Monday, May 26, 2008

from The New York Times
May 26, 2008
Tax Exemptions of Charities Face New Challenges
RED WING, Minn. — Authorities from the local tax assessor to members of Congress are increasingly challenging the tax-exempt status of nonprofit institutions — ranging from small group homes to wealthy universities — questioning whether they deserve special treatment.

One issue is the growing confusion over what constitutes a charity at a time when nonprofit groups look more like businesses, charging fees and selling products and services to raise money, and state and local governments are under financial pressure because of lower tax revenues.
And there are others: Does a nonprofit hospital give enough charity care to earn a tax exemption? Is a wealthy university providing enough financial aid?

In a ruling last December that sent tremors through the not-for-profit world, the Minnesota Supreme Court said a small nonprofit day care agency here had to pay property taxes because, in essence, it gave nothing away.

The agency, the Under the Rainbow Child Care Center, charges the same price per child regardless of whether their parents are able to pay the full amount themselves or they receive government support to cover the cost.

“We were shocked,” said Michelle Finholdt, who founded the center in 1994 and scraped together the money to buy a building in 2002. “There are a lot of other organizations in our area that we’re similar to, and they are exempt from property taxes.”

The tax-exempt status of charities costs local governments $8 billion to $13 billion annually, according to various rough estimates.

And local assessors are not the only government officials scratching their heads over which groups deserve privileged tax status. Congress has threatened to impose a requirement that wealthy universities make minimum payouts from their endowments and raised questions about whether nonprofit hospitals are really all that different from their for-profit — and tax-paying — competitors.

And, concerned about the way some churches are spending money, the Senate Finance Committee has asked for detailed financial information from six evangelical ministries asking them to justify their tax exemptions.

Others are questioning whether some tax-exempt nonprofits, primarily universities and hospitals, have accumulated so much wealth that they should no longer be considered charities. In Massachusetts, where Harvard’s endowment has reached $35 billion in assets, legislators are weighing whether to impose a 2.5 percent annual assessment on universities with endowments of more than $1 billion.

The idea behind tax exemptions is that the organizations provide a public service or substantially reduce the burdens of government. Standards from property-tax exemptions are set by the states, while the federal exemption means charities are not taxed on their income.

Almost 88 percent of overall nonprofit revenues in 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available, came from fees for services, sales and sources other than charitable contributions, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. Nonprofit health care providers, day care centers and retirement homes, among others, are often difficult to distinguish from their tax-paying competitors.

“We’re all seeing the growth of revenue in this area we call earned income,” said Audrey R. Alvarado, executive director of the National Council of Nonprofit Associations, adding that the Minnesota court decision “is saying, ‘Wait a minute, charities are supposed to give things away for free.’ ”

“It goes to the core of how nonprofits are classified and defined,” she said, “and I think it is an example of the confusion in the public, and even among folks in the sector itself, about what a nonprofit is.”

Evelyn Brody, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law and an expert on nonprofits and property taxes, said that, in studying the issue in 2002 and revisiting it last year, she had seen an explosion of cases across the country in which charities were challenged to say why they deserve their property tax exemptions.

As universities charge high tuitions, and pay large salaries to administrators, they have become prime targets. For example, New London, Conn., assessed property taxes on a skating rink owned by Connecticut College. Local assessors tried to tax Smith College in Northampton, Mass., arguing that the women’s college engaged in sex discrimination and thus was not charitable.
Smaller organizations that provide services like day care or drug treatment are being challenged, too. The Oregon tax court denied property tax exemption to a residential substance-abuse treatment center because it catered to “addicted professionals” and, like Under the Rainbow, did not give away its services.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue and county tax assessors say the uproar over the court ruling here has surprised them.

“From the assessors’ standpoint, the Under the Rainbow ruling didn’t change anything for us,” said Thomas J. May, the tax assessor for Hennepin County and a spokesman for the state’s assessors.

In determining which organizations qualify for exemption, assessors in Minnesota rely on the State Constitution, which explicitly exempts things like public burial grounds, seminaries and colleges and universities from taxation, and on six criteria set out in a 1975 State Supreme Court decision.

