Organization transparency wins again

Editor's Note

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: December 6, 2013 in Editor's Note

 

For the fourth year in a row, qnotes is publishing our annual Community Assessment Survey of local and regional non-profit organizations serving the LGBT community. Every year, we’ve reviewed non-profit organizations’ filings with the IRS and other financial information, and each year we become more pleased with the level of transparency exhibited by participating organizations. This year is no different.

Increased transparency

Late last year, as we were putting our editorial calendar together for 2013, our staff decided to move our annual non-profit review from the spring and summer months to the fall. And, as we approached the survey this year, we decided to push back our coverage a few extra weeks. Doing so enabled us, for the first time, to catch up on organizations’ annual Form 990 filings, the tax returns non-profit groups filed with the IRS.

Starting in 2010, our review was continuously two years behind. For the first time this year, we are able to present information from the immediately preceding year. In addition to 2012 information presented in this print edition, we have also published information for 2011 on our website.

We’re grateful for and proud of the work our local and regional LGBT groups have made in keeping their annual Form 990 filings current and up to date. We’re also pleased to know that nearly every group we reviewed this year had already filed their 2012 Forms 990. Only one group had failed to do so at the time of our review, and even so, voluntarily agreed to participate in our survey.

We’re also proud of two organizations, in particular. Different Roads Home, which was founded this year, and Charlotte Pride, which had its tax-exempt status reinstated this year and began operations after seven years of dormancy, both voluntarily agreed to submit financial information for their operations in 2013. Though neither organization had yet been required to file a Form 990 for 2013, we’re grateful the organizations took a significant step toward openness and transparency, offering their voluntarily-submitted, unreviewed and preliminary financial figures.

A different approach

Additionally, our Community Assessment Survey this year took a different approach. Instead of zeroing in on organizations’ expenses, we decided to focus on organizations’ revenue streams. Our staff asked ourselves, “How are our organizations being supported and who is contributing to their success?” So, our survey sought to find those answers.

Twelve of the 17 organizations who were invited to voluntarily participate in the survey did so, offering the community a glimpse into how they are supported. We’re pleased so many of our local and regional organizations seem to be drawing support from a diversity of revenue sources, but, as you’ll see explored in our report, we’re disappointed by how few individual community members are actively donating to the groups which work on their behalf. Only about 1.7 percent of the total estimated LGBT and potential straight ally community in Charlotte are giving to Charlotte area organizations — and that’s an extremely liberal interpretation of the data. The truth is, the number of people giving to local groups is likely significantly lower than we can estimate.

That realization is enough to concern me and the rest of the qnotes staff. We hope that you, your friends and your family will commit to giving a little bit more this holiday season and into next year. Even if you can only give a small donation — even if it’s only $1 — every contribution to organizations serving LGBT people and their families is an investment in our community, our culture and our progress toward a more equal, accepting and inclusive place to call home. : :