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The CAA: Defense for the Sake of Defense

Discussion in 'Action Alerts and Advocacy' started by mojoey, Oct 10, 2010.

  1. Cort

    Cort Phoenix Rising Founder

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    I believe salary expense included contracted work with the CDC. I agree about keeping the CAA accountable with regards to ensuring that a large percentage of expenses go to research grants and research expenses and we shall see how that goes in the future.

    Not for profits do have to account for their money's in different ways on tax forms -I'm finding that out as I start up PR. One thing I did find out that surprised me is that the IRS doesn't just ask organizations to account for their salaries - they ask them to hire an outside firm to do a survey of non-profits of the same general size in the region and determine what their salaries and that is what it appears the CAA did.

    I remember this because I specifically pointed out in my application that I will easily be making less than an entry level employee at McDonald's and I stated that until I making alot more than that there's no reason for PR to hire someone to do a survey!
     
  2. Cloud

    Cloud Guest

    Agreed....Thank you Jennie
     
  3. mojoey

    mojoey Senior Member

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    That's definitely a possibility, but to use 2007 as a representation of how much salary goes to CDC grants also isn't very telling. The govt grants in 2008 and 2009 were far lower at 336k and 288k, so even if those entire amounts were given out as salary, the highest possible percentage of salary spent on contracts during those years was around 35%.

    I need to learn more about non-profit accounting principles, but I think regardless of the standards you use, it's hard to debate that transparency and honesty is required. Listing 136k and 135k as "management and general" expenses on the financial statement (on the much more user-friendly annual report, and hence the one most people read) when the actual salary amount is 6 times that much is difficult to characterize as anything but misleading.
     
  4. leela

    leela Slow But Hopeful

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    Hi,

    I personally have no alignment or disalignment with any particular organization or CFS forum, but I keep seeing allusions to strife between boards, or alignments for or against this or that advocacy group.
    I understand the concerns presented here, but I am left questioning the wisdom of infighting within a group that already has so many obstacles in our way.

    We are a diverse group of people from all kinds of backgrounds, cultures, generations, and points of view. We have one, terrible, serious thing in common--and we need to be each others' allies. There will never be concensus in a group this diverse (or in any group, my experience shows, no matter how small.)
    If an organization wants to proceed with a particular approach, or tone, with caution or with reckless abandon, with a particular agenda or none at all--why not simply notice that and be glad they are doing something to further the cause in their own way?

    Some of the posts replicated here are quite aggressive and attacking. Is it wise to attack each other?
    I know right now I am opening myself up to attack, and certainly do not wish to receive any. But I feel it is important to put forward the view that it is natural that there will be a wide variety of methods: Rivka will have one style, Muffin another, CAA still another.

    I think the woman from CAA is brave to respond so generously here to such caustic criticism. She has been put on the defensive, rather than having been invited to respond to an open inquiry. Personally I have learned a lot from the webinars they have offered, and feel the educational allocations are as important as anything else, since ignorance of this disease is one of our biggest obstacles. Like any organization, or person, they have their shortcomings. There are better ways to approach a concern or an opposing point of view than to accuse and attack.

    Now is not the time to be making enemies of ourselves. In fact it is seriously time to come together as much as possible and join forces to get the recognition and attention we deserve and require for any
    progress to be made for ME/CFS politically, socially, and medically.
     
  5. mojoey

    mojoey Senior Member

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    Hey Leela,

    I think the main issue here is that the CAA has received $3.8 million in the last 3 years in private donations. Rivka and Muffin are not beholden to anybody. We are essentially investing in the CAA via donations, and hence the board and executives should act in our best interests. If this were a public company and we were the shareholders, we could vote on key issues and to elect or remove board members based on whether they're acting in the best interests of its constituency. As CAA is a non-profit, we don't have that choice but we can choose to continue donating to the company or not. That's not an attack on the organization, but rather stating its responsibilities and our choices.

    I actually think the tone has been really civil here. I'm thankful for Jspotsila's responses. I'm glad Cort has jumped in here to add his analysis on things that I may have missed.