Mr. May said that the determination process had become increasingly difficult, however, noting that the Mall of America, a major tourist attraction, was seeking tax exemptions as part of its plans to expand, arguing that it aids the state economy by drawing visitors.

“From our perspective in the assessment field, it’s harder to define what’s a nonprofit these days because there are so many different types, and many of them are doing the same thing for-profit groups that aren’t exempt are doing,” he said.

Some 95 percent of Under the Rainbow’s $550,582 budget in 2006 came from fees for services paid by families or by county and tribal governments. The court concluded that because the center charged all families the same amount, regardless of their ability to pay, and because its rates were not lower than those of its competitors, it was not an institution of “purely public charity” under the law and thus was subject to thousands of dollars in property taxes — $16,000 in 2006 and in 2007.

“The extent to which the recipients of the charity are required to pay for the assistance received tests for a value that is fundamental to the concept of charity — that is, whether the organization gives away anything,” Chief Justice Russell A. Anderson wrote in the decision.

Additionally, the court ruled that government payments were not evidence of charity — those payments were not a gift.

These two elements of the ruling have profoundly alarmed nonprofit groups in Minnesota and elsewhere.

“There are between 300 and 500 nonprofit groups in this state that could lose their property tax exemptions under that ruling,” said Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, which represents about 2,000 of the state’s roughly 3,400 charities.

RSI Inc. in Duluth is among those at risk, said Jon Nelson, its executive director. The organization was founded 30 years ago by parents of mentally disabled children when the state closed the last of its homes for the disabled. More than 93 percent of its $11 million budget this year will come from government, and 6 percent will come from clients. “For-profit businesses aren’t going to take on these clients, and the state long ago recognized that as a nonprofit, we could provide better care at a lower cost than it could,” Mr. Nelson said.

“This court ruling is just ripe with unintended consequences,” he said. “The state is cutting off its nose to spite its face.” RSI owns real estate valued at $5.5 million and would pay an estimated $110,000 in property taxes if it lost its exemption.

“The nonprofit sector is being pressed to be more business-like and to find new ways to fill the gaps between what government will pay and what services cost, but then assessors want to treat us like businesses, which pay taxes,” said Jan Malcolm, chief executive of the Courage Center in Minneapolis and a former state health commissioner.

The Courage Center, which provides services and facilities for physically disabled people, estimates that a change in its tax exemption would cost it $1.7 million — $1.4 million in property taxes and $300,000 in sales taxes, which are linked to payment of property taxes in Minnesota.
That, Ms. Malcolm said, would force the center to cut programs and services. This month, the Minnesota Legislature passed a tax bill that establishes a one-year ban on reversing property tax exemptions held by existing nonprofits.

The bill requires legislators to set criteria to define what is “purely public charity,” a phrase included in many state statutes on charitable property tax exemption, in an era of nonprofit groups that charge for their services and receive only negligible amounts of donations.

“We need to figure out what we mean by ‘purely public charity’ because, frankly, we can’t afford as a state to lose nonprofits providing these kinds of services,” said State Representative Paul Marquart, chairman of the property tax subcommittee. “But it isn’t going to be easy.”


Sunday, May 25, 2008

New column every Monday: June 9, 2008

The Miami Herald
Posted on Sun, May. 25, 2008
Web charities help teachers equip classrooms

Elana Militzok started the school year at Oakland Park Elementary with a bare kindergarten classroom -- and a secret weapon to fill it.

By spring, the room was teeming with brightly colored educational toys, art supplies, markers, puzzles, writing journals, recess equipment and books. The supplies, worth thousands of dollars, came from strangers who saw Militzok's pleas for funding on a website called
''You can be a great teacher, but unless you have the materials to teach with, it's hard,'' Militzok said.

On the site, educators write detailed proposals about items they need and explain how they will be used. Online philanthropists can fund a portion or all of the project, and the charity buys the supplies and ships them to the school. All donors get an e-card from the teacher, and those who give more than $100 or who give the last amount to fulfill the need get photos and handwritten thank-you cards from students and the teacher.

