Governance

Information for Impact: Liberating Nonprofit Sector Data

Information for Impact: Liberating Nonprofit Sector Data
Aspen Institute (January 2013)

Noveck, Beth Simone and Daniel Goroff
01/01/2013

This report addresses the challenges to obtaining better, more usable data about the nonprofit sector to match the sector’s growing importance. In 2010, there were 1.5 million tax-exempt organizations in the United States with $1.51 trillion in revenues. Through the Form 990 in its several varieties, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gathers and publishes a large amount of information about tax-exempt organizations. Over time, versions of the Form 990 have evolved that collect information on governance, investments, and other factors not directly related to an organization’s tax calculations or qualifications for tax exemption. Copies of these returns are available one at a time from the filers or from other sources. The IRS creates image files of Form 990 returns and sells compilationsof them to the subscribing public for a fee. Several institutions, particularly GuideStar, the Foundation Center, and the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) at the Urban Institute, use this IRS data to analyze and present information about individual nonprofits and about the sector as a whole.

Like other important data collected by governments, information contained in the 990s could potentially be far more useful if it were not only public but “open” data. Open data are data that are available to all, free of charge, in a standard format, published without proprietary conditions, and available online as a bulk download rather than only through single-entry lookup. Making the Form 990 data truly open in this sense would not only make it easier to use for the organizations that already process it, but would also make it useful to researchers, advocates, entrepreneurs, technologists, and nonprofits that do not have the resources to use the data in its current form. We argue that open 990 data may increase transparency for nonprofit organizations, making it easier for state and federal authorities to detect fraud, spur innovation in the nonprofit sector and, above all, help us to understand the potential value of the 990 data.

Performance Measurement and Evaluation Systems: Institutionalizing Accountability for Governmental Results in Latin America

Performance Measurement and Evaluation Systems: Institutionalizing Accountability for Governmental Results in Latin America
In S. Kushner & E. Rotondo (Eds.), Evaluation voices from Latin America. New Directions for Evaluation, 134, 77–91.

Cunill-Grau, N., & Ospina, S. M.
06/08/2012

Results-based performance measurement and evaluation (PME) systems are part of a global current in public administration. In the Latin American context, this trend is also a reflection of the broader processes of reform of the latter half of the 20th century, including the modernization of public administration, as well as broad processes of decentralization and democratization, both of which are dimensions of development in Latin America, regardless of the political and ideological orientation of specific governments. This chapter documents the development of such evaluative approaches to organizational quality and raises some issues for further discussion.

Budget Slack, Institutions, and Transparency

Budget Slack, Institutions, and Transparency
Public Administration Review 72(2): 187-95

Rose, Shanna, and Daniel L. Smith.
03/01/2012

Economic theory suggests that it is optimal for governments to use precautionary saving as a countercyclical tool. However, the availability of surplus funds often triggers political pressure for tax cuts and spending increases. Mechanisms for alleviating that pressure include limiting the transparency of slack resources and limiting politicians' discretion to use slack resources for purposes other than stabilization. This article investigates the extent to which these two mechanisms are substitutes. In particular, the authors examine whether the widespread adoption of budget stabilization funds (BSFs) in the U.S. states over the past several decades has been accompanied by a decline in conservative revenue forecast bias. Using panel data from 47 states over a 22-year period, they find that the adoption of a BSF reduces revenue underestimation by approximately two-thirds; however, the size of the effect depends in part on how much a state saves in the BSF and the rules governing BSF deposits and withdrawals. The results suggest that BSFs have the unintended effect of increasing fiscal transparency.

The 2013 Federal Budget's Impact on Communities of Color and Low-Income Families

The 2013 Federal Budget's Impact on Communities of Color and Low-Income Families

Women of Color Policy Network
02/23/2012

The Obama administration's budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 (FY 2013) strengthens the national economy by investing in schools, communities and safety net programs. The FY 2013 budget also includes a number of important investments in infrastructure that will spur much needed job growth in a time of economic uncertainty for many working and low-income families. It is critical that such investments take into account the persistently high unemployment in communities of color, and target spending to increase the economic security of the communities most impacted by the "Great Recession." Additionally, the budget includes important changes to the tax code that will lay the foundation for a fairer and more equitable economy.

