Aren’t tax returns *Fun*?

01/01/2012 at 6:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Is everybody excited for tax season?! January 15 to April 15, woo-hoo…!

I’m dreading it. My tax return is the opposite of fun; I bet yours isn’t much better. Certainly filling out tax returns can be headache-inducing, to the point where some folks hire out the service to a third party. But sometimes, examining financial statements and tax returns can reveal useful – if dry – information.

I don’t mean to get paranoid here, but since Jezebel pointed to a fascinating critique of anti-gay marriage group NOW’s tax records carried out by American Independent, and Feminist Whore pointed out the high salaries received by higher-ups at the Police Executive Research Forum (timely in light of their alleged involvement in suppressing OWS,) I figure it’s fair for me to point you in the direction of some feminist & health nonprofit organizations tax returns – if only to use them as examples of some interesting features to look for when choosing where to donate your hard-earned tax deductible donations. It’s a way for the public to hold charities accountable and a way for the charities to maintain transparency.

Caution: Among many other things, I am not a tax professional. There’s a limit to my interpretations of the following tax returns. I know enough to find public returns mildly interesting, but please address serious inquiries to a real pro. (Good luck with that – I knew a tax professional who replied to all questions about taxes from laypersons (including his friends and family) with, “Sure, I can help you with that, I’ll do some research – if you pay me!”) Nonetheless, nonprofit tax returns are publicly available information you have a right to review. All we’re doing today is stating the obvious. One additional caveat: This post is US-centric, since we’re dealing with US tax laws.

If you want to evaluate charities, there’s some decent guides available online. According to CharityGuide, excellent organizations put about 80 cents out of every donated dollar towards their stated purpose – and you’ll find that purpose explicitly stated within a tax return. In general, fundraiser, salary reimbursement and administrative costs should be relatively low. Good luck with that, since some charities classify fundraiser activities as something else. A shortcut to some strong charities is compiled here and here. I recommend this easy-to-understand 990 guide by Ronald Campbell, but it’s in Word .doc format – Google Docs can open it though.

Of course the financial criteria do not address the subjective, ideological importance a charity to you. That means organizations with high administrative costs may in your eyes still be “Worth it.” Or not – for example, the Salvation Army has an excellent financial rating, but it has been subject to criticism from sex workers and LGBT advocates. So there’s more to think about than money.

Protip: Usually you can use the IRS’s search pages, to confirm that donations to organizations are in fact tax-deductible by using the Search for Charities tool. Alternate searches for financial records can be conducted at Guidestar and Foundation Center. However, according to the IRS’s site, small tax-exempt organizations with revenues below a minimum thresh hold (Between $50,000 or $25,000, depending on the year,) don’t need to file a regular tax return. Such small organizations can report in using an e-postcard instead. And the IRS search function to look for 990-N e-postcard organizations is located here.
It can be a little tricky to find some organizations since the DBA (“Doing business as” – how you know an organization) names might be different from the name on their official tax return. Bitch Media’s official name is “B Word Worldwide.” And to make matters more complicated, some nonprofit orgs accept tax-deductible contributions through a loophole via a pass-through.  In order to make a tax-deductible donation to sex education site Scarleteen, you have to go through the Center for Sex and Culture. (You can donate any amount at any time – but you can’t necessarily deduct the amount at year end unless you do it a specific way.) UPDATE 1/3/11: Heather Corinna stopped by (*excited gasp*) and pointed out that you can make tax-deductible donations to Scarleteen through the NetworkforGood nonprofit organization.

Speadking of Bitch Media! Let’s start off with this feminist organization as an example. You’ll find that there’s a lot of jumping around to do when you look at a tax return.

The most recent tax return is from 2009. Here’s some highlights about how Bitch did that year: I’m seeing negative income (loss, so their expenses were greater than income) for the year – which can happen when you run a non-profit – and negative assets. Non-profits place a higher priority on goals other than making “Profit,” so losses can happen from time to time. But according to the tax professional I quoted earlier in this post, ultimately nonprofits still have to run like a business… I’ve seen nonprofits collapse for financial reasons.

