Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wolfson's FTM: No IRS 990;
Astraea's Fiscal Sponsorship

If you want to follow the money at Evan Wolfson's Freedom to Marry, you have to hopscotch around to locate basic financial information.

I tried to locate FTM's IRS 990 reports at the GuideStar site, because I assumed, incorrectly, that the org had its own 501(c)3 tax exempt status from the feds. FTM, despite a budget approaching one million dollars annually, is fiscally sponsored by the Astraea Foundation, which describes itself as a "dynamic global foundation providing critically needed financial support to lesbian-led, trans, LGBTI and progressive organizations."

Evan's group is not lesbian-led. And because FTM is not a free-standing non-profit, it isn't required by the IRS to file a 990, which is why GuideStar has no filings on them. Hop on over to the FTM donation page to get a clue about its link to Astraea:

Donations made online will appear as "Astraea Foundation" on your credit card statement. Freedom to Marry is a project of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation.

Want to know how much Evan is paid as executive director of FTM? You better know Astraea is his fiscal sponsor and have to read that org's IRS 990 filings to get his salary info.

The 2008 IRS filing for Astraea, click here to read it, twice lists two EDs and their salaries. Evan's pay was $156,700 last year, while the real ED of Astraea, Katherine Acey, earned $127,000. Nowhere in the filing does it say that Evan is ED of a separate org.

Then, to confuse things more, GuideStar posts two 990 reports from Astraea for 2007. The January 2007 version lists Evan as co-ED making $151,589, while Kathy is listed as the other ED, earning $109,413.

In the May 2007 version, Astraea's 990 reports the same salaries for both, but Evan is identified as ED of "FTM" and Kathy is identified as ED of "NBJC". Neither org's name is fully spelled out, but we know what FTM stands for, and NBJC is the National Black Justice Coalition, a gay civil rights org. Why does a 990 for Astraea list its ED as the ED of another org?

(It's another matter entirely why Astraea is providing all this sponsorship of a non-lesbian-led org, why there is such a long-term fiscal sponsorship between FTM and Astraea, and why can't Evan just get his own IRS tax exemption. I've asked Kathy to address these and other concerns about all this, and will publish her response early next week.)

The Astraea IRS 990 gives no information about FTM's revenue and expenses, so I asked Evan how to locate it. He said to read his annual reports, and I jumped over to his site's "About Us" page where a link is shared to the three most recent annual reports. What do they reveal?

In 2006 FTM reported revenue of $1.5 million, total expenses of $1.6 million, and $445,000 in regrants and support to partner orgs.

The 2007 version showed $1.4 million for revenue, $1.3 million for expenses, and $283,439 for regrants and support. In 2008, FTM's revenue was $1.1 million, expenses of $1.2 million, and $316,974 in regrants and support.

All that info, along with other fiscal data, need to be presented by FTM in its own IRS 990. And FTM makes this claim regarding his alleged exempt status:

Founded in January 2003, Freedom to Marry is a non-partisan, not-for-profit 501c(3) organization.

No,it's not, and Evan said as much in an email to me, in which I wondered why FTM lacks its own 501(c)3 status and is it in the process of obtaining it from the IRS:

Because Freedom to Marry was created to get a job done in the most efficient way possible, and for the first several years, that was by avoiding building new infrastructure beyond what was needed. [...] We will obtain independent 501c3 status when that seems the best thing to do in order to get the job done.

Huh? So an org that sets up its own physical office on Manhattan's West 23rd Street, is avoiding infrastructure in not obtaining a tax exemption? Sounds to me like FTM does need infrastructure, after all, its agenda of gay marriage across America, is an extended project. An org with an annual million-dollar-plus in revenue and an office should have its own tax exemption.

Confusion and peculiarities abound, and I hope much-needed clarification comes from Evan and Kathy. I believe Evan should have long ago established his own independent 501(c)3 for his seven-year old org that doesn't involved fiscal sponsorship with another org. There should be real transparency over his FTM, and right now, murkiness is the key word in terms of following the money at FTM.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Astraea only served as fiscal agent for NBJC during its start up period. In 2008 NBJC separated from Astrea and filed independent 990.