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Hurricane Sandy has been one of the largest storms that has hit the Northern East Coast in years. While many were prepared for the storm, many people were not prepared for what the storm would leave. Sandy was at first classified as a tropical storm when it made its way up the East Coast from the Caribbean. However, when reaching the northern East Coast, Sandy because a dangerous storm that spanned almost 1,000 miles. In some states where the weather was colder, Sandy created even larger snowstorms and covered areas with up to 2 feet of snow. In other areas such as New York and New Jersey, rains flooded the area, taking out power lines, trees, and even filling the New York Subway system. In the DMV area, major transportation was shut down and schools cancelled. This hurricane that landed in late October also had its effects on the Presidential election that was to come on November 6. Many campaigns were cancelled as areas were put under evacuation and warning and President Obama took a short hiatus to deal with the storm.

It has been a little over two weeks since the storm, and where has this left the country?

Today many organizations have created relief efforts for those affected by Sandy. The Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation (HSRF) is a non 501(c)3 Non Profit that was founded on October 30, 2012 by victims for the victims. The HSRF are people of the communities hit by the hurricane who saw that they themselves and their neighbors needed help. Thus, they provided resources to local shelters in the area and volunteered to clean up debris and rebuild their own communities. Another organization called Hope for New York was founded with the mission “to provide volunteer and financial resources to organizations serving the poor and marginalized of New York City. Today, they have created a relief effort for those in New York City by helping to channel volunteers who want to donate their time and give them opportunities within the local areas to help clean up, donate, etc. The American Red Cross is currently created a fund to gain financial donation to provide shelter, food, emotional support, and other assistance to victims of the storm. Along with the organizations listed above, there have been many more that are currently assisting in efforts for Hurricane Sandy relief and it is a wonderful thing to see people reaching out and helping others in need.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

-Anne Frank

(Sacramento Business Journal) Following last week’s news that 275,000 nonprofits lost their tax-exempt status because they failed to file the necessary paperwork, the IRS announced that it will assist nonprofits in once again gaining 501(c)(3) status.  In 2006, the IRS issued a regulation mandating that nonprofits had to file annual reports each year—and those organizations which failed to do so would lose their tax exempt status.

While many of those 275,000 organizations are now defunct, some smaller nonprofits who had not taken notice of the 2006 regulations will now need to re-apply for tax-exempt status.  Nonprofits wishing to enter the IRS’s program must fill out an application and pay a fee of between $100 and $850, depending on the amount of the organization’s annual gross receipts.  Applications for tax-exempt status will be followed by an IRS determination letter, and re-granting the organization’s status may be applied retroactively.

The list of organizations that lost tax-exempt status is available on www.IRS.gov.

(Chronicle of Philanthropy) Despite having lost his job as a senior fundraiser for NPR, Ron Schiller is cautioning nonprofits not to shy away from discussing controversial topics with potential donors, including religion and politics.  Schiller was fired from NPR after he claimed that most members of the Tea Party were “racist” to someone who he thought could be a big donor to NPR.  Unbeknownst to Schiller, the person he was speaking with so candidly was recording the conversation using a hidden camera.  James O’Keefe, who is also responsible for similar targeted publicity campaigns against ACORN and Planned Parenthood, later went public with the video.

Speaking in Tampa this week, Schiller urged other fundraisers that donors want to connect with someone real, with real opinions on important issues—not generic “institution speak.”  Schiller urged nonprofit staff to be honest and authentic, despite the fact that such candor may create awkward situations.  Despite the public fallout after his meeting with O’Keefe, Schiller remains optimistic and asserts that he wouldn’t want to change his behavior with donors based on this incident.

Schiller has since gotten a job at a Boston company that recruits staff for nonprofit fundraising.

(Wall Street Journal) It’s no secret that California suffers from chronic budget problems.  The most recent item on the budget chopping block is state parks.  On May 13, the legislature voted to cut $22 million from the parks budget, potentially causing eighteen state park closures in the San Francisco Bay Area alone.

A representative from Marin County, one of the areas affected by the cuts, has introduced legislation allowing nonprofits to form partnerships to help fund and run state parks in danger of closure.  One such organization, Friends of Santa Cruz, has already raised $60,000 in 2010 to save the jobs of lifeguards at three state beaches.  Angel Island Immigration Station has raised $11 million to restore buildings that detained Chinese immigrants in the early 1900s—buildings that hold a strong cultural and historical significance for Bay Area communities.  Etched into stone walls during their often long detainment on Angel Island, immigrants’ writings in Chinese characters are still visible today.  The structures on Angel Island form a uniquely important aspect of Californian history, and it would be a shame to lose them because lawmakers in Sacramento can’t find a better way to balance the budget.

Even with the hurried, determined fundraising of these nonprofits, many worry that their actions won’t be enough to save California’s state parks.  Many nonprofits simply do not have sufficient volunteer manpower to run a state park, and all organizations are working to raise funds against a deadline of July 1, when the budget cuts go into effect.

Photo: Sandhill cranes along the Platte River

Sandhill cranes in Nebraska, United States.  Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic.

(ABC News)  Earth Day has been an American tradition for over 40 years now, and as we wrote last year, it has become a little less nonprofit and a little more corporate, much to the chagrin of some die-hard environmentalists.   Starbucks, for instance, is offering to fill up tumblers and washable mugs for free if you bring it in the store today, and last year’s Peat the Penguin plush toys caused mild outrage.  What happened to simply planting trees and raising awareness?  Why are we making ‘going green’ a commercialized trend instead of a noble goal? 

But alas, at the end of the day, if the news about our suffering earth is being spread, it’s being spread, nevermind in what mode.  So take heed and turn off the lights; recycle whatever you can, and switch off the tap as you brush your teeth–every little action helps.  And if you’re still scratching your head for ways to ‘go green,’ Earth Day Network , the nonprofit behind Earth Day festivities, is promoting A Billion Acts of Green–published pledges to keep the planet healthy. 

Happy Earth Day!

(New York TimesKanye West’s charity has closed suddenly and mysteriously, according to an e-mail from Joseph Collins, its former executive director.  The charity was established “to combat the severe dropout problem in schools,” as stated on its website.  The charity’s grant distribution was relatively solid, but when Mr. West’s mother and founder of the charity, Dr. Donda West, died in 2007, it dropped significantly.  Many phone calls and e-mails have gone unanswered, so the official reasoning behind the charity’s closure is still unknown.

For the Royal Couple, Give the Gift of Giving

(MSNBC) Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding plans have been sweeping headlines for months now, with the most recent news being that gift-wise, they prefer charitable donations to china.  Among other organizations, the royal couple listed a U.S. based charity, Peace Players, as a suggested donation opportunity.

Good News for Good Will

(The Atlantic)  2010 proved a better year for charitable giving, with 43% of charities tracking more donations than in 2009, according to a survey by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative.  As we’ve blogged about before and as is obvious, 2008 was a tough year for nonprofits due to the recession.  Various charts and graphs illustrating the NRC’s data show certain outliers to the study, notably that international and religious causes saw the biggest increase in donations, and the most substantial drop in donations was to art charities.

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