Next up are some yes/no disclosure questions. When I do a quick rundown of this part of the return, I look for check marks that don’t line up with everything else – a “Yes” where most other answers are “No.” For Bitch’s return, I find most of the answers to yes/no questions in the return to be mundane, except for one indicating that a loan to a major stakeholder was outstanding at year end. We can learn more about this loan by jumping to Schedule L, which indicates about $5k remained to be paid back by Lisa Jervis – she’s the founding editor of Bitch.

Parts VIII, IX, and X break out the yearly revenue, expenses & balance sheet by category. Basically, most of the 2009 revenue came from “Other sources” and sales of inventory (magazines?) The revenues in Part VIII Column B & C add up to the $117,386 listed back in Section III as revenue toward Bitch’s goal – analyzing pop culture from a feminist perspective. The biggest expenses (Part IX) were labor related, and about half of their expenses (Column B) went most directly towards Bitch’s mission statement (for tax purposes anyway.)
(FYI I’m not using shorthand for ‘section,’ ‘part,’ or ‘schedule’ – these all have unique meanings and locations so don’t mix ’em up.)

Turning towards women’s health, here’s a copy of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective’s (AKA Our Bodies, Ourselves) 990 for 2009.

What I find most interesting about this return is that, between 2008 and 2009, the amount of net income this non-profit earned netted to almost zero. There was a loss one year and a profit the next. The net income between the two years was ever so slightly negative – something like a loss of -$1660+ total. Interestingly, OBOS lobbied for political activity, as described in Schedule C, $1400 worth of lobbying. Most of their revenue came from “Other sources” and royalties (books?) Most of their expenses were program-related and again, labor-related costs made up the biggest chunk of expenses. If we jump down to Schedule A, we can drill down farther and see that the revenue from “Other sources” came from the public. Schedule F is included, and it lists the value of activities outside of the US.

Readers with vulvar pain problems may be interested in the National Vulvodynia Association’s tax return for 2009. Here’s some highlights of how the NVA did:

The organization had net income (“Profit,” if we were talking about a business,) of a little over $100k for 2009. One interesting response to a yes or no question is that, we see that under part VI (page 6) that there’s a familial or business relationship between at least two of the key stakeholders. A disclosure like that can indicate a potential conflict of interest, so it’s something to keep in mind as a donor. If we drill down to schedule O, we can see that the board president & treasurer are married. Part VII lists out compensation to officers & directors – with this return, we can see that executive director Christin Veasley (you may recognize her name from the website and from interviews, etc.) received about $50k for the year for her work with the NVA.

The NVA generated most of its revenue (almost $300k) from “Other sources,” which means the public at large – and over $50k from investment income, with another $20k from selling assets. The balance sheet shows that the organization holds over $1 million in investments. The NVA’s 2009 tax return lists limited fundraiser expenses. The NVA funds grants for research & treatment of vulvar pain. Labor and grant allocation were the largest expenses – the NVA distributed about $75k worth of grants. Schedule F & I break out where the research grants went – about $50k (doled out over 6 grants to medical and educational facilities) stayed within the US, and $25k (2 grants) went abroad. There are printing, internet, mailing and publishing related expenses broken out as well – keep in mind the NVA maintains a website and produces pamphlets & guides, etc. for patients & doctors. So per Column B of Part IX, most of their operational expenses were related to the NVA’s mission statement.

At this point, I would like very much to show you all the tax records for the New View Campaign, a feminist nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading the social construction view of sexual dysfunction and combatting the medicalization of sex. After all, Dr. Petra Boynton has recommended directing donations to the organization for the last two years. However I can’t find their records on Foundation Center, GuideStar, or on in New York’s state’s registry of corporations (including nonprofits) and businesses. I can’t find the group listed in the IRS charity database. I’m both fascinated and frustrated that I’m having difficulty confirming the organization’s tax-exempt status. It’s not just that I can’t see the 990 document – nonprofits are not obligated to make the forms available online – it’s that I can’t confirm the group’s exemption using the IRS’s publication 78 database.

