Q&A with Timothy E. Wirth
Timothy E. Wirth, a former Democratic senator from Colorado who has spent the past five years as U.S. undersecretary of state for global affairs, is president of the United Nations Foundation (UNF).
The foundation will spend down and distribute Turners gift at the rate of approximately $100 million a year over the next ten years. Its mission is to deliver resources to UN programs and people helped by UN agencies, to strengthen partnerships that support the UN and its causes, to tell the UNs story, and to raise new funds for the UN.
FN&C: What drove Ted Turner to donate this money?
FN&C: How will the UNF be structured?
FN&C: How do you answer critics who say Turner may be shaping UN policy?
FN&C: What other charities were established by the gift?
FN&C: What will be your measure of UNFs success?
990s On-line: Working out the Glitches
The Web site project is a collaboration between the Internet Nonprofit Center and the Multi-State Filer Project, an ad hoc group of large nonprofit organizations that must file annual financial disclosure forms in multiple states. Beyond demonstrating the viability of on-line disclosure, the Web sites coordinators are also hoping that it will spur state charity offices to agree on a common state reporting form. Around 40 states require annual reporting, and although the information they request is much the same as the 990, each has a different form.
Says Cliff Landesman, president of the board of the Internet Nonprofit Center, the two groups have been working with New Hampshire and Oregon state officials to make data sent to the Web site be easy to input to their systems. New Hampshire officials enter the site with a Web browser, go to a password-protected section, and download files to their database systems. Oregon officials prefer to have data sent to them, as it comes in, the form of e-mail, so, Landesman says, the Web projects coordinators are looking into creating a system capable of that.
The Web projects coordinators are also working with the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York and other nonprofit umbrella groups to encourage nonprofits to post their 990s at the site. Right now, anyone who requests a nonprofits Form 990 by mail or in person, is required by law to receive one, for a reasonable cost. But if a nonprofit makes its Form 990 available on the World Wide Web, then it may not have to respond to individual requests. In the future, posting a Form 990 on the Web may meet IRS requirements about what making a Form 990 "widely available" means, freeing nonprofits from having to respond to individual requests.
Sharpening the "Meat Hooks"
The content, however, sounds a little tamer: it profiles foundations and endowments, and reports on nonprofit investment strategies, key personnel changes and legal issues.
A one-year subscription (12 issues, plus a weekly alert on breaking news and leads for investment managers and consultants) is $1,795. Contact: Institutional Investor Newsletters, 477 Madison Avenue, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10022; 212/224-3300.
Science Funding at a Crossroads
"Market Forces, The Information Age and Health Research: Implications for Foundations and Voluntary Health and Medical Research Organizations," was held at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, and was cosponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts, Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the American Cancer Society. Its purpose was to build a community of private funders who are well-informed about health research needs. Those include:
Funders pondered over the issue of post-doctoral fellowships. There are a glut of graduate students compared to the number of career positions available. Instead of post-doctoral students doing two to three years of fellowships, they are now in a holding patterndoing nine years of fellowships before their first permanent position"a LaGuardia Airport effect," said Shirley Tilghman, professor of life sciences at Princeton University.
According to Finley Austin, administrative director of the Merck Genome Research Institute in West Point, Pennsylvania, there are quality of life issues involved for these post-docs: fewer are married, have children and have retirement plans or pay into Social Security than do their same-age peers in their mid-30s.
Funders at the conference raised concernhow much they should be subsidizing post-doctoral fellowships? In fact, this conference and this issue may be catalysts for a new affinity group that focuses on medical research instead of public policy. Funders have agreed meet at least annually or biennially to work on issues and jointly-sponsored programs.
Thats what the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation asked forecasters at the Institute for the Future, an independent research firm, to predict. Their answers were presented at the foundations 25th anniversary conference last December in Washington D.C. Until the year 2005, say the forecasters, changes in health care will come in a consistent manner, approximately like this:
The picture becomes more volatile after 2005, said forecasters, who offered three different scenarios for 20052010.
To wit: "Stormy Weather," where pressure builds from inequality of access to care and inability to contain costs; "The Long and Winding Road," where costs grow moderately amid constant turmoil, restructuring and pressure from both providers and consumers; and "The Sunny Side of the Street," where payers and providers build an infrastructure that sustains moderate costs and good quality health care for the long term.
The report, "Piecing Together the Puzzle: The Future of Health and Health Care in America," is available from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, College Road, P. O. Box 2316, Princeton, NJ 08543-2316; 609/452-8701; http://www.rwjf.org.
Daily Points of Light Re-Lit
Each weekday the award is given to honor a volunteer or volunteer organization with a new approach to solving social problems in their communities. This time around the Daily Points of Light Award has an emphasis on efforts focused on the goals for children and youth established last year by the Presidents Summit for Americas Future. The award program is cosponsored by the Points of Light Foundation, the Corporation for National Service and the Knights of Columbus.
Information about the winners can be found at the Points of Light Foundation Web site, http://www.PointsofLight.org. Nominations are welcome; forms can be requested by mail to the foundation at 1737 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006; by fax: 202/223-9256; or by phone: 202/223-9256.
Philanthropy Beat, Times Two
Cindy Loose, a seven-year Post editor and general assignment reporter, will cover national trends as well as write local profiles and features. The assignment came about, says Loose, because "there was an interest on the part of editors to cover the world of philanthropy, at least part-time."
National reporter Judith Havemann most recently covered developments in welfare reform, after 25 years of covering "just about everything." She came up with the idea of writing nationally focused stories on philanthropy as part of her existing beat. "Its an area that needs to be covered," she says, especially now that government is pulling out of social service programs and philanthropy is trying to pick up some of the slack.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller, meanwhile, has taken temporary leave of her philanthropy beat to work on another project. In her absence, Miller says, no one will be assigned to the beat, and she does not know how soon shell be able to return to covering philanthropy.
Among the many virtues and splendors of the electronic filing component of cyber-accountability is that it will totally eliminate the problem of dirty 990s. This is because the system will be developed in such a way that the IRS will not accept electronically filed 990s unless they are clean. Upon receipt of an electronically filed 990, the IRS system will instantaneously do an automated check for omitted data, bad additions, inconsistent numbers, etc. If this completely automated system (no humans involved) finds any problems, it will refuse to accept the filing. The filers whose 990s have been rejected will have to check their submissions and cure the problems before their 990s will be accepted. No doubt groups will be advised to submit their 990s before their due date to ensure that by that time theyll file a clean 990. Software will be developed to help produce clean 990s. All for the good. No more dirty 990s.
Today, of course, dirty hard-copy 990s are accepted. Peter Swords, Executive Director, Nonprofit Coordinating Committee, New York City, as posted to the cyber-accountability listserv, March 10. To subscribe to the listserv, send e-mail to Tim Legg of the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee or visit the companion Web site, http://www.bway.net/~hbograd/cyb-acc.html.
Foundations deal with the prime stuff of news: people, money, health, education, welfare, the environment, civil rights, the arts and much more. Foundations have an input in every facet of lifeliterally from birth to deathfrom the hospitals where we are born and the progress toward population stabilization, to care for the aged and the efforts to bring more meaning and beauty into old age. Yet everyone who works with foundations has heard the complaint, "The newspapers dont know we existuntil someone writes a book tearing us apart."