Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Do Donor Advised Funds Create a Double-Counting Problem?

Consider these headlines from the past week:


What do these headlines and the many more like them have in common? Yes, they show an important donation to a critical need. Beyond that, though, they also are technically incorrect. Why do I say this? What some (but not all) of the articles mention in the details is that the gift is not exactly from Zuckerberg and Chan, but rather from their donor-advised fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Seeing as how all of these news outlets also publicized their initial gifts to the donor-advised fund in the first place, this seems to me like double-counting (or in this case, double-publicizing) of donations. I say this not as a criticism of Zuckerberg and Chan (they deserve any publicity they get for their generosity, which is by any measure extreme) nor as a critique of journalists covering this news. Rather, I say it to highlight the inherent contradictions of donor-advised funds (DAFs).

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Reconciling Views of Spending by the Wounded Warrior Project

As its popularity and size have grown, the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) has seen added scrutiny, particularly of its finances. In response to accusations that it does not spend enough of its funds on helping wounded veterans, WWP has consistently stressed that in 2013 "80 percent of total expenditures went to provide services and programs for wounded service members and their families". At the same time, other outlets like ProPublica and the National Center for Charitable Statistics report data indicating the number is closer to 75 percent, whereas Charity Navigator and the Center for Investigative Reporting put the figure at around 55 percent.

In this post, my goal is not to consider whether WWP is spending its money appropriately or even which figure is the one that you should use. Rather, the goal is more modest – to provide a reconciliation of these figures so people can at least get a feel for what they represent.