Passing the Plate

March 15, 2001       Todd Cohen      

Financial research on Christian groups is the focus of a new nonprofit Web site designed to serve donors. Created by a former portfolio manager for Templeton Investment Counsel, MinistryWatch has built a database of more than 400 U.S.-based Christian charities that raise roughly $6 billion a year.

The site, at www.ministrywatch.com, rates a charity based on how it acquires and spends its financial resources, and how it manages those resources and its need for cash.

On the site, charities are organized by categories, such as leadership training, overseas missions, publishing, radio and television, and relief and development.

Expected to be added in February — after The NonProfit Times went to press — were MyMinistries, a portfolio-management service that will let users sign up to receive reports on ministries they select, and an education center that will include materials on issues involving giving.

The site soon will include ratings of individual ministries, comments by MinistryWatch analysts, and the ministries’ responses to those comments.

MinistryWatch is a program of Wall Watchers, which was created with an investment of about $500,000 from Rusty Leonard, a former Templeton portfolio manager who had been based in Charlotte, and his wife, Carol, an accountant. The organization is not affiliated with Templeton Investments.

The site, with a staff of seven, including four analysts, is modeled on financial research groups such as Morningstar and ValueLine, said Mark Long, president of Wall Watchers and former director of research for IPAC Securities in Auckland, New Zealand.

While income on Leonard’s investment has sustained the organization, Long said, Wall Watchers’ strategy is to co-brand its services with other sites, including Christian portals. He said Wall Watchers is an evangelical ministry but does not base its evaluation of other organizations on their theology.

Foundation tools

A one-stop Web site designed to help community foundations serve donors, donor-advisers, nonprofits and the public will be the main product offered by a new membership group created by some of the largest U.S. community foundations.

Members of Community Foundations of America (CFA), based in Louisville, Ky., will be able to customize the site by adding their own features. Standard features to be included initially will be designed to help individuals and organizations learn how to get involved as donors; create charitable funds; and find out about currently funded nonprofits.

The initial site, which CEO Carla Dearing said would be available during the second quarter, also will provide resources for donor advisers such as lawyers, accountants and financial consultants; offer tax-saving tips; and deliver news and information.

Future features will let donors track investment performance and grant activity of their funds, and will help nonprofits apply for grants and review other grants.

The Web site will have access to resources collected by CFA, including a tool to help community foundations handle gifts of securities from donors who may be restricted in their sale of those securities; national research that community foundations may want to share with donors; and shared technology such as Webcasts examining issues involving planned giving and taxes.

CFA, which was formed last year to develop and offer products and services to the roughly 600 community foundations in the U.S., also offers or is developing several other products, including a Web-based system to help community foundations administer donor and endowment assets; a Web-based tool to survey donors; and a governance seminar co-hosted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy in Boston.

The donor-administration system will include a feature designed to defray record-keeping costs — ranging from $9,600 to $120,000, depending on total assets — through the use of certain mutual funds that agree to offset some of those costs.

That feature, akin to incentives widely offered by mutual funds to third-party administrators of 401(k) plans, is designed to help community foundations better integrate the cost of administering assets with the way those assets are invested, said Dearing, who said she worked in the financial services industry before joining CFA.

The first two foundations to sign up for the donor-administration system are the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and the Luzerne Foundation in Pennsylvania.

New site for idealist

Action Without Borders has launched a new Web site at www.idealist.com that is at designed to make it easier for readers to get information about charities and to volunteer. The site is a portal that lets users find information submitted by nonprofits.

The site — with a new look that underscores its use as an "idea list" — lets readers identify their interests and sign up for free daily email messages reporting new information submitted to the site about jobs, events, internships, volunteers opportunities and resources.

Users also can post information about their interests in volunteering for nonprofits, which can then search the site to find volunteers.

Idealist reports more than 48,000 subscribers throughout the world and visits by more than 10,000 people a day.

Helping hand

Helping.org, the philanthropic Web site of the AOL Time Warner Foundation, helped raise more than $1.1 million online in November and December, according to the organization. That brought to nearly $2.4 million the total contributed through the site since it was launched in October, 1999.

The average donation during the holidays grew to $207, up from $158 throughout 2000.

The holidays also saw a $50,000 donation to a charity, the biggest ever given through the Web site, which has handled three separate contributions of $20,000 each.

The site also matched more than 14,400 volunteers with activities and events in their communities during the holidays. That brought to more than 60,000 people the number of volunteers reportedly matched with charities since helping.org was launched.

Verizon fund

Verizon Communications has paid $2.5 million as the first installment of what will be a $25 million fund to support community and educational programs serving poor, minority, ethnic and other underserved communities in California. The new Community Collaborative Fund, which GTE and Bell Atlantic agreed to create when they merged last year to become Verizon, will be administered by the California Consumer Protection Foundation. For information, call (707) 829-5626.

Tech notes

A survey of more than 1,300 religious congregations by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that congregations increasingly are using the Internet to publicize and conduct worship services, teach, recruit members, raising money and handle a broad range of other tasks…

Bay Area nonprofits CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and HandsNet have launched the NetPoint Center for Nonprofits and Technology to help nonprofits make better use of technology…

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation has teamed with state government and high-tech firms to launch e-cares, a new venture philanthropy group…

The Association of Cancer Online Resources, an online community of cancer patients, has launched Cancer-Pain.org to provide information and resources to help cancer patients find relief from pain…

TechSoup.org, a Web site that focuses on nonprofit technology, has launched an online forum for nonprofit staff to talk about tech issues…

A Web site has been launched at www.advocacynet.org to support human rights and nonprofit initiatives throughout the world…

Programs to narrow the digital divide are the focus of a new list-serve. To subscribe, send an email message to: join-digitalconnections@lists.etr.org…

 

Tech people

Pat Lewis has resigned as executive director of the Communications Network in Washington, D.C., to become communications director for the New Israel Fund in Washington, which raises and contributes money to promote equality, fairness and justice for Israeli citizens…

GuideStar, the Williamsburg, Va.-based online publisher of nonprofit tax and financial data, has appointed Tinsley Goad, former vice president and chief financial officer of the College and University Computers, its vice president of finance and planning; 30-year information-technology veteran Ken Birlin as vice president of technology; and 25-year fundraising veteran Brock Field as vice president of capital and program resources.

Todd Cohen is editor and publisher of Nonprofitxpress, an online newspaper at www.npxpress.com. He can be reached at tcohen@ajf.org.

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