Looking the gift horse in the mouth

As a supporter, a former board member and an erstwhile employee of numerous nonprofits, I find some glaring voids in your consideration of nonprofits in WNC [Sharing the Wealth,” April 9].

There is generally no public input for setting nonprofits’ priorities. Consequently, issues are addressed not according to public needs, but rather donors’ perceptions of those needs.

Although the federal and state governments effectively contribute a substantial portion of every tax-exempted donation and, as noted in your article, many nonprofits are providing public services, there is little public accountability. Locally, boards tend to be hand-picked from among a small group of self-selecting and rotating “prominent” citizens, e.g. a former mayor: “I sit on just about every nonprofit [board] in town, it seems.” Boards are honorific and frequently focus on donation response. Fiduciary responsibility is woefully lacking.

Some nonprofits are established to serve the wealthy, resulting in the tax-free use of normally taxable facilities (homes). Two from WNC’s top-20 list were retirement communities generally restricted to persons of considerable wealth, who then contribute no property taxes to support our schools and local governments. Two others were private schools, again catering to wealth.

The nonprofits’ system for acquiring funds is inefficient. The development staffs, grant writers and fund pursuers spend an inordinate amount of time stumbling over each other, trying to keep nonprofits solvent.

Finally, when there are many nonprofits working on the same problem (housing was mentioned), one has to wonder how efficient and capable they are of addressing any issue comprehensively.

I agree that nonprofits can fill a need, but there are problems. If they are to be part of a democratic society and participate effectively, these ought to be addressed.

— Neal Evans
Asheville

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