Age of Transparency

Editorial

Published November 11, 2009, issue of November 20, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

When the Forward published a comprehensive story last week on leadership and compensation in the nation’s 75 largest Jewish communal organizations, it relied on data routinely made public by the federal government for all nonprofits. It takes time to find the information, double check the numbers, and draw out the story, but the fact is that anyone with the slightest computer skills can access this information.

We urge you to do so. This is the age of transparency. Donors and citizens have a right to know how tax-exempt money is being spent at the organizations they support and that serve their communities.

The Forward’s survey could not account for every one of the 157 federations and 400 network communities represented by the Jewish Federations of North America, nor did we examine the practices at countless other worthy institutions. Part of our journalistic mission is train a skeptical eye on the way communal monies are raised and spent, but this is not only a job for journalists these days.

So, for instance, it’s appropriate to ask whether the CEO of your favorite charity is earning too much, not enough, or just what he or she deserves. The Internal Revenue Service rules state that executives of nonprofits should receive “reasonable compensation.” Historically in the nonprofit sector, the custom was that the CEO’s salary was no more than 10 times that of the lowest-paid employee, but clearly that practice has been abandoned at many communal organizations. Should it be reinstated?

To help readers ferret out this information and make informed decisions on their own giving, we have posted on www.forward.com a question-and-answer with Brant Houston, Knight Chair of Investigative Reporting in the journalism department at the University of Illinois. He describes how to access and read the tax form known as the 990.

And if you want more information, visit the Web site of Charity Navigator, an independent service that evaluates the financial health of 5,400 of America’s largest charities. There you can discover how many Jewish nonprofits operate and compare to others in their respective fields.

There may be a nagging sense among some people that to question is to imply mistrust. It shouldn’t. To question is to demonstrate that you care about holding leaders and institutions accountable for doing the best they can on all our behalf.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.