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Self-policing critical

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Charities need to be tough on themselves.

By Todd Cohen

[02.04.04] — Americans think we enjoy a free market, yet government plays a big role regulating our lives and work. Until individuals, businesses and charities can better police themselves, government regulation helps protect us against wrongdoing.

Some advocacy groups favor greater charity regulation by government and by charities themselves.

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, for example, wants Congress to reduce the excise tax on private foundations, and use revenues from the tax to strengthen IRS oversight of charities.

And a growing number of charities are adopting the Sarbanes-Oxley law that requires better corporate accountability.

Government should pay more attention to charities, which represent a big chunk of the U.S. economy and workforce, and are critical to taking on tough social ills.

But charities must work much harder to improve operations and show donors and volunteers their dollars and time are put to productive use.

Simply adopting ethics and accountability policies is not enough.

Boards and donors should push charities to change the way they work, show their impact, stop scrapping over turf and look for ways to share resources and even merge with other charities.

To fix our communities, charities must fix themselves.


Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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