    My personal opinion is that to invest in a company because it's the only one that comes to mind is a terrible reason to invest and a surefire way to lose return on my investment. Cort and I both agree that we need to hold this organization accountable, and that seeing more direct research investment, not just in 2009 and 2010 but going forward, is one standard by which we can do that.
     
  6. leela

    leela Slow But Hopeful

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    I agree with everything you say, Mojoey, especially this:
    The "attacky" part I was referring to was the whole exchange copied to here from facebook, which engendered a really adversarial-sounding dialogue.
    I am all in favour of holding them accountable, and it is useful to discover things, for instance, like much of those millions was in grants allocated for specific purposes. If misdirection of funds has occurred, careful investigation into the matter will reveal it. Letting them know the donors are indeed holding them accountable is a good place to start.

    All I am saying is that these things can be determined and addressed without prematurely presuming malfeasance and creating an atmosphere of enmity where an atmosphere of cooperation is needed.

    I have read snarky comments deriding Cort because he "promotes" CAA from other forums. I think this sort of thing is a tragic misdirection of our energy as a collective.
     
  7. OverTheHills

    OverTheHills

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    I think mojoey is providing a service to us PWME here. I have neither the energy nor expertise to look at the CAA's public accounts and analyse them critically. I do think it is important that someone does though - it gives us on the board an opportunity to develop views based on factual analysis rather than belief. It gives the CAA an opportunity to communicate and to change or not change based on informed input from its constituency.

    I liken it to the informed analysis of scientific papers (good and bad) which happens here. Again I have neither the energy nor the expertise to do more than take the scientists/author's conclusions at face value. After reading the commentary here I have a much better informed perspective.

    As to tone, I do not have a problem with this discussion which has seemed calm and factual to me (but I may have forgotten something!). Like other posters I would like to thank Jspotila for participating in this dialogue - to her great credit she is remaining calm under some intense and difficult but proper scrutiny.

    I am in favour of increased transparency from CAA, and all organisations which have dealings with PWME. The technology is available - Webinars, discussion boards, membership polls, livestreaming of meetings all provide increased participation for a disenfranchised group - us!.

    OTH
     
  8. jspotila

    jspotila Senior Member

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    It is not misleading. It is an artifact of the different accounting rules and principles used in each situation. The Association conducts an independent audit, as well as independent accounting for the IRS 990. One of many factors the auditors examine is reporting of expenses, and the Association passes with flying colors every time.
     
  9. mojoey

    mojoey Senior Member

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    Did you get both the financial statements on your annual report audited and IRS 990 audited or just the IRS 990? I don't have a problem with the IRS form.

    An audit basically checks to see if you're lying in your financial statements. However, the problem with the CAA's financial statement (in the annual report) is that it doesn't report total salary expense at all. Therefore, the auditor can't actually dock you for lying about the total salary expense.

    If you don't disclose information about the total salary expense in your financial statement, you should disclose the fact that you don't on your annual report and also indicate where the reader can find that information (what page, what line of the IRS 990 form).

    I think if you poll your target audience (CFS patients) the question "Do you think the CAA should explicitly state total salary expense on its annual report?" most will ask if that's a trick question.
     
  10. Cort

    Cort Phoenix Rising Founder

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    Maybe you should look at other non-profit reports - is the CAA using a standard method of reporting in its annual reports or is it using something different? You can also look at Guidestar or other ratings groups that scrutinizenon-profit financial expenditures - including expenses for salaries. If the CAA is operating outside of the norm in that area then the ratings group should dock them for that.

    If you want to see a shocker look at the National Fibromyalgia Association. Their last report is from 2007! They spent all of 4% of their funds on research. 45% was spent of Patient Education and Assistance and 25% on Awareness. They do not list salaries at all. http://www.bing.com/search?q=national+fibromyalgia+association&go=&form=QBLH&qs=n&sk=&sc=1-33

    Part of the problem I have - and I'm certainly not talking about mJoey since he is working his way through this - is I find there is a general lack of rigor when people think they find something wrong with the CAA. Whats his name who started this appeared to make good points but he didn't take into account the fact that the CAA was changing its focus overtime.