I’m stumped, however the lack of confirmation doesn’t necessarily mean anything. The New View Campaign could be operating under a different DBA name. The most likely scenario is that the tax stuff isn’t readily available because the revenues are small (I’m comfortable estimating under $25k/year,) and that if I just ask politely, a representative from the group would be happy to send me the New View Campaign’s public tax records. I may yet do something like that – we can always swing back around to analyze the records later.

In conclusion, I hope I have provided readers with some tools about how to follow the money trail at non profit organizations, how much cash you’re willing and able to provide to charities, and what charities make the most efficient use of funds. Keep in mind that there’s limits to the information though, and it can be hard to find this information in the first place if you don’t know where or how to look. Understanding nonprofit finance isn’t easy, and the tax froms can’t tell you everything, but sometimes you can quickly find interesting answers to burning questions.

As for other blogging news – every blog and their grandmother is posting 2011 retrospectives in light of the new year! Expect to see mine, listing 2011’s don’t-miss posts from this blog, later this month.

Interesting posts, some time in October

10/12/2010 at 6:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Dear internet, we sure have a lot of catching up to do. I’m still in the middle of a major life upheveal. Most people would probably be done with this sort of thing by now but I am literally receiving zero help from anyone else so it’s all on me go get through it alone. I still work full-time too so it’s not like I can just take some time off and get it over with.

It’s been awhile since our last roundup, so it goes without saying that a lot of shit went down in the news. Hope you’ve all been keeping up with the news and feminist blogosphere, because at this point there’s no way I can bring you up to speed with everything. So as with all roundups, if we’re missing anything after this, it’s not necessarily because a skipped topic is unimportant. I just got a lot of shit to do. Maybe you would like to help pick up the slack by dropping a link? Or perhaps I can interest you in putting together a guest post?

Friendly reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. There were (technically) two guest posts this week – one that I wrote at Grasexuality, and one that brigid wrote for us here; did you see them yet?
I want to hear more perspectives on the themes dealt with here at Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction. Because I am dealing with such a sensitive topic, I don’t think I can actively recruit new posters, since if I went onto someone else’s blog and said something like, “Hey u wanna write a post about your sexual health and/or feminism on a public forum?!” that would probably be very invasive. For this reason, Guest Posters requesting to remain anonymous will also be taken seriously.
At this time, criteria for inclusion is, “If you think you would fit in here, you probably would.” This may be subject to change but for now we’ll try that & see how it goes.
In an attempt to preemptively fight spam and rude comments, this blog’s email is private. Please leave a comment on this post if you want to write something. I’ll screen comments so you can remain anonymous if you want. That way I’ll have your email and we can collaborate.
Have something you’ve been working on? Send it my way.
Comments made by new e-mail addresses here are auto-screened before going live, so if you want to stay anon use an e-mail address that you haven’t used here before.

Can’t get enough of feminism and sexual dysfunction on the internet? You may want to think about following the Twitter feed, which is more accurately described as my Twitter feed since no one else manages it. Some of my daily mundane and/or angry thoughts sneak in there but I try to include trendy topics as well as a healthy dose of sexual dysfunction related news when I find it.

Now then, on with the weekly blog link roundup. Posts I found interesting over the last week. Share links if’n you got’em.

