|November 26, 2012|
|PR Society, IABC Lack Transparency Seal|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|The PR Society and International Association of Business Communicators, whose 2011 IRS 990 tax forms have yet to be posted on either GuideStar or Foundation Center 990 Finder, are being denied use of GuideStar’s new “Seal” that is given to non-profits that are “among the most transparent.”|
GuideStar, founded in 1994, tracks the financial information of more than 1.8 million non-profits while the Foundation Center has been performing a similar role since the 1950s.
Both the Society and IABC are faulted by GuideStar for not providing enough information to earn the Seal including failure to supply an “Impact Statement.” The two organizations have registered with the IRS, reported revenues and expenses on 990s in the past, and have provided “Mission Statements,” notes GuideStar, but this is not enough to earn the Seal.
That designation, for which there is no charge, is given only to those non-profits that have “updated their reports to the fullest, sharing all required fields,” says GuideStar. Details are at http://tinyurl.com/ad8ah2y.
The Independent Sector, comprised of more than 500 non-profits, and which has earned the GuideStar seal, urges members to post their audits and 990s on their websites but does not get into the issue of when those two documents should be made available.
The latest 990 for IS on GuideStare and Foundation Center is for 2010.
Pay of Top Staffers, Legal Costs Are in 990s
The 990s, which provide the pay/benefits of at least seven of the top staffers of a non-profit and much other information that is not in the audit or annual report, have an initial deadline of May 15. Common practice is for non-profits to delay filing until later in the year or to the ultimate deadline of Nov. 15.
The IRS then sends the reports to GuideStar or Foundation Center but it may be 3-6 months before they are posted on either and before the public or members of the non-profits may see them.
PRS has withheld the 990s from the last three Assemblies. Up until this year, the Society had delivered a printed copy of the 990 to O’Dwyer offices after the annual conference.
Society members can only obtain the 990 by making a written request. This sentence is at the bottom of the section in the Society website on financial reports. Only members are allowed access to such reports.
“Members may also request a copy of PRSA’s annual tax return. Requests should be submitted in writing to PRSA’s chief financial officer or treasurer.”
Assembly delegates also must submit individual requests to see the national list of delegates. Rank-and-file members and reporters do not have access to that list.
Until 1991, when the entire Statement of Functional Expenses (300+ statistics) was pulled from the PRS audit, there was a separate item for “staff travel expenses” which also included staff meal and hotel costs. Member complaints resulted in the functional expenses being returned for the 1992 audit but seven categories were no longer reported including staff travel/meals/hotels, legal costs, and national board expenses.
PRS Has Habit of Info-Withholding
The withholding of the 2011 IRS Form 990 from members as well as the press is the latest instance of the Society’s habit of withholding key information.
There is as yet no PRS report to members or the press on topics that were discussed during the afternoon session of the 2012 Assembly. Board member Diane Gage-Logren conducted a three-hour “un-conference” for which delegates were invited to post on a bulletin board any topics they wanted for discussion.
The only report so far has come from a group of senior members who said the entire Assembly was the “most useless” ever because there were no bylaws up for passage and delegates were “dis-assembled” for most of the afternoon. The seniors said this break-up-the-Assembly device has been used many times before and is particularly frustrating to the delegates because the board “never uses any of the feedback anyway.”
Suppliers (Not Members) Get Members’ List
PRS published its last printed directory of members in 2005 and members who ask about this have been told that publishing such a list would put it in the hands of service companies that would bombard members with sales pitches. Leaders have also said such a list cannot be published any more because it would violate an agreement PRS has with members not to divulge their contact information.
“Unless otherwise indicated, PRS is the sole owner of the information collected on our sites. PRS retains the right to make member contact information available to responsible third parties for one-time mailing use only (emphasis added). Business or personal telephone numbers or email addresses are not made available to third parties without your express permission, and we will not sell or rent this information to anyone. If you do not wish to have your addresses made available to third parties, please notify us by emailing the Society.”
Members want to know why they too cannot have a complete list of all the members by addresses only, including geographical and organizational indexes, since such a list is being sold to service companies and others? Phone numbers and e-mail addresses would not be supplied.
Members note that motivated service firms could also get the phones and e-mails of most members once they have their mailing addresses.
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