Thursday, October 21, 2010

Victory: HRC to Post 2010 IRS 990 on its Site

After almost a solid week of communicating with the Human Rights Campaign regarding my request for their 2010 IRS 990 filings for the HRC and the HRC Foundation, and that they post the filings on their site, this note arrived this morning from the org's press department:

Thank you for your email. We are in the process of preparing copies of the 990’s for posting on our website. Our plan is to post them by the end of the week and will inform you just as soon as they are on line.

Sure, this is excellent news but I won't allow it to overshadow HRC's hard reluctance to voluntarily keep themselves transparent. As I wrote earlier this week, the HRC and HRCF 990s for this year became available back in mid August, and the org didn't bother to tell us, nor did they share the filings on their web site. Indeed, HRC presently doesn't share any IRS 990 filings on the site.

Now is an opportune time to advocate for minimum standards of fiscal transparency from every Gay Inc or AIDS Inc entity with a 501c3 or 501c4 tax exemption from the IRS. These are my recommendations:

1. The orgs on their "About Us" pages must post at least three years' worth of IRS 990s. Orgs that already do this include DC's Food and Friends and Immigration Equality.

2. The day an org accepts the latest IRS 990 filing its accountant is the day the org should post the filing on its web site. There is no reason why HRC could not have done this back in August, and comply with the IRS law requiring widespread public availability of the 990s.

3. When the new IRS 990s are posted on the orgs' sites, they should also include an explanation of the budget, revenue and compensation packages for top executives. In other words, the orgs need to communicate with the community about the filings and show how they are meeting their goals of changing things for the betterment of the gays. After I forced GLAAD to share its 2010 IRS filing, the executive director shared a letter of explanation, shedding more light on its operations.

4. Each org must hold an open forum with the community to not only explain what all the numbers and breakdowns mean, but to also take questions from ordinary gays who have a stake in how the orgs manage their funds.

While some will complain that HRC is about to receive a small amount of attention for the release of the new IRS 990s, probably late on Friday afternoon, about ten days before the mid terms elections and the info contained therein won't get the proper widespread scrutiny the filings deserve, I have to agree with such criticism.

If we want more timely public sharing of the IRS 990s from Gay Inc and AIDS Inc, it's going to take more bloggers and activists to demand it. As we all can see, right now, there is only a handful of orgs that voluntarily make their tax filings available on their sites, and only Food and Friends willingly does so in a timely fashion.

When was the last time you demanded your favorite gay or AIDS non-profit post their three most current tax filings on their site?

Finally, I wish to thank San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty, his staffers Todd David and Alex Randolph, for their help with this transparency effort.

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