Pointed Questions Welcome!
Written by Dana Jean
Friday, 13 January 2012 16:31
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In response to yesterday's post, Book for Your Buck, I received a comment on WordPress that brought some light to the need for transparency.  Thank you to that reader for asking us some pointed questions.  It was enormously helpful, so much so that I've decided an additional blog entry was in order, solely devoted to answering those questions.  PLEASE take a few minutes to read our answers, and then do me an even bigger favor and respond back with more questions.  This is exactly the type of "conversation" we want to be having with people who are interested in ULC.  We are more grateful to you for making pointed questions than you can ever possibly know.  

1) Why does ULC not list a physical address? 

We have no official offices here in the U.S. other than my own home, and because we don't have very much "hard" correspondence, I simply have chosen not to get a post office box yet because it's just an added expense.  Would it help if I rented a P.O. box?  That seems so anonymous, but I guess not listing an address is even more anonymous.  If you think that it would be better, I will take your advice though.  We’ve been thinking about it for a while but hadn’t wanted to spend the money yet.  Maybe it’s the right time.

I'm also thinking that I need to work on our WordPress format a bit.  I realize it has less information on it than our website, and perhaps blog readers don't tend to look for the website after reading a blog entry.  I'll see about making a link to our website more prominent.

2) Can we confirm ULC’s IRS 501(c)3 status?

You may definitely verify our status with the IRS.  It is in good standing.  If you email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , I will share our most recent IRS990 (from 2010) via Google Docs.  And, your question brought something to my attention:  our website does not have our Employee ID Number (EIN) listed, and it probably should.  I'll check with our attorney to see the legalities of posting it.  In the meantime, if you'd like to know what it is so you can check our background, again, please email me.  I am more than happy to provide it.

3) Why is ULC not registered with GuideStar?

You're right, we are not registered with Guidestar  Honestly, until recently, I did not know about Guidestar, and then it was only brought to my attention because someone on LinkedIn accused us of having violated our 501c3 status.  The accusation was completely unfounded, but stemmed from an organization with a similar name that was listed on Guidestar and who had indeed violated their 501c3 status.  That organization

    is not us

.  But, if you search with the correct spelling of our name, we do turn up in their list (here's a link:  http://www2.guidestar.org/organizations/65-1121532/universal-learning-centre-incorporated.aspx" target="_blank">http://www2.guidestar.org/organizations/65-1121532/universal-learning-centre-incorporated.aspx)  I did not realize that I needed to register until I did the search just now.  I will definitely go do that, and thanks so much for bringing up this question!  I was under the impression that Guidestar got their info directly from the IRS and that I didn't need to do anything.  If I'm not mistaken, our 990s don't show because we bring in less than a certain amount of money each year, but I could be wrong.  In 2010, we brought in less than $50,000, by the way.

In looking up Guidestar, I’m realizing that there are many resources like Guidestar, such as Charity Navigator.  I will look into which are the most reputable and see about getting us registered on all appropriate sites.  Thanks for pointing that out.  I hadn’t realized the need!  If you have suggestions in addition to Guidestar, please let me know.

4) How do you know the money is really going where we say it's going?

This is such a tough question because I know even with a 990 form, it's hard to trust a small, unknown organization unless you have a personal connection.  And until this year, we really have kept our network very tight to us.  We had not branched out and asked unknown people to help, so we had not had these questions come up.

What I can say is this:  We do not have crazy high overhead like some of the large nonprofits were reported to have during coverage of the disasters in Haiti and Japan.  We pay no salaries other than the three in Haiti, and the combined total of those three salaries is $450 USD per month.  We have no office space outside of Haiti, and we use few office supplies, so I usually just pay for those out of my own pocket.  The overhead in Haiti is minimal.  The space we have in Pilate costs us about $1,300 USD per year to lease, and now that we've received a donation of a 2-acre parcel of land, we will be able to phase out of the leased facility as we build our own structure.

Every penny of the donations we have brought in to date has gone directly to the facility in Pilate, to fund the shipping, to rent and renovate the facility, to pay the staff, and to begin construction of the guesthouse that will be used to house volunteers and interns.  In the next 12 months, the figures will change as we begin construction of a permanent structure in Pilate, lease and renovate facilities in Ouanaminthe (which means hiring more staff), and establish some programs like a bookmobile and educational enrichment programs at the learning centres.  We also plan to hire a consulting librarian who will move to Haiti from the U.S. and travel between our sites to train staff and help establish strong infrastructure in the centres.  We also need to hire a development professional because we will be going from under $50,000 per year to a budget of $500,000 per year and will need professional help to raise that amount of money.  And, last but not hopefully not least, we will be targeting a grant to fund the executive director’s salary and a librarian, both of which will be well under the industry standard.

Again, thank you to the reader who pointed out areas we needed to address.  We are facing some significant growth this year, so your critique, questions, comments and opinions are very helpful!  Please keep it coming! 

(Our blog was originally started on WordPress, and we will continue to post to both WordPress and our website for the time being, although the plan is to eventually move the blog entirely to our website.) 

Last Updated on Friday, 13 January 2012 16:39
 

Comments  

 
0 #1 Lou Newman 2012-03-25 15:38
Last Sunday, March 18th, 2012, my husband Chuck Newman, architect Gary Grossman and I had the pleasure of meeeting with Jacques and Dana Jean to learn about ULC and discuss construction of a new learning center.Jacques' personal story was compelling and helped us to understand the educational challenges faced by most Haitians. The use of the learning center--not just as a library-- but as a civic center equipped to educate the community in health and sanitation matters, computer skills and much more, shows the enormous value these centers will become.

It is always a joy to see enthusiasm in a new organization but it was especially comforting to see the depth of forethought and planning.

For those who seek to give aid to Haiti and its people, this is a worthwhile charity that will have a major impact.

Lou Newman
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