Nonprofit Tax Donations; Corruption in Bayview …

by on March 25, 2009

Dear Randy:

Project Open Hand never opposed the San Francisco living wage ordinance! As a private citizen, not an employee of POH, I was appointed by the Board of Supervisors and elected co-chair of the Living Wage Task Force that worked with Human Services Network agencies to assure that the proposed law focused on for-profit contractors and covered low-wage workers at businesses on port and airport property, and if nonprofit contractors were included, the city would provide adequate funding in our contracts.

Willie Brown subsequently cut a deal to exempt the restaurants on port property, and pass-through funding for nonprofits was provided in the first few years, but not since. Project Open Hand and many other nonprofits have always paid higher than the living wage rate, and support laws that raise the standard of living for people we serve.

Jim Illig
San Francisco

RANDY SHAW REPLIES: I heard Illig testify at a Supervisors Committee that the proposed living wage law would hamper Project Open Hand’s ability to provide services. I subsequently wrote a piece for the Bay Guardian criticizing this stance.

To the Editor:

While your piece about nonprofit tax donations is among the most persuasive arguments for not jumping on the bandwagon, I think you misjudge the motivation of many donors and nonprofits in this debate. Many of those who have been most active in opposing tax alleviation for wealthy individuals historically have been UHNWIs. A prominent case in point is Bill Gates Sr. and his arguments FOR the Estate Tax.

This time it appears that academicians and associations, such as the Center on Philanthropy and fundraising membership groups, have been most vocal about not tampering with existing tax deductions for charitable giving, not wealthy individuals. And nonprofits aren’t acting as lobbyists or public relations campaigners for wealthy donors, either.

I believe there is a genuine concern that playing with current deduction schedules will negatively impact giving in a soft market. I believe they are right — but not because of the financial impact on major donors but the psychological impact on middle donors. Why? The amounts given by wealthy individuals is rarely influenced by tax considerations. However, people who aspire to be wealthy but are not, may be so concerned and upset about these changes, not understanding their implications, that their will be a chilling effect on their giving.

This is evident in the results of a survey I recently conducted and in its closest analogue, the unpopularity of the “death tax” among top earners whose assets are insufficient to be subject to the estate tax. As in politics, it is the middle group, a sort of philanthropic “undecided voter” bloc, who are being played to by forces on both sides of the argument. And since so much pressure is being put on charities to make up for what the government may be unable to do given the economic crisis, I believe that any effort which will make this group of middle donors uneasy and therefore less willing to give is ill-advised.

Quite simply, in the psychology of philanthropy, where fundraising and not altruism is the driver, there is too little reward in this tax change to warrant its risk to charitable giving.

Jay Frost

To the Editor:

So let me get this straight. You feel that people should not donate to those organizations that they agree with or feel are doing good and will spend their money wisely, and instead, just hand it over to the government to dish out as they see fit? That’s a dumb idea.

You example of Harvard is ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE. Harvard would not even exist today if it were not for private donations. The government never would have funded them, and instead would have funded all colleges to the same level as Harvard, thereby funding colleges that don’t do good at the same rate as colleges that do a great job. America is great because we have great institutions, such as Harvard, Yale, the Clevaland Clinic, and on and on. And you now want to stop the promotion of great institutions and let the government handle it? How’s that panning out so far?

Are those public schools that the government runs doing a fantastic job for you? Such a good job that you don’t need the private colleges to re-train them when they graduate from high school? I take such an opposite view of you. If our public schools were all converted to private schools, and the money that government pays to run public schools instead went with the individual child, to whatever school they attended of their choice, our schools would be amazing. Why? Because parents would send their kids to the GREAT schools, which would get better. The failing private schools would fail, and would go away.