Donors have fulfilled 11 projects for Militzok's class this year.

At a time when school budgets are tight, educators say the website -- which received the highest rating from Charity Navigator -- provides an opportunity to give students resources that schools, parent groups and the teachers themselves couldn't afford. All donations to are tax deductible.

Founder Charles Best, a former teacher in the Bronx, was frustrated by the meager resources available when he and colleagues came up with the idea more than seven years ago.
''Most of us would spend our own money on basic copy paper and pencils,'' said Best, 32. ``For the most part, we saw our students going without the materials they needed for a good education.''

The site was first available only to New York City public school teachers, then spread to a handful of states. It expanded to the rest of the country in the fall; so far, Florida teachers have received about $165,000 worth of goods from donors in 38 states.

By early May, 95 proposals had been funded in Miami-Dade for almost $36,000. In Broward, 27 had been funded for more than $8,300.

''There are so many things that we have to buy as teachers,'' said Melody Gutierrez, a Miami Park Elementary teacher who also uses the site. ``It's allowed me to do a lot more fun things and be more creative with my kids during lessons. It makes the classroom a nicer place.''
Thanks to the charity, Gutierrez has outfitted her second-grade classroom with a giant carpet that bears a map of the United States, seat covers that hold kids' books, a listening center so students can practice reading aloud, a Dr. Seuss library, miniature whiteboards for kids to write on and even pencils and crayons.

''The first day of school, we didn't have any good stuff,'' said 9-year-old Taurrian Stafford. But, he said, after Gutierrez went online and asked for supplies, ``we got a lot and a lot of new stuff and our room got good.''

The website has given Gutierrez, who like Militzok found out about the website while teaching in New York, the chance to talk to her students about giving.

Other sites, including and Miami-based, offer services similar to Experts say these organizations are examples of how online social interaction is connecting people with needs to those who want to help.
''It's another magical solution to some of the nation's persistent problems with inequity,'' said Claire Gaudiani, a professor of philanthropy and fundraising at the Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising at New York University. ``It's driven by the young generation, and that's a very good sign for America.''

She said the kids who receive the donated supplies ``are learning the power of generosity.''
Donors say they like being able to choose specific projects to fund, and getting feedback after students have received the supplies.

Wendy Cole, office manager at MBR Construction in Fort Lauderdale, said the family business has funded two proposals, including buying safety goggles for students to use in science class at Kelsey L. Pharr Elementary in Miami. The thank-you notes from the students were ''one of the greatest things about it,'' she said.

''They were so sweet and honest,'' Cole said. ``Truly, we all had tears in our eyes when we were reading the letters.''

Andrew Navratil is the Kelsey L. Pharr Elementary teacher who wrote the proposal for the safety goggles, which his students have since used many times.

''It makes you feel like somebody really cares about my school and my students because they chose our project,'' he said.

Militzok and Gutierrez, both former teachers in New York who moved to South Florida this school year -- have spread the word to their colleagues about the website, and several other teachers have since gotten supplies.

''Nobody really understood how incredible it was and how worth it it was until they saw me every day walking out of the office with huge boxes,'' Militzok said.

The children who learn the lesson of philanthropy aren't only recipients.

Matthew Nadel, a third-grader at Saint Andrew's School in Boca Raton, is allowed by his parents to pick a charity every month for a $100 donation. Recently, he split the money between a few projects on and got pictures and thank-you letters back.

''It made me feel like I was proud of myself that they really appreciated it,'' said Matthew, 9.
''It really brought home the message to my son that you're making a difference,'' said his father, Phil Nadel. ``You don't get that feedback with very many charities.''