I have some bad news for women dealing with low libido types of sexual dysfunction… Remember the great Flibanserin debacle of 2k10? Of course you do; how could we forget? Get ready to enter rage-rage-rage mode:
It’s over… The German company Boehringer Ingelheim has ceased its work on producing Flibanserin, an anti-depressant turned possible libido booster for women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD.) Social constructionists, congratulations; you got exactly what you wanted, and now women with low libido types of sexual dysfunctions still have no medical prescription option in the USA. So now women who have tried everything else and exhausted every other resource, tried all the common sense advice, sought help from professionals, tweaked their relationships (if they’re even involved in one!), and run up against or even attempted to adhere to every other piece of rubbish that did and didn’t make it onto our new Bingo Board, still hit a wall. Happy now?
Obviously, I am in fact not happy. I am so pissed off. Even BI cited “Complexities!” as a reason for stopping. Figure it out!
I shoulda done more… I shoulda started a counter-petition to disregard the petition to block passage of Flibanserin. (Note my use of language: I didn’t say “Start a petition to fasttrack Flibanserin,” I just think it’s really messed up for activists to go around telling women that they no one needs something like this. Because how would you know?) The reason I didn’t start such a counter-petition, is not because I knew it would gain very few signatures… I’m really not worried about the number of signatures; it’s the principle of the thing… It’s not because I knew it wouldn’t have done any good, which it probably wouldn’t have. It would have been to show that women with FSD themselves are listening and paying attention, and some of us might even have an interest in a medical option… I didn’t start a counter-petition because I knew doing so would be what would draw the New View’s attention and I would really prefer to remain under their radar as long as possible, because I am selfish and seriously don’t feel like dealing with all the stress and insults and lectures on the history of FSD that I know is inevitable once the organization finds out about what we’ve been doing here.
To my readers with low libido types of sexual dysfunctions (and to friends of folks with libido dysfunctions,) brace yourself: I have a feeling we’re probably going to see another spike in coverage about Flibanserin, (I’m thinking certain feminist websites are more likely to cover it than others, and maybe some op-ed pieces in mainstream newspapers, as well as others) and when we do see it, I can guarantee you it’s going to get real ugly, real fast. Everyone, get your bingo boards ready to go if you’ll be doing any reading on the matter. If you see any new and bizarre arguments about FSD and why no woman, anywhere, ever, needs medication for sexual desire problems ever, in comment sections to the inevitable anti-Flibanserin posts, let me know; we may have to produce a version 2.0 if we keep running into the same old shit again and again.

Looks like we’re stuck with the same ol’ old timey libido boosters of questionable value… here’s a consolation prize, if you can get yourself to Mars New York: A New Aphrodisiac Café Catering To Your Passions.

You know how every once in awhile, like, maybe once every decade or so, a huge study of human sexuality comes out? The Kinsey report, the Hite report, 1990s JAMA study (the one that said up to 43% of women in the US have sexual dysfunction but that was actually a wrong figure to use because the study fucked up the language and should have said “Sexual problem, which may not actually be a dysfunction because not all sex problems are dysfunctions”? Remember when we talked about that already?) Well there’s another new one out – The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB). It’s sponsored by Trojan this time, I wonder what the reaction to that will be considering that the JAMA report had connections to Big Pharma and so there was a conflict of interest there… hmm… do we need to raise skepticism about the involvement of Big Condom…? Conflict of interest with Big Prophylactic…? I don’t know. It is part of the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Anyway, there’s quite a bit of coverage about the report going around the feminist blogosphere!
Unfortunately for reasons cited in the introduction to this post, I haven’t gotten a chance to actually sit down and read the damn thing!
This could be a neat topic to write about some time in the future, if no one else here would like to volunteer. If you will look at the right side of the the Indiana.edu page, you will find a link to the journal article, so it is available to the public (accessibility is another issue.)
Anyway, here’s some links about this big new sex survey in the US. Mind any comment sections, which may be fraught with land mines. Sex Survey! Condom Use Is Highest for Young, Study Finds. Largest Survey of American Sexual Behaviors Offers Snapshot of 21st Century American Sex. Sex in the US: the shocking truth

Hey, speaking of research! Here’s a month-old post I missed from Happy Bodies which is totally relevant to this discussion! This Week in Evaluating Research – some guidelines to keep in mind when we’re doing our homework. This post looks at studies of obesity but I’m pretty sure the same principles apply to sexual health research as well. In fact here’s a link to a post that Jill links to which is more general: Becoming a Critical Reader: Questions to Ask About Qualitative Research; try that on.