Instead, we have a government that keeps paying for bad schools. They try to do this “merit” pay junk, but they can’t do it to the same degree that a private school could do, and as such, it will fail. Free Market is what made America great. Donations to SUCCESSFUL non-profits is what made America great. The government stepping in and not allowing bad people / institutions to fail is NOT what will make America great. Look at AIG … Thanks Uncle Sam … Free Market was just about to give them a spanking, and then you stepped in and gave them billions of dollars, and then were surprised when they didn’t spend it wisely. Did you happen to notice that there were NO investors who gave AIG money.

That’s because they were smarter than the government. They realized that a company that failed on its own, won’t get any better with more money given to it. The government however decided that THEY could solve AIG and make them a great company. Too bad, unlike the private investor, the government didn’t realize that AIG was being led by idiots that will make the same idiotic decisions with tax payers money as what they did without it.

Trust me, get the government out of the way and successful companies will succeed, and un-successful companies will fail. Same is true with non-profits, which is why your idea of letting the government give money to non-profits is so retarded. In fact, I would make guess that YOUR nonprofit will fail within the next 10 years with your leadership, if you continue to think the way you do.

Peg Lambert

Dear Mr Shaw:

You wrote: “Government, not private donors, should decide how tax dollars are allocated. For too long, wealthy people have been allowed to redirect their taxpayer dollars away from serving education, health care and other pressing public needs to boosting symphonies …”

I guess our elected officials -or worse, some bureaucrat at the Treasury- know better how to allocate our work, time, dedication and efforts (money) than anybody else. -Call that arrogance!-. According to you, individual citizens are stupid or perverse, thus should be taxed and obey.

For too long, the rich and poor -for all that matters-, have been paying for military ventures (Iraq), political campaigns, Guantanamo Bays, endless pork programs, etc. Being “allowed to redirect” the taxes one pays insures that one\’s work (tax dollars) will be allocated in better things than in the construction of weapons of mass destruction, building Berlin Walls’ (fence at Mexico’s border) and the now World famous corporate welfare (bailout) programs started by the Bush administration and continued by Obama’s.

Maybe Mr Gates (…that geek that dropped out of that elite School called Harvard to found Microsoft) gets a tax break from giving money to the San Francisco Opera. Good for him! I know for sure he gives a lot more money to charities and foundations that provide health care and education in Africa … One of those places where the Obama’s “universal health care” demagoguery won’t reach.

Mr Shaw, you should be ashamed for the near sighted and biased column you wrote.


Hugo A. Rocha


I am extremely disappointed in your mentioning Communities of Opportunity in your article about exposing political corruption in San Francisco’s Bayview, without interviewing those of us (me) who work in the Bayview 6 and 7 days per week. I was born here, attended school here, worship here and work faithfully and tirelessly to make a real difference.

Randy, there is no trickery, mischief or underhanded actions that I am aware of within COO. Just real people, doing real work with a population of people that have been ripped apart at the seams for many, many years. For many of us our parents, came to California after the war for a better way of life. Torn from the effects of being ripped from their home land, dragged over in boats, bond into slavery, released from slavery, some without even shoes, food, or a place to sleep. Human beings dug holes in which to live and survive.

Bayview has gone from hope to despair, with the closing of the shipyard. We have been left with a white elephant. Drugs ripped the heart and soul out of the children of this community. As blight sat in a few soldiers came in started to unravel a mess they did not create and now with organizations like COO back to revitalization with our new generation of youth we struggle daily to impact families with opportunities to learn, grow and move ahead. Daily we press on being a part of the change and not just watching the change go on around us once more without us as in the Fillmore.

The irony, is that just at the time, we are crawling up out the hole and see a light at the end of the tunnel, people who have done NOTHING want to attempt to analyze our process and progress.

So Randy, if your really want to write truth in journalism, met me on the corner of Third and Palou and I will give you a tour and then you can report the facts just the facts.

Regina Douglas

You can submit letters to the editor by clicking on this link: or by writing to:

Beyond Chron
126 Hyde Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
415-771-9850 (phone)

Filed under: Archive