Saturday, May 24, 2008

New column every Monday: June 2, 2008

The Miami Herald
Posted on Sat, May. 24, 2008
For famed artist Botero, there's joy in giving
Colombian artist Fernando Botero is renowned for rendering rotund figures in his paintings and monumental bronze sculptures. He is lesser known as a guardian of the aged and the hungry, and a benefactor to museums in Colombia, Venezuela and the United States.
Botero's philanthropy, in fact, was often low-profile -- until spring 2000, when the artist donated his personal collection of paintings and sculptures valued as high as $200 million to museums in his hometown of Medellín and the Colombian capital, Bogotá.
In March, the breadth of Botero's beneficence was detailed by the artist's son, Miami resident Juan Carlos Botero, in an address at the PODER Magazine Philanthropy Forum.
From his first donation of 16 oil paintings to the Museum of Antioquia in Medellín in 1976, to his gift of monumental sculptures to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1985, to his funding of kitchens to feed the hungry and nursing homes to care for the aged, Botero has cut a philanthropic legacy to rival his status as Latin America's best-known living artist.
Speaking in Spanish by phone from his home on the Greek island of Evia, Botero -- whose monumental sculptures are on exhibit at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden through next Saturday -- shared his thoughts on philanthropy, art, and the way he wants to be remembered.
Q: Why do you give?
A: My pleasure, I've found, is to help as much as I can . . . especially my country.
It was not my idea to publicize these things, but I realized that if you don't publicize this, then you don't give somebody the idea to do the same. By participating in the PODER forum, Juan Carlos planted the idea in people's minds to help others. . . . I've been involved for a number of years.
The first thing I did [philanthropically] was because my little son died and I wanted to do something to honor his memory.
When Pedrito died [in 1974], I donated 10 or 12 paintings, and I created a room in the museum in Medellín. And that was very rewarding. Many people now remember Pedrito because they saw this room. That was the beginning of my interest in helping and doing things.
I felt very good to see that people were enjoying this, were remembering Pedrito, and I realized that I got a lot of pleasure by giving, more than receiving.
As a matter of fact, I feel kind of uncomfortable when somebody gives me something. I don't need anything. But when I give, it's pure giving and that gives me pleasure.
Q: The world knows your art. But few know about your philanthropy. Which is more important to you?
A: The truth is that my time is 99 percent dedicated to my work. And I should say that these other things that I do, I do with a minimum of time on my part. That's to say, for example, I created a retirement home [in Colombia], very big, for 300 people. What I did was I told my brother, 'You look for the place.' . . . He put himself in charge of looking for all this. I gave the money to buy the site, construct the building. Then he found a religious order that took charge of all that is in this retirement home.
Time is what I don't have a lot to give. I'm terribly busy, and my time is very precious to me. I don't even have a secretary or even an assistant. . . . I know how to do [philanthropy] without it taking a lot of my time.
For example, somebody told me that there's an institution in Colombia called Nutril that feeds poor children. I saw in the newspaper that some children had died of hunger in Chocó, the poorest part of Colombia. I got in touch with Nutril. These people need only money. I told them, `There's a grave need in Chocó. Open some restaurants for children, and obviously, I'll pay for everything.'
Since they're very good people and were enthused by the idea, then I, with a single telephone call, did something that can help a lot of people. There are 200 children who now eat every day, twice a day. All I had to do was tell the bank to send so much money to Nutril, and they send me a report card of what it costs and pictures of the children.
My work takes so much time, and I'm 76 years old. I can't dedicate myself to anything else. So these things that I do I think look like they take an enormous effort, but they don't.
I gave away my art collection. I paid a company to pick up the pieces in France, Switzerland, New York and send them to Colombia. First I spoke with the Banco de la República . . . to give them my ideas of how I wanted the museum to be, to be restored like a contemporary art museum.
Then I sent all the works. . . . If you look at the result, it's so enormous that one would imagine you spent two or three years on that. But in reality, it was just making a decision.
One day, I was in Mexico, and I thought, `Why don't I give this collection to Colombia? There is no great museum there where people can go see the masterworks.'
