Tag Archives: IRS

Partial Score

The late comedian George Carlin had a shtick back in the 1970s where he played a television sports anchor. With mock seriousness, he’d stare at the camera and say, “Here’s a partial score: Notre Dame 6.”

I thought of this as I read David Callahan’s perceptive interpretation in Inside Philanthropy of Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF)’s recently-released sortable listing of its 2015 grants. Through this listing SVCF, the largest community foundation in the country, shares how much money it has distributed from donor-advised funds and its discretionary grantmaking programs, and it lists which organizations received the bounty. SVCF is clearly trying to show how vast and diverse its giving is, and the foundation implies that sharing its grant table is a great act of transparency. But SVCF only tells us part of the story – and the parts that are left unexplained underscore the inherent problems with donor-advised funds. Continue reading

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Friends Don’t Let Friends Start Nonprofits

I’m often approached by people asking for advice on creating a new nonprofit.

My response, inevitably: Don’t do it!

I say this not because I question the power of nonprofits to change the world for the better. Nor do I doubt the sincerity of the person hoping to create that new charitable institution. But there is an awfully good probability – I’d say, 99% – that there’s no rational justification for creating a whole new entity. Continue reading

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Fidelity Charitable Reveals Its Arrogance, But Not Its Salaries

[Note: This post was published in the December 1, 2015 on-line edition of  The Chronicle of Philanthropy.]

It’s common knowledge that transparency rules the day for disclosure of the salaries paid to nonprofit executives.

Tax-exempt organizations can’t hide their top compensation numbers: Salary and benefit information for the most-highly-compensated executives is only a few mouse clicks away, displayed for all to see in the 990 informational tax returns available from Guidestar and other sources. This disclosure reflects the Congressional requirement that in return for tax-exempt status, nonprofits must make their informational returns — including top salaries — available for public inspection.

But one salary you won’t find listed is that of Amy Danforth, chief executive of Fidelity Charitable. Continue reading

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Getting Paid — Part III (The Final Chapter… For Now)

[Note: Raising the issue of excessive CEO salaries prompted a lot of comments from readers, most off-line, and additional posts from me. But here are my final words on the subject, at least for a while. A friend, knowing that I was having knee surgery during these weeks, and noting the tone of my critiques on executive compensation, told me the pain must be making me cranky. There’s some truth to that. Here’s one last blast – then on to other things next week.]

In my last post I talked about how CEOs of private foundations get paid too much. I didn’t say that the president of a particular private foundation was overpaid – simply that, as a rule, CEOs of private foundations receive much higher salaries (a median of $466,500 for large foundations) than the demands of their job would seem to justify.

So how did these extraordinary salaries come about? One driver, ironically, seems to be the set of instructions from the IRS designed to ensure that the salaries of nonprofit CEOs did not climb out of control. Continue reading

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