Thursday, June 10, 2010

Two Audubon groups cited among worst charities

Earlier this month, an article titled "The 20 Worst Charities in America" listed nonprofit organizations by the percentage of their income that goes to administrative expenses, based on research by Charity Navigator. The independent charity evaluator describes its methodology here; it uses "charities’ disclosure statements to the IRS to provide donors with an assessment of how well charities run themselves," according to the article.

The article aimed to highlight charities with the highest administrative expenses and to point out which groups could use donations more efficiently. Donors want to see their money go to the programs that pull their heartstrings - not to pay for rent, paper for the copier and executives' salaries.

20. Tucson Audubon Society

Administrative expenses: 42.8%

Well-known for its many programs focused on the protection of biodiversity and the environment, the National Audubon Society, based in Washington, D.C., has chapters across the country, run independently of the main office. Its affiliate in Tuscon, Arizona, which fosters interest in and conservation of the bird population of southern Arizona, has seen its administrative costs skyrocket as the recession has eaten into its incoming donations. Partially due to Executive Director Paul Green’s inflated salary of $78,800, which accounts for more than 7% of the group’s expenses, the Tucson Audubon Society spends almost as much for its office as it does on the birds it aims to protect.

19. New Hampshire Audubon

Administrative expenses: 42.8%

Like the Tucson Audubon Society, the New Hampshire chapter of the bird-friendly conservation group [Actually, New Hampshire Audubon is independent of NAS. -akh] has also struggled to maximize the amount of donations that go toward its environmental programs. Much of the administrative costs can be traced to the group’s seven visitor centers that it runs throughout the state, where staff organize classes, summer camps, and activities for children and adults. These fixed costs mean that in lean years for donations, it is hard for the New Hampshire Audubon Society to trim down their considerable administrative expenses.

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Blogger Rick said...

Murmurings have been murmured in Tucson for some time; I'm not happy to see this treading a wider stage now.

June 10, 2010 5:23 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

The factoid published online needs some explanation. The journalist responsible took a simple figure and used it to make assumptions that did not follow.
For reasons that remain unclear, Tucson Audubon's auditors included items such as retail store inventory, and Vermilion Flycatcher publishing costs, as "Administrative Expenses" to come up with a high administrative overhead. These expenses belong in program categories, such as Outreach.
In addition, all of the expenses for the Executive Director were included in administration, when the ED spends more than 80 percent of his time on program work, such as education, conservation, and developing birding opportunties.
Tucson Audubon's new 990 form will be published shortly and that will reflect an overhead cost of around 15 percent of budget,which is a true reflection of overhead costs.
If you have any question about the effectiveness of Tucson Audubon go to the website and read the newsletter. You'll read about a large number of acheivements in the fields of education, outreach, and conservation.
Think, for example, of Tucson Audubon's field trip program: 150 or more free field trips for our community each year, organized and run by volunteers. More than any other chapter in the country. These don't enter our books anywhere, except for the costs of liability insurance.
Tucson Audubon has learned from this experience: we need to keep a close eye on the outcomes of our auditors' work.

June 11, 2010 7:13 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Thank you for the details, Paul.

June 11, 2010 9:10 AM  
Blogger no6km said...

I dont care how much time the guy spends on education and whatever he makes 75 grand a year!!! And this is supposed to be a charity helping with environmental issues? Its criminal is what it is. And my friend volunteers for Mass Audubon and doesnt get paid about throwing something to the people who do the real work!

June 18, 2010 6:38 PM  

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