How Brazilian prosecutors enforce labor and environmental laws: The organizational basis of creative problem-solving

How Brazilian prosecutors enforce labor and environmental laws: The organizational basis of creative problem-solving
Regulation and Governance (special issue)

Coslovsky, S.
09/02/2011

Brazil's 8,000 prosecutors sit at the crux of the country's legal system, deciding who gets indicted and sued for common crimes and a wide array of civil violations. In many cases, particularly those concerning the most recalcitrant labor and environmental violations, prosecutors realize that compliance is not only a matter of avarice or ignorance. To the opposite, in these cases compliance requires costly and risky changes in business practices that the managers of the implicated firms are unwilling or unable to carry out on their own. Rather than prosecute, which they anticipate will eliminate jobs and undermine business profitability, or clarify the law, which they fear will be futile, prosecutors reach out and assemble a network of institutions willing to cover some of the costs and insure some of the risks associated with these changes. Ultimately, they lead an effort of inter-institutional root-cause analysis and joint-problem solving, and through this endeavor they make compliance the easiest and most obvious choice for all involved. This paper briefly describes this kind of creative problem-solving and then it analyzes how this government agency encourages and sustains this kind of deviant practice within its ranks.

2011 Federal Policy Review

2011 Federal Policy Review
Published by the Women of Color Policy Network, August 2011.

Women of Color Policy Network
08/01/2011

This summary of legislative action pertinent to the Network's federal policy priorities assesses how noteworthy acts and trends in Congress affect the lives of women of color, their families, and communities. Covering the areas of economic security, social equity, and immigration, the brief provides updates on the status of reproductive rights, job creation, safety net programs, and the DREAM Act, among other topics. The Network's assessment of the policy implications indicates that although the federal legislative landscape offers some progressive opportunities for women of color, obstacles to their advancement loom large amongst ongoing budget and deficit reduction negotiations.

First to Fall, Last to Climb: Black Workers in the New Economy

First to Fall, Last to Climb: Black Workers in the New Economy

Women of Color Policy Network
08/01/2011

After decades of slow, but steady economic progress, the Great Recession of 2007-2009 erased many of the previous gains made by Blacks in the labor market. Black unemployment rates have consistently climbed since the recession was declared officially over in 2009, peaking at 16.5 percent in 2010. Employed Black workers, in turn, are disproportionately represented in low-wage, low-skill industries and occupations that offer minimal benefits or opportunities for career advancement. This policy brief provides a snapshot of how Black workers are faring in the labor market and poses policy recommendations for building the long-term economic security of Black workers, their families, and communities.

State Legislative Roundup for 2011

State Legislative Roundup for 2011

Women of Color Policy Network
06/01/2011

As state sessions draw to a close, this brief examines legislative activity in the first half of 2011 in three main areas—economic security, immigration reform, and reproductive rights—and highlights what state-level legislative wins and losses mean for women of color and their families. Clear trends emerge in this summary: an unprecedented number of attacks on workers, immigrant rights, and women’s reproductive health represent challenges ahead for women of color. At the same time, many setbacks were accompanied with signs of promise, including notable rejections of anti-immigrant measures and legal challenges to legislation restricting women’s access to reproductive health services.

Microfinance and Social Investment

Microfinance and Social Investment
Annual Review of Financial Economics, vol. 3, ed. Robert Merton and Andrew Lo. 2011: 407-434.

Conning, J. & Morduch, J.
04/08/2011

This paper puts a corporate finance lens on microfinance.  Microfinance aims to democratize global financial markets through new contracts, organizations, and technology. We explain the roles that government agencies and socially-minded investors play in supporting the entry and expansion of private intermediaries in the sector, and we disentangle debates about competing social and commercial firm goals. We frame the analysis with theory that explains why microfinance institutions serving lower-income communities charge high interest rates, face high costs, monitor customers relatively intensively, and have limited ability to lever assets. The analysis blurs traditional dividing lines between non-profits and for-profits and places focus on the relationship between target market, ownership rights and access to external capital.

A Look at SB 1070 and State-Level Immigration Efforts

A Look at SB 1070 and State-Level Immigration Efforts

Women of Color Policy Network
04/01/2011

Arizona's far-reaching anti-immigration bill, SB 1070, sparked a trend of copycat legislation introduced in 30 states. While most efforts were unsuccessful, SB 1070 and copycat laws have severe negative implications for undocumented people and their families, including American children. SB 1070 and similar legislation create barriers for undocumented individuals to report unsafe working conditions and domestic abuse, separate U.S. citizen children from their parents through deportations, and impose undue fiscal burdens on both law enforcement and overall state budgets in economic recession. This brief highlights state policy responses that strengthen economic security through measures that support immigrant families and enrich communities.

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