Where the IRS Sun Doesn't Shine
When I contacted the National Center for Lesbian Rights' executive director Kate Kendell in November 2008, to request she post her organization's three most current IRS 990 filings it took her less than 24-hours do what I asked. She also committed to post the latest 990s when her accountant filed them with the IRS.
I coined the term the Kendell Standard, and I apply it to what every other LGBT and HIV/AIDS nonprofit ought to be doing. NCLR now has their latest four returns on-site.
In recent years, I successfully lobbied GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Associated of Persons With AIDS, AIDS Foundation of Chicago and the AIDS Fund to share their three or four most recent 990s on-site.
SF gay center and PFLAG, pictured, host nine, yeah 9, years of returns on-site. While I've been critical of a few of the groups, I offer genuine praise that they are all now on-board with fiscal transparency.
We LGBT Americans need to recognize that our community organizations are an industry, and as such must meet certain basic transparency standards regardless of federal public disclosure laws. Smart nonprofit leaders and groups voluntarily post a minimum of three 990s in keeping with their best practices policies, delivering easy and accessible fiscal accountability. Some are listed above and want to see their ranks expand.
The only reason to keep 990s off-site is because of fear, in my view. Fear that pulling back the economic curtain will expose important fiscal numbers executives would rather keep from donors, clients, the press and general public. Yes, the 990s are posted at GuideStar and the Foundation Center, but it's unwise to assume the average contributor or donor knows what an IRS 990 is, much less how to locate them on the web.
I've culled a list of gay and HIV organizations that do not post 990s on-site, and many have been lobbied by me for years about this. Let me be clear: if your 990s are not on-site, you're not fiscally transparent. And don't try and sell me any number of annual reports as good enough transparency. An annual report contains no salary data, among other vital pieces of data.
This email from Jeff Spitko, vice president at the Victory Fund, is typical of an executive who thinks I fell off the sunshine truck yesterday. His response to my request that he post his 990s: "Victory takes transparency very seriously. As you know, our most recent audited financial statements are available on our website and all 990s are public record. The content within them is available to anyone."
If only Spitko and other executives would get in touch with Kendell and learn what real transparency is.
These eleven organizations fear sharing 990s on-site and not one even links to their 990s on GuideStar. The ones that also don't post annual reports are denoted with an asterisk. One day, we'll look back at the resistance and arguments against on-site 990s and ask, "What was the problem?" I hope that day arrives before President Obama is sworn in for his second term.
The eleven organizations that need to let the IRS sun shine in:
AIDS Healthcare Foundation *
Rick Jacobs' Courage Campaign *
Empire State Pride Agenda *
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders
Latino AIDS Commission *
National Minority AIDS Council *
Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Center
National Center for Transgender Equality