Despite Fanfare, My Brother’s Keeper Not Yet Tax-Exempt

May 11, 2015       Patrick Sullivan      

The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBK Alliance), an organization President Barack Obama announced as a spinoff to his initiative of the same name, already has some $80 million worth of commitments. What it doesn’t have is a tax exemption.

Clicking on the donate button on MBK Alliance’s website takes users to a page operated by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), a nonprofit consulting firm in New York City. That’s because RPA is the fiscal sponsor of MBK Alliance while the latter waits to receive its 501(c)(3) status and works to establish its own infrastructure, according to a representative from RPA.

“As MBK Alliance’s fiscal sponsor, RPA will take on the legal and fiscal responsibility for MBK Alliance as it creates the infrastructure necessary to fully function as an independent organization,” according to a statement from RPA.

Representatives from MBK Alliance did not return requests for comment. It is unknown when the organization filed for its tax exemption or when it will be operationally independent. An Internal Revenue Service (IRS) spokesman directed a request for the organization’s Form 1023 to the Tax Exempt and Government Entities division. The IRS TEGE stated it does not have records of a tax-exemption but did not answer the question of if and when MBK Alliance filed a 1023.

According to President Obama, MBK Alliance has secured some $80 million from corporations such as Deloitte, American Express and News Corp. The organization will be led by Joe Echevarria, former CEO of Deloitte.

“Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors is a natural fit to serve as fiscal sponsor in our efforts to create MBK Alliance’s sustainable infrastructure,” he said via a statement.

That $80 million is potentially problematic for some. According to written reports, these companies could possibly be seen as trying to garner favor from the president by donating to his pet project.

“Any time you have an officeholder or any government official setting up a nonprofit, one has to be very, very wary,” Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen told media outlets. “The fact that (Obama) is still in office and will be in for a period of time and then sets up this nonprofit — that just opens the door for special interests that have business pending before the White House.”

According to its website, the organization will not take donations from foreign sources or political action committees, or more than $200 from registered lobbyists. Donations of more than $200 will be made public.

Donations to MBK Alliance are actually donations to RPA, which is a nonprofit, for tax purposes. According to RPA, MBK Alliance aims to begin distributing grants this summer. The organization, which seeks to uplift black and Hispanic men and boys, will make grants focusing on six life stages:

  • Early childhood: entering school ready to learn
  • Middle childhood: reading at grade level by third grade
  • Adolescence: graduating from high school ready for college and career
  • Adulthood transition: completing post-secondary education or training
  • Adulthood: entering the workforce
  • Throughout life: reducing violence and providing a second chance

In addition to acting as fiscal sponsor, RPA will also loan staff members to help MBK Alliance manage the grantmaking process. RPA has sponsored initiatives in the past, including the diversity movement D5 Coalition and Hunger Games and Boardwalk Empire actor Jeffrey Wright’s Ebola Survival Fund.