I spoke to a friend, asked her how I could do this in reality. She said she would speak to a friend who is president of the bank and tell them your idea. The bank president got in touch with him, and they toured buildings in Bogotá until we found a building that was palatial. I accepted. We spoke to architects. It's tremendously satisfying, but it's all about making the decision. Don't spend all day thinking about it. Just do it.
Q: Why give away your most precious possessions, like your art collection?
A: You can't keep everything for yourself. If you're fortunate enough to make a lot of money, you need to share with others who aren't as lucky. It's OK to help people who have nothing. There are people who with nothing are happy. . . . I see people with grave problems and all they need is $10,000 to take care of it. I give them the $10,000 and their problems are gone. It's fantastic.
When someone has the good luck of making money and they can help people solve problems that seem like mountains with a small effort, that's marvelous.
I feel a great pleasure doing that. . . . With such little effort, you can do a lot. Obviously, the truth is, generosity is when someone gives what they most want. . . . My collection was something I cared about a lot. But at the same time, I feel great pleasure knowing that all these people can see these paintings and at the same time help my country.
I used to wake up every morning and see a Monet by my bed. That gave me great pleasure. But now it is seen by so many people, so many poor people, 1,000 of them a day. It's one pleasure for another.
Q: What keeps you painting every day?
A: Painting is a habit, a passion. I've been a professional artist since I was 17 years old. I've made my life as a painter. I do it first and foremost for pleasure. When I started painting, part of my interest was to make a living as an artist because I had to pay the rent. I didn't come from a family with money.
First you make your living, but now that I don't need it, it's the passion that drives me. Since I see it from the point of view of admiration that I have for the great masters and the history of art, it's something that doesn't have an end to what you can learn about art. Every day, you can learn a little. And that desire to learn more keeps you involved with painting. It's a curiosity to see what you can accomplish.
When I go to the studio in the mornings, I don't know what I'm going to do. I have an idea. But doing it, seeing it in front of me, I see something that I didn't see before. That curiosity to see what you can create is wonderful.
Q: How do you want to be remembered?
A: Obviously, I want people to remember me as a painter and sculptor. Of course, I want my works to endure, that they be appreciated tomorrow and beyond. That's a desire for every artist. And well, yes, that's a natural desire.
Q: Do you want to be remembered as a philanthropist?
A: No, not really as a philanthropist. My interest most of all is in my work.
I should say I'm publicizing this because if you don't tell the story, nobody will tell it. Otherwise, it's easy to be generous. People think being generous is difficult. But it's not. It's about making decisions and making a phone call. You can do so much just by making a decision and picking up the phone. Two phone calls can accomplish a lot of good if I really want to help.
Philanthropy is part of my life today, but my interest is that my works as a painter and sculptor endure beyond my lifetime.
Q: Where did you learn the tradition of giving? Isn't philanthropy uncommon in Latin America?
A: It doesn't exist. Very few people give in Latin America. The country is there to help the person but not for the person to help their country. . . . I don't know if I learned it. I've lived outside Colombia for 50 years. . . . So I have an idea of life that's a bit different than the person who has lived there all his life.
People want to see their dreams realized. They want to see their country have things, and to help its poorest people.
Throughout all the United States, where there is a lot of philanthropy, I guess I learned it here. I don't know. There's no tax deduction. I don't do it for that. I do it because it gives me pleasure. You just tell them what to do. That's an idea of power. I imagine that politicians have it.
Another part of the pleasure of giving is that you can execute your desires. That's important. It's power in a certain way.
Q: Where do you live now?
A: I just bought a new house here in Greece, on the island of Evia. It's a house in front of the ocean.
I miss Colombia a lot. I left because of my work. I went to the United States and Europe. . . . The foundries where I make my sculptures are in Italy. I need those things for my work. I go to Colombia and stay 8 to 10 days.
My problem is that for a famous person like myself, it's dangerous to go there. For a tourist, there's no problem. But if you're famous, you're a target, an attractive target for kidnapping.
I had a house in Colombia. About 12 years ago, eight men came at 6 a.m. looking for me. I wasn't there that day. They stole everything, 22 paintings; they killed the dogs. I never returned to that house.
So, I go to Colombia with precautions now. I enter and leave without making too much noise.

