nonprofits simply aren’t playing nice anymore:  “The days are probably over when nonprofits just said, ‘We’ll just get along with anybody who’s a nonprofit because we’re all trying to do good here.'”

From; Mr. McNealy and 12-year-old son, Dakota.  Photo by Peter DaSilva/The New York Times

(The New York Times)  Education comes at a price, and Scott G. McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, is aware of that.  Anywhere between $8 and $15 billion is spent each year on textbooks in the United States, says Mr. McNealy, and his nonprofit, Curriki, aims to remedy that expense through open-source textbooks.  Curriki, an online database of open-source textbooks, strives “to provide free, high-quality curricula and education resources to teachers, students and parents around the world,” but like many nonprofits, money is hard to come by.  “We are growing nicely,” Mr. McNealy said, “but there is a whole bunch of stuff on simmer.”  Mr. McNealy hopes to expand Curriki by using his experience with Sun Microsystems to develop a more organized approach for acquiring educational resources.