Meanwhile, in reproductive health (which for some reason is still sometimes separated from sexual health): Birth control breakthroughs on the horizon

Meanwhile, in Nobel Peace Prizes! IVF, The Nobel Prize, & Sexuality – Something that I rarely (if ever!) see covered in discussions of In-Vitro Fertilization, but that, if you are dealing with infertility, (and I know some of my readers here are) you may want to think about either before or during IVF treatments. This might be one of those times where talking to a sex therapist is worth thinking about, so if for some reason I had to go through IVF I might break my own rule and try it…

At 2600: Blacklisted Words That Google Instant Doesn’t Like [NSFW] – Violet Blue is looking at the sexual terms that Google instant is blocking out but again you should probably check out her original source to see the rest of the list.

When Is a Sex Toy Not an Instrument of Pleasure? – The short version is, when it’s not used as such… like, in this case, when it’s used as a source of non-consensual humiliation. That guy James O’Keefe who was behind the Acorn fake pimp video was going to use sex to humiliate and slut-shame Abbie Boudreau, a CNN correspondent. At the last minute, Izzy Santa blew the whistle.

Here’s some stuff about living with chronic illnesses: Self-Diagnosis: Pudendal Neuralgia, very interesting when read next to On Living Without a Diagnosis. And chances are, if you are living with a chronic illness, problem, or sexual dysfunction… you may not hear about it often, but you are probably not alone. Why You Should Blog About Your Vulva

Something about who is critical about medicine, why, and the effects… in this case, vaccines and autism, but can be applied to other treatments as well. Right wing propaganda machine adopts anti-vaccination stance

Meanwhile, in nuanced discussions about selling empowerment vs. Empowerfulment! Overselling agency: a reply to Barry Dank on teacher-student sex (huh maybe I can ask him about that Disgrace novel; my teacher made a big deal about the goat testicles and dead dog thing and it’s 10 years later and I am still like “Wat”)

Is it really “Strange” sex? – A critical look at the television program Strange Sex, which covers and sensationalizes sexual problems… Including vulvodynia. (I don’t watch that show. Are you surprised?)

Mark Hyman – 5 Steps To Kill Hidden Bugs In Your Gut That Make You Sick – I’m less interested in the advice here – I’m not sure how well it’s been proven, and it’s got this curebie thing going on… What really has me interested is Dr. Hyman’s claim that there’s an autism-bacteria link. This interests me because, if you will recall, I was quite skeptical of a similar claim made in the documentary, The Business of Being Born. Now then: the gut-medicine doctor tells me that autism is linked to gut bacteria, the natural birth advocate openly speculates that it has something to do with a lack of natural hormones secreted during birth… HMMMM… Who do I believe here? Am I the only one seeing a potential conflict of interest? Whom do I trust? And furthermore, what’s missing?

Official: vb.ly Link Shortener Seized by Libyan Government – [NSFW] – Another setback for Violet Blue; this comes on the heels of the Facebook page for Our Porn, Ourselves being removed. VB.ly was a sex-positive link shortener, so, you could have used it to shorten links to adult content. So there wasn’t any adult content hosted on the server, it’s one of those dealies where it just re-directed you to such content. And that was supposed to be allowed but now it’s not.

As always, I’m sure there’s more

I will be your lab rat for the evening

09/30/2009 at 7:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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My specialist’s office called me the other day. Or rather I should say a researcher from the office, to see if I was willing to participate in a vulvodynia study.

I don’t think I can say what questions were asked or what my responses were, since I don’t want to break confidentiality. But, I answered the questions honestly to the best of my ability. It was pretty simple. I think I see where we’re going with this study. I hope my answers, aggregated with other ones to produce statistics, help someone.

This study is only available to women who have had a vestibulectomy, so, chances are you can’t participate in this one.

Don’t feel left out though. The online support groups are helpful for this kind of thing – finding current research & networking – but the trade-off is that it exposes your identity to your friends…
But there’s some studies posted in there.

On one such group, the maintainer posted a link to this site: Dr. Laura Clark – and that site has links to 3 surveys. One is for women with vulvodynia, one is for women without vulvodynia, and one is for partners of women with vulvodynia. I participated in the first of those studies, and my boyfriend completed the last one. Anybody without vulvodynia reading this can think about doing the second one. I’m not sure where Dr. Clark is going with that second survey.