    I don't know if salaries are usually outlined in Annual Reports - let's find out. If they are then maybe the CAA should include them; if they're not then we shouldn't expect them to. I'll check around.

    Susan B Komen for Breast Cancer does not http://ww5.komen.org/uploadedFiles/Content/AboutUs/Financial/new-2008-2009AnnualReport-final.pdf

    National MS Association doesn't even provide an annual report - they seem to be mostly glossy publication non-profits use to tout their accomplishments to their members.
     
  11. jspotila

    jspotila Senior Member

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    The Association uses standard reporting, as you have already shown by looking at Komen, NFA, and National MS. From the Association's Facebook page:

    The Association is the only CFS-related organization accredited under the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Program. Scrutiny is a good thing, and people should make thoughtful choices about where they contribute their money. I hope that this conversation encourages people to apply the same standard to all organizations they contribute to, not a higher level of scrutiny to only one organization.
     
  12. mojoey

    mojoey Senior Member

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    Jennifer,

    Please let us know if the financial statement in the annual report is audited. If so and you know of the exact set of set of standards that apply to the reporting, please let us know. I think that would save us all time.

    If you don't know, then Ill join cort in doing some research into non-profit accounting standards too.
     
  13. jspotila

    jspotila Senior Member

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    In the litigation world, we would say "asked and answered," since the Association posted this info on the FB page in response to Joseph Chang. But for the benefit of those not on FB, and in response to your question:

    Yes, the financial statement in the annual report is audited, and the auditors use the FASB/GAAP accounting standards for non-profit accounting.
     
  14. charityfundraiser

    charityfundraiser Senior Member

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    I'm late to replying to this, but I would recommend looking into WordPress as caledonia also suggested in this post:
    http://forums.aboutmecfs.org/showth...ake-of-Defense&p=129081&viewfull=1#post129081

    Your expenses for running the site on WordPress could be on the order of $0 to $100/yr. for the IT and software, not including the time you spend developing content and perhaps a one-time Web designer to customize a WordPress theme. It is very easy to use and does not require technical knowledge. Just point and click like any Web service. Any staff member would be able to update the Web site whenever they want.

    Please visit wordpress.com and take a look and read their info. This is a hosted free service. You would only have to pay a very tiny amount for using your own domain name and some extras like using the Web template you want. I suggest someone at CAA sign up for a free account and play around with it.

    The other option with WordPress is to host your own site using WordPress software from wordpress.org, as Cort does, and I do, and most other people who own Web sites do.

    WordPress themes are drop-in pre-designed flexible customizable Web templates. Premium WordPress themes sell for $20-$200 and most come with lifetime support for this one time price. You can pay a little extra to find a Web designer to customize a pre-bought theme for you. Pre-made Web template designs sell for $20-$200.

    Also take a look at typepad.com. This is a hosted point and click type service and the most expensive option is only on the order of $300/yr, nowhere near 5 figures. Sign up for a free trial and play around with it.

    Please feel free to ask any questions. There are several people here who are familiar with these Web technologies.
     
  15. justinreilly

    justinreilly Stop the IoM & P2P! Adopt CCC!

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    I think it's very misleading. I don't think it's intentional, but to the average patient with ME, including me, I assumed from reading that that the $138K management and general expenses included mangagement salaries.

    I do think all of the talk about the expenses and salaries being low and lean and below-norms is misleading. I know that is the opinion of your accountants. The travel and salaries (and office space probably) seem too high. As we discussed in the comments to your interview, the data on guidestar, at least, suggest that the salary expenses are well above norms (especially given performance). Discussion starts at third comment to article.

    http://forums.aboutmecfs.org/conten...th-Jennifer-Spotila-cfs-me-cfs-phoenix-rising

     
  16. justinreilly

    justinreilly Stop the IoM & P2P! Adopt CCC!

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    I am very glad that a revamp of the website is planned. It is a shame that CCC is still not even mentioned in the diagnosis and definition section.
     

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