Monday, May 19, 2008

New column every Monday--May 19, 2008

From The Miami Herald
Posted on Mon, May. 19, 2008
Fraternity brothers ride with purpose: charity

Phillip Hamilton will never forget meeting Kevin, a 3-year-old boy who could not hold himself up or walk until he had a breakthrough moment while Hamilton and his fraternity brothers were visiting his clinic a year ago.

''I saw him take his first steps ever,'' Hamilton said Sunday morning before kicking off an 800-mile cycling trip from Miami to Tallahassee aimed at raising funds and awareness for people with disabilities.

Gear Up Florida is one of several events put on across the country by Push America, a philanthropic organization established by Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. Hamilton is a brother at the Florida International University chapter.

Cyclists will travel an average of 70 miles per day for two weeks, passing through citrus fields and major cities, reaching both the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast before ending up in the state capital.

Along the way, the team will make friendship visits and give donations to local organizations that serve people with disabilities -- what most members say is the most moving aspect of the trip.
''Friendship visits are the key to the trip, where we get to visit kids with disabilities and they help us to understand that kids with disabilities are just really kids with abilities,'' said Trey Flowers, 23, a cyclist from Texas.

Like Hamilton, many Gear Up participants are touched by the kids they've met and can retell their accomplishments without missing a beat. Hamilton worked as a crew member for the cross-country ride last year, and began training in November for his first cycling trip.
''I had such an amazing time . . . touching so many people's lives,'' Hamilton said. ``So I thought why not make a difference in my home state?''

This is Alex Ravelo's second time working with the Gear Up crew, which travels alongside the bikers in vans transporting their belongings, food and medical supplies.
Ravelo, also of the fraternity's FIU chapter, said he loved ``meeting the people with disabilities and making them smile for a few hours.''

It was stories like these that inspired Andres Peñalver, 20, to sign up as part of the crew.
''Some of my older brothers had done this, and they told me what a great experience they had,'' Peñalver said. ``It's a privilege.''

The team of 29 cyclists and seven crew members gathered at dawn Sunday in front of the Panther Hall dormitory at FIU to stretch and have breakfast before the trip. Their first stop: Clewiston, a small Florida town 90 miles north of Miami.

Smoke and haze from the Everglades wildfire lingered in the air as the bikers prepped for their first day, which also threatened to bring record high temperatures.

Organizers said they would use caution with the smoke and heat, but ride on nonetheless. ''I'm pretty sure the smoke will exhaust them, so we have to be careful,'' said Cody Bourque, the public relations coordinator for Gear Up Florida. ``But nothing's going to stop us from getting to Clewiston.''

Monday, May 12, 2008

New column every Monday: Students raise $300,000 for Darfur

South Florida
Boca high school club raises $300,000 to help Darfur poor
By Stephanie Horvath
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
12:40 AM EDT, May 6, 2008

When five students started the For Darfur club at St. Andrew's School in Boca Raton last year, they just wanted to raise awareness for the suffering African region.Sixteen months later, they've raised $300,000, assembled an advisory board of nonprofit movers and shakers, and hired a New York public relations rep.

Tonight they're conducting a fundraiser at Kanye West's concert in Miami. West is donating $1 from every ticket sold to For Darfur. With 11,000 seats and the strong possibility of selling out, For Darfur is looking at a potential blockbuster."I don't think we expected it to happen that quickly," said Gabriel Schillinger, the group's president and a senior at St. Andrew's. "A year ago we were barely an organization, and look where we've come. It shows when teenagers put their minds together momentum starts to grow."

For Darfur might be an example of extreme success, but high school students across South Florida — some not even old enough to vote — are trying to make a difference on a global scale. Kids are canvassing for Barack Obama, raising money for food relief in Haiti and starting recycling programs.While Both Palm Beach and Broward counties require their students to complete a certain number of hours of community service, these teenagers are doing much more."They're not satisfied with making a small difference. They want to take a big plunge," said Carlos Barroso, a St. Andrew's spokesman.That's certainly happening at St. Andrew's. In addition to the huge success of For Darfur, the school's chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society raised $17,000 in its first fundraising event, just two months after the club started. Samantha Leder, 16, started the club, because her uncle died of leukemia. She was able to recruit 40 other students and get her dad's company to match what they raised.

