Saturday, April 21, 2012

Charitable Contribution

I learned a long time ago that when a Colonel asks you if you would like to "volunteer", saying no isn't really an option.  So when I was asked a few weeks ago to spend a couple of work days downtown combing through non-profit entities' applications to be included in this fall's Combined Federal Contribution (CFC) campaign, I agreed to do it, despite the fact that I feel the military wastes hundreds of man-hours supporting the CFC, when we could simply make an announcement about the campaign kickoff and provide a web site for people to view the charitable causes and sign up to donate if they see fit.

As it turns out, the day and a half I spent looking over and approving packages was a much needed break from my regular job.  It was fairly straightforward, they provided coffee and danishes, and I got to enjoy a walk downtown during lunch.  Although I have no desire to live downtown, I could see the allure that one of my friends feels for living in such places, and San Antonio has a very pleasant urban atmosphere, I must say.   Although I was tempted to go home and relax after we wrapped up early on the second day, I really couldn't do so and keep my integrity intact, so I headed back to work where my stress level immediately returned to the higher position I am sadly growing accustomed to living with.

Of course the whole point of the exercise was to approve or deny applicants' entry into the CFC.  We were instructed in what to look for, which included the Federal statement of tax exempt status, properly annotated tax returns with accompanying audit, etc.  One thing we did not do is approve or deny based on the charity's costs.  I made the mistake at looking over the costs incurred vs services rendered of one non-profit, a foundation for Tourette's.  According to their tax statement, they brought in a little over $200k in contributions, making them a fairly small organization.  They paid under $60k to provide services, mostly in the form of a camp for kids with the syndrome.  Meanwhile, they have two board members pulling in a total salary of $100K, which isn't exorbitant by any means, but that means half of their donations go towards paying the salary of these two board members.

A look over the financials of a larger organization didn't lift my spirits any.  Total revenue of just over $8 million, with $2.5 million to pay for general administrative and advertising costs.  That's 30% of your donation going to cover overhead.  I guess you can't expect those guys who call you during supper to seek your contribution to accost you for free.

I suppose I have to face the fact that I am extremely frugal, and just because I would run a non-profit to wring maximum utility out of each dollar given, with minimal overhead costs, doesn't mean that the rest of the world works that way.  It gives me some solace to know that these organizations are overall doing great things, and most are filled with volunteers dedicated to meeting the needs of others, often with no compensation.  And now that I've done my part, I can get back to doing my actual job, where I will probably be honored with an atta-boy from my leadership for my volunteerism, even though it kept me from doing my duties for the better part of two days.