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Panel on the Nonprofit Sector

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Independent Sector Convenes National Panel on Nonprofit Sector

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Senate Finance Committee Invites Sector-Wide Input to Improve Governance and Practice

Release Date: 10-12-2004

For information, contact:

Jeanne Ellinport
(202) 467-6163

(Washington, DC, October 12, 2004)—INDEPENDENT SECTOR today announced the creation of a national panel that will make recommendations to Congress to improve the oversight and governance of charitable organizations. IS formed the “Panel on the Nonprofit Sector” at the encouragement of Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Senator Max Baucus (D-MT).

In their letter to INDEPENDENT SECTOR, Senators Grassley and Baucus noted that “there is great value in your bringing together an independent group of leaders with broad experience… We would welcome the recommendations that will be forthcoming from such a panel to assist our legislative efforts.” The Finance Committee asked that the panel provide a report of its initial findings and recommendations by February 2005 and a final report in the spring of 2005.

The Senators’ call for further study and recommendations is part of a year-long focus on the nonprofit sector by the Senate Finance Committee in response to numerous reports in the media of ethical lapses in governance, fundraising, and other practices. In June, the Finance Committee held hearings and released a discussion paper exploring a number of changes in the law governing the charitable sector. In July, the Committee convened a roundtable of sector leaders to discuss further possible reforms.

The Panel on the Nonprofit Sector is comprised of 25 nonprofit and philanthropic leaders from a wide spectrum of public charities and private foundations from all parts of the country, reflecting diversity in mission, perspective, and scope of work. Paul Brest, president, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, of Menlo Park, California, and Cass Wheeler, chief executive officer, American Heart Association, of Dallas, Texas, will serve as co-conveners of the group. Diana Aviv, INDEPENDENT SECTOR president and CEO, is executive director, and Patricia Read, IS’s senior vice president for public policy and government affairs, is project director.

View the biographies (.pdf, 230 kb) of the Panel members.

“The charge set out by the Senate Finance Committee is substantial and there is a limited time period to complete this effort,” Ms. Aviv said. “The Panel’s findings and recommendations will require participation and input from many organizations within our sector to have a meaningful impact on legislation, regulations and practices that will define the future of our work.”

The Panel will establish two advisory groups: one of prominent community leaders, including those from other sectors. The second advisory group will include a range of academic and legal experts. The Panel also will create five working groups to study and provide recommendations on issues involved in governance, transparency and financial accountability, oversight of sector organizations, the legal framework for regulating charities and foundations, and specific recommendations concerning small organizations. The Panel will pay special attention to examining the sector’s existing mechanisms for self-regulation and oversight, and compile a report of such activity.

Areas for exploration include, though are not limited to:

  • rules and regulations affecting composition and duties of boards of directors,
  • compensation issues,
  • guidelines on travel expenditures,
  • greater clarity on reporting Forms 990 and 990PF, as well as new disclosure requirements,
  • potential new fees for tax-exempt applications or annual filing requirements, and
  • the proper roles of self regulation and government

“The excitement in coming together—from across disciplines and from organizations large and small—is palpable,” said Mr. Wheeler, co-convener of the Panel. “I am delighted to serve on the Panel and look forward to the meaningful contributions it will make to the good works of the sector.”

“This is an important opportunity for our sector to take up the challenge of looking at how we conduct our business,” said Mr. Brest, co-convener. “We hope that the broad experience and expertise of this diverse panel can be of real assistance to the Senate Committee.”

Private and community foundations, as well as public charities, are being invited to share in the cost of ensuring broad participation from the sector and in securing the necessary technical and legal experts to inform the Panel’s work. The funds raised, while managed by IS, will be devoted exclusively to this endeavor.

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INDEPENDENT SECTOR is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of approximately 600 national organizations, foundations, and corporate philanthropy programs, collectively representing tens of thousands of charitable groups in every state across the nation. Its mission is to advance the common good by leading, strengthening, and mobilizing the independent sector.

from the panel
About the Panel

The Panel on the Nonprofit Sector is an independent effort by charities and foundations to ensure that the nonprofit community remains a vibrant and healthy part of American society.