This renewed focus may make Israeli charities that get funding from the US a little jittery – particularly following the IRS’s release of two private letter rulings (2010 and 2012) that denied exemption to new organizations seeking exemption for American charities that planned to do fundraising for Israeli charities. In any case, it should serve as a wakeup call to all American charities that conduct activities internationally that they need to strictly comply with the law and must avoid serving as a mere “conduit” to their foreign grantees.
Once again, the Israeli nonprofit organization Magan David Adom (MDA) and it’s American supporting charity, American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA), are in the news after all five members of AFMDA’s executive board resigned, stating that they “refuse to abdicate or compromise in any way our fiduciary duty to AFMDA and its donors.”
First, allow me to say that writing this piece is painful; it is disturbing (to put it mildly) that an organization that has such a positive impact on Israel’s daily life is getting such negative press.
Two, which side is right or wrong is of secondary importance. Regardless how the situation plays out in the near or distant future, organizations can learn RIGHT NOW from the very public debates raging between the American and Israeli arms.
Specifically, the core issues — defining roles, trust, independence, and personnel — are the same faced by all international organizations, and, as such, can provide a constructive case-study for nonprofits, their board members, and their donors.
The fiscal requirements of an American charity have become more complicated in recent years. Increased scrutiny from the IRS, more intricate tax documentation, the recent economic crisis, and donors’ need for transparency, are just a few of the challenges facing the sector. When a charity operates internationally these difficulties are only exacerbated. These global organizations are expected to be familiar with regional and global charity regulations, comfortable working in foreign languages and cultures, able to cope with inherent increased expenses, and capable of forging new relationships – all while maintaining a high level of accountability.
A powerful tool in helping a “Friends of” organization cope is an additional account abroad in the country in which it operates. When used to its potential, this kind of account is invaluable.
A charitable foundation’s worst fear is that its grant will be used for non-charitable purposes. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stresses that this risk increases drastically when dealing with foreign grant making and expenditures. The U.S. Department of the Treasury released its third and final version of its “Anti-Terrorist Financing Guidelines: Voluntary Best Practices for U.S. Based Charities” (VBP) in September of 2006 to help charities implement procedures that will reduce the risk of unintended diversions of funds to terrorist causes.
Nonprofit organizations have yet another hurdle to cross when applying for tax-exempt status. The Department of Homeland Security — the U.S. Government Department that oversees counter-terrorism, border security, disaster response, and immigration — is also an integral part of the tax-exempt approval process.
A list of great articles I’ve read and posted to Twitter between May 23 – June 5, 2010. This week’s topics include: I.R.S.; Sector Trends; Social Media & Internet; Finance & Economy; and Potpourri.
Israeli charities (amutot in Hebrew) rely on donations from overseas – no secret there. Many foreign-based charities choose to create an American based nonprofit, more commonly referred to as a “Friends of” organization so donations can be tax-deductible vis-a-vis the American Federal Government. (In a previous post, I spoke about IRS trends when a “Friends of Organization” is applying for tax-exempt status.)
However, it could be that establishing a “Friends of” organization is not in your charity’s best interest. The following are some considerations that elaborate on: Why not to raise funds through a U.S. registered “Friends of” Organization?
A list of great articles from around the web that I posted to Twitter from May 16 – May 22, 2010. This week’s topics include: Strategy & Governance; US Tax Tidbits; Social Media & Fundraising; Economy & Finance; and Potpourri.
A list of great articles from around the web that I posted to Twitter from May 2 – May 15, 2010. This week’s topics include: Strategy & Governance; Social Media & Internet >> Fundraising; Social Media & Internet >> Recreation; Israel; Banking & Economy; and Potpourri.