Friday, February 15, 2013

Prosecutors: Ex-Mayor Stole Millions From Husband's Foundation

The former mayor of San Diego is accused of stealing millions from her late husband's foundation to feed her gambling addiction, according to a report in The New York Times.

Maureen O'Connor spent the last 10 years betting more than a billion dollars at casinos across the U.S., liquidating her savings, auctioning her belongings, and selling off her real estate in order to continue her wagers. Prosecutors also say she stole $2,088,000 from her husband's foundation, leaving it bankrupt. The name of the foundation was not listed in the report.

O'Connor appeared in court Thursday to answer the charges against her, and tearfully admitted to them. She blamed an addiction to gambling aggravated by a brain tumor for her decisions, and told reporters that she didn't mean to harm the city.

"Those of you who know me here would know that I never meant to hurt the city that I love," she said. “I always intended to pay [the money] back and I still intend to pay it back,” she said.

While the money she stole did not come from the city, the money taken from the trust of her husband, Robert O. Pearson, founder of the Jack-in-the-Box burger chain, most likely would have gone to local charities.

Documents filed in court by her lawyers state that after Pearson died in 1994, O'Connor turned to gambling to deal with the loss. “She began to seek an outlet in gambling,” her lawyers wrote. “The pattern fits the syndrome known as grief gambling.”

While she made over a billion dollars through bets at casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and San Diego, she still lost over $13 million.

Under an agreement made with federal prosecutors, O'Connor will get treatment for gambling addiction and has two years to pay back the foundation and taxes owed to the government.

You can read the full story in The New York Times.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

8 Negatives Of Annual Galas

There aren't many nonprofits that don't hold annual galas, and there aren't many nonprofit employees that actually enjoy preparing for them.

As was suggested in one of our recent LinkedIn discussion questions, some employees feel an obligation to attend their organization's annual gala even if it's not exactly the way they want to spend their evening. While they are a time-honored method of increasing awareness and raising money, some would argue they aren't really worth all the hoopla.

One person who holds that view is Steve Klingman, who wrote in his book "Fundraising Strategies for Community Colleges" that nonprofits should consider scrapping the gala altogether and replacing it with an annual fund campaign. While he acknowledges the positives of galas -- fundraising, showing the flag, cultivation, recognition, volunteer involvement and people having a good time -- he maintains those good aspects are overwhelmed by negatives:

  • A gala event has a low yield as a fundraising vehicle.
  •  A gala saps annual fund dollars. Rarely do event-driven programs coexist with robust annual fund dollars.
  • A gala pre-empts other fundraising efforts for a significant portion of the year.
  • When staff time is added in, net revenue is too low.
  • A gala focuses donor attention on the event rather than the mission.
  • A gala distracts volunteers from more beneficial involvement. Using them to make annual fund calls is much better use of their time.
  • Donors quickly forget a gala.
  • A gala is expensive to produce. The cost of such items as dinner, facility and balloons can easily eat up 50 percent of each ticket.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Georgia Bill To Allow Nonprofit Food Distribution

The Georgia House of Representatives unanimously passed a law today that would allow nonprofits to sell food for short-term fundraising events without a permit. The bill will now move onto the state Senate for consideration.

ABC affiliate WTXL reported that the measure, House Bill 101, was first introduced by Rep. Bubber Epps (R-Dry Branch) and sponsored by Reps. Tom McCall (R-Elberton), Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), Susan Holmes (R-Monticello), Buddy Harden (R-Cordele), and Robert Dickey III (R-Musella). If the bill is passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, it would remove a key obstacle for nonprofits looking to hold fundraisers in Georgia.

“Churches and other nonprofit organizations throughout the state are trying to hold bake sales and other similar fundraisers, but are getting caught in a state permit requirement that is meant for restaurants,” said Epps in a statement. “This legislation will make it easier for non-profit organizations to hold weekend fundraisers without having to deal with the hassle of obtaining a food service permit.”

Current Georgia law requires institutions classified as "food service establishments" to have a food service permit. The definition of such establishment encompasses restaurants, coffee shops, and other private and public institutions. While fairs and festivals are exempt from the law, similar short-term events are not, which have made it difficult for nonprofits conducting weekend fundraisers.

House Bill 101 would amend that law so that any event sponsored by a nonprofit or government entity would be exempt from that requirement, so long as the event lasts 120 hours or less.

You can read the full story on WTXL's website.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Question Time For Nonprofits

You've probably been told at least once in your lifetime that the only stupid question is the one that is not asked. That might be true, but there are times when asking a questions is more appropriate than others.

As Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas wrote in their book, "Power Questions," asking questions is important. But, just as important is knowing when to ask the right question. The two authors used the question "How will this further your nonprofit's mission and goals?" as an example of this theory. While the question is very relevant to organizations, Sobel and Panas stated that it is of most use when asked at specific times.

They suggested asking it when:

  • When you see someone doing things that are inconsistent with the core mission;
  • When someone is making a decision to invest significant time and resources in a new direction; and,
  • When you suspect the other person has not thought through what the mission and goals really are.
Sobel and Panas also suggested variations of the same question, such as:
  • Can you remind me of your mission and goals?
  • Is this consistent with your values and beliefs?
Finally, there are some follow-up questions:
  • Why/Why not?
  • Are there other ideas or initiatives you’re considering that would also support your mission -- which also merit consideration?