It's not just at St. Andrew's, though. At the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, students organized letter writing campaigns and awareness concerts to support Amnesty International."

We've been raised to think we can do anything and since you can do anything, you should. People feel a pressure to live up to something but in this case it's a good thing," said senior Sabina Ibarrola, the chapter's president. "It leads us to give more of ourselves."

Melissa Oppenheim, 18, cared about community service and wanted to make it easier for her peers to participate. So as a freshman at the Pine Crest Preparatory School in Fort Lauderdale she started, a Web site for rating community service groups, so students could find a good match."

There's a lot of causes right now," said Oppenheim, who also canvassed for Obama in Texas over Spring Break. "Just through the media, teens are more aware of the social and political problems in the world, like the energy crisis and the global food pandemic. There's more ways to get information and more ways to do things because of the Internet."

One group at Boca Raton Community High School has raised $5,000 to help children in Uganda. A class studying the Holocaust started a program to raise money for Darfur by selling $1 triangles commemorating Holocaust victims. The idea: donors can't help the Holocaust victims, but they can help people in Darfur from suffering a similar fate."I know here it's definitely been the most active year I've seen," said Geoff McKee, Boca Raton High's principal.

"I'm not sure why. I think it's partly how smart they are and aware they are." The school has sold $12,000 worth of triangles and given the money to the Save Darfur coalition and the Genocide Intervention Network." There's no more space in the school, they're in every window, on every wall," said Sharona Kay, the group's adviser.

"My students are making a difference. It's wonderful."Danny Bricknell, 17, started out overwhelmed by the idea of protecting the environment. He set up a recycling program at Boca Raton High this year and recruited 60 students."

We needed to go green and the way to start that was with recycling," said Bricknell, a junior. "This is the planet we need to live on. If what we all do will help stop future problems, we have to take charge of that." And even though students are in the throes of exams this week, Bricknell is taking the time to raise money for another cause: sending food packages to starving people in Haiti. But For Darfur has had explosive success. In addition to the Kanye West concert, the group held a fundraiser in November with Palm Beach designer Lilly Pulitzer that raised $100,000. That donation to Doctors Without Borders was the largest raised at a single event that year, said Jennifer Tierney, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit." We have adults who haven't raised this amount of money," she said.

For Darfur now has 150 members that include local high school students and far-off college students, and about seven other chapters have formed across the country. As their group has exploded, so have their responsibilities. Schillinger carries a cell phone just for the organization and they've hired a public relations representative. On Monday, they'll be featured in a Time magazine story about kids and philanthropy. The kids have had some help. Their advisory board includes Jack Healy, former president of Amnesty International; Mark Sunshine, the president of First Capital and the father of one of the founders, and the Rev. George Andrews II, the former headmaster of their school. But Schillinger said they provide encouragement and not much more." We're the ones making all the decisions. It's kind of scary sometimes," Schillinger said. "It's really teaching us and others involved in social consciousness causes that one day we'll be the generation in charge of the world." Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek and Staff Writer Marc Freeman contributed to this story. Stephanie Horvath can be reached at or 561-243-6643.
Copyright © 2008, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Monday, May 05, 2008

New column every Monday: "The Fundraising Guru," May 5, 2008

Take the 5 formulas test!

Last week, I revealed the 5 formulas to help nonprofits "raise money in bad times--for FREE!" If you haven't read the column, scroll down to it now. If you have read it, refresh your memory about its messages.

This week, it's time to self-assess. On a scale of 0 (Not at all) to 10 (gung-ho!), rate your willingness to get your nonprofit to apply the 5 formulas to your fundraising success.

1. B x 10 = FT
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.................................... _____
What would it take for you to improve your

2. 1 x 10 = 110
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.................................... _____
What would it take for you to improve your

3. 1 x 5 = 6
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.................................... _____
What would it take for you to improve your

4. 1 + 1 = 3
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.................................... _____
What would it take for you to improve your

5. 1 x 365 = $365,000
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.................................... _____
What would it take for you to improve your

Total your score. E-mail your comments and questions to
Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein at
He'll answer you personally!