Over recent months I have become aware of some very concerning information about an organization of which I am a member. The concerning part has to do with money management – or lack thereof. This is quite concerning as this organization has taken in over 13 million dollars over the past decade and only have about a million in their savings account to show for it. For those who have looked at the numbers, it is an alarming situation. The first question that comes to mind is this – where has all the money gone?
This organization is a 501(c)3 and when I first caught wind of the rumblings from other members of impropriety I tried to get clarifying information from the organization. My request was flatly refused by the management company representative that manages the organization for the board. That forced me to look for information on my own and what I found in the organization’s past ten years of IRS 990 tax forms at the National Center for Charitable Statistics cemented my concerns. But that wasn’t what alarmed me the most. What alarmed me the most was to find out that for the most part the board members of the organization had never seen the 990s, never really intensely examined expenditures, and until the year prior had never even seen the contract with the family-owned management company it has employed for years (the contract that has resulted in many millions being paid out by the organization over the years – imagine that – with no real recognition of any of the contract details). But wait, there is more (I know that sounds like the Sham-Wow guy) – the management company’s main executive exercises extreme influence over the board and when anyone on the board questions her or challenges what is being done she ostracizes them and rallies other board members to do the same. And shockingly, under the threat of being ostracized they step in line – grown professional people who manage budgets and complex events – they step in line so they won’t also be ostracized. As I hear it they also fear the reach of the management company’s main executive – they fear she may try and interfere with their jobs.
What planet am I on here? This is crazy right? This is not how a professional membership organization that takes in over two million dollars a year should be run right? Have I lost touch with reality? Members’ dues are being expended with no real mandate of reporting and no one on the board is able to demand and get answers. Oh wait – I correct that, they can demand all they want, but all they will get is pushed off the board. Hello, is this the mafia we are dealing with here? How is it that this woman is engendering such fear in these folks that they choose to put themselves in harm’s way legally? They are, after all, board members in a non-profit corporation that owe a fiduciary duty and standard of care to the members - they could face a member suit. And yet, they sit on their hands and allow it to continue unabated and the management company’s main executive continues to reap the economic benefits of this lack of oversight. It is sheer madness. I just shake my head and wonder what in the world has come over these board members.
I believe this situation will end badly. I believe it will end badly for the members of the board; and yet, I believe the members of the board are merely pawns that are serving as a buffer for this woman and her company. It pains me to see it happen.
Well, I sent the board members a table with the 990 data and a list of questions I have about what is going on in the organization a few weeks back. I know enough about what is going on that I can bet that the management company representative is likely doing double-time trying to convince the board that I have simply made up the numbers and have no right to ask questions. Alas, I am a member and I am concerned. And those numbers are from federal tax returns – if they are made up, well then the person that signed them better get ready for a nice crisp jumpsuit at a federal facility (and the signatory is the woman from the management company). Furthermore, ostracizing tactics won’t work with me. I don’t care if I am liked or included by folks who choose to look the other way instead of dealing with difficult truths. I am okay with standing alone if the position I maintain is one taken with integrity.
Yes, I am willing to stand alone – but note, on this matter I am not standing alone. There are many others who have questions, who want answers, and who have realized that it is time to take a collecive stand. It renews my faith in humanity – I am on the right planet after all.
Day one thousand two hundred and fifty-four of the new forty – obla di obla da