And I’m not sure yet which journal (if any) these results will be published in.

So yes. I am a statistic.

Fine.

It was nice to talk freely about having had vulvovaginal surgery without being judged & condemned.

Post articles about vulvodynia

05/27/2009 at 7:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized, vulvodynia | 3 Comments
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Hey guys, you want to see a recent article on vulvodynia? It’s full text & it’s free!

A practical approach to vestibulitis & vulvodynia

Careful, it’s not work-safe (but then, I suppose few things about vaginas are…) It’s even got pictures.

I don’t want to copy & paste the entire article so instead, let’s have a bulleted point list. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog you may already be familiar with some of what is being rehashed here anyway.

But if you’re not familiar with this topic, then well here’s your chance.

Couple of noteworthy points –

Article breaks out V into 3 kinds: cyclical vaginal infections (recurrent yeast in particular.) Vestibulitis (pain with penetration) and essential Vulvodynia (more generalized pain.)

I still tend to use “Vulvodynia” as a blanket term which includes vestibulitis.
However, technically speaking we’re supposed to start moving away from the “-Itis” suffix in “Vulvar Vestibulitis,” since, that ending implies inflammation. Inflammation was present for me, but it’s not present for every patient. Instead some doctors are moving towards using the phrase “Vulvar Vestibulodynia.” I’m probably going to continue with the -itis though, since I’m more used to that phrase.

This article cites a 16% rate of some type chronic vulvar pain in female patients in Boston. That’s around the same numbers I’ve seen before. That’s not necessarily a 16% rate of diagnosed vulvodynia, just those reporting chronic pain.

I disagree with the headline that says “Medical treatment is ineffective” re: vestibulitis. It’s kind of a weird headline anyway since I always thought that the vestibulectomy was a medical treatment. The only thing I can think of is that the authors consider surgery to be a category of treatment unto itself, separate from “Medical.” Maybe the authors mean “Medical” as in, oral medications?
But then why not mention the oral tricyclic antidepressant approach for vestibulitis? It’s mentioned further down re: treatment of vulvodynia – maybe the authors of this article have concluded that tricyclics work better on vulvodynia rather than vulvar vestibulitis?
Also, the article mentions that steroids don’t usually play out too well as a topical treatment… but why didn’t it mention topical hormones? It’s mentioned as a treatment for older & post-menopausal women, but, I’m a young lady & I used topical estrogen gel for awhile.
I also disagree with this headline because ouch, what a kick in the teeth to women with vestibulitis who would very well benefit from some medical intervention. Surgery or bust just isn’t fair.

The authors note that vulvodynia is more likely to happen among older women, although in practice I’ve seen it among women the same age as I & younger. In practice I’ve also seen resolution take much longer than just a few months for vulvodynia. The authors sound pretty optimistic.

For some reason Physical Therapy is not mentioned as a treatment in this article at all. I find that to be a glaring omission. “Where’s the beef Biofeedback?!”
Dietary changes & avoiding irritants are likewise not mentioned. Alternative treatments like acupuncture & chiropractic is not mentioned.
Sex therapy is missing. Maaaybe this article isn’t really the best place to bring up sex therapy since, the article focuses on typical medical treatments. I don’t think that sex therapy be a good option for myself but the authors could have mentioned it as an option to expand a patient’s sexual horizions. Intercourse does not necessarily have to be the end goal of treatment, which is kind of implied with the patient used as an example at the beginning & end of the text.

The authors do not examine possible causes much.

Some of the sources cited in the footnotes are on the older side. I’m familiar with several studies though; I’ve printed out & read several of these. The Goetsch study in particular comes to mind. I’ve seen statistics in other subsequent studies hover around the same incidence rate numbers that Goetsch came up with so I guess the repeatability makes it a fairly strong research paper. Still, I’d prefer to see a stronger emphasis on more recent work.

So it’s not perfect, it’s missing some things, but it’s still an article on a website so maybe somebody with a medical degree will actually pay attention. Or even a layperson who never heard of such things before.

Maybe…


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