Charlotte’s LGBT center: Irresponsible spending, irresponsible non-profit governance

UPDATE: Center will host ‘open forum’ on Dec. 4, 7 p.m. More info…

Archive: All coverage of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte

Rent or resources? That’s the question I asked in a post about the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte last week, in which I argued the center would be much better off spending less money on occupancy expenses and more money on programming, projects and services benefiting the community.

In short, I believe the center has been setting the wrong priorities for the community dollars entrusted to their care and have been poor fiscal stewards of your money, irresponsibly spending as much as 60 percent of their total expenses over the past four years on occupancy expenses like rent and utilities.

As it turns out, the center may also be guilty of irresponsible non-profit governance and potentially illegal fundraising activities.

According to the North Carolina Secretary of State, the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte is currently operating with an expired charitable solicitation license.

The license, offers public oversight over non-profit organizations, ensuring that groups soliciting money from citizens are doing so for legitimate purposes.

Why is this important? I’ll let North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall explain it for you, as quoted on the solicitations division of her website (emphasis added):

North Carolinians are known for their generosity and willingness to help their neighbors. While there are many deserving organizations that need our support to continue their good works, we all want to ensure that our hard-earned money is going to be spent wisely when we donate to our favorite causes. A quick call to our Charitable Solicitation Licensing Section can help you educate yourself about an organization’s background before you make a donation. In short, I advise all North Carolinians to “check before you write one.”

The center faced a charitable solicitation license expiration on May 15, 2013. The center was granted an extension to Aug. 15, 2013, coinciding with the group’s extension for filing their federal Form 990, the annual tax return similar to individual returns many non-profits, including the center, are required to file with the IRS.

But, you won’t find the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte’s record on the Secretary of State’s website. That’s because the group actually filed under their legal name, “The Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte,” which they have not yet updated with the North Carolina Secretary of State’s corporations division, the charitable solicitation licensing division or with the IRS.

You can see the center’s licensing information here. Also, below, a screenshot of the license search on the Secretary of State’s website (click to enlarge):

What does all this mean? Simply, the center is not complying with state laws and regulations that allow you — the donor — oversight and accountability on how the organization solicits and spends the money you give it. (As a side note, such lack of oversight isn’t new for the center, which has consistently refused to make its board meetