Friday, March 30

Today is last day for comment period

I like it when smart bloggers take different sides on an issue, but I flat out love it when the debate pits Trent Stamp from Charity Navigator on one side and "underalms" from Where Most Needed on the other.

The two of them recently squared off after Trent posted an article, indicting that he was "flip-flopping" and decided to support the self-regulations drafted by a group called, the Independent Sector. He writes that in the past he thought the self-regulation was way too lenient. However, when he looked around at who joined him in opposition, he didn't like the company he was keeping.

The list of company was long: The Direct Marketing Association, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, American Charities for Reasonable Fundraising Regulation, Direct Mail Fundraisers Association, and the Association of Direct Response Fundraising Counsel.

So, if we’re drawing up sides, and the choice is between a) the Independent Sector, who I believe to be too protectionist and slow to adapt, but are undoubtedly smart people with good intentions representing some excellent charities, and b) the DC insiders who lobby on behalf of protecting the right to send your grandmother 843 pieces of unsolicited junk mail from sound-alike charities in an effort to trick her into supporting their groups, I’m with the former.
This prompted a strong response over at Where Most Needed:

Heaven knows, few really care about the Nonprofit Panel or its principles: the first draft received all of 125 comments from 300 million Americans who support a million charities. The underlying problem is reflected in the Form 990 for Independent Sector—it wants to speak for the nonprofit sector, but its members pay for only about a third of the expenses for the organization. The bulk of the income is from contributions. In effect, a handful of well-heeled foundations pay the bills and call the shots at IS. That's how you can have the odd situation of what is supposedly an industry group proposing a raft of regulation for its own industry.

Say what you will about the DMA, at least its members pay the freight. You can be assured that its positions represent those of its constituency. Independent Sector does not represent the views of US charities or nonprofits. It speaks about the independent sector, but not for the independent sector.

Personally, I haven't studied at IS's 990 - and since "underalms" is an anonymous blogger... readers are advised to due their own due diligence. But the debate is a good one. And every fundraiser should scan these guidelines and know what is being drafted because it might very well become law some day.

From IS's own website:

The Principles for Effective Practice is a continuation of the Panel’s work begun in 2004. The Panel’s Final and Supplemental Reports released in 2005 and 2006 detailed more than 150 recommendations for action by Congress, the Internal Revenue Service, and the charitable community to strengthen the transparency, governance and accountability of charitable organizations. Many of the Panel’s recommendations helped to shape nonprofit reforms included in the Pension Protection Act enacted in August 2006.

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Dan said...

Um ... I'm not anonymous. I use a pen name, but I'm not anonymous. I'm well known on nonprofit email lists by name and I've been quoted by name in the New York Times and Chronicle of Philanthropy.

a fundraiser said...

Many apologies Dan... I should have known that. I guess with all this talk about anonymous writers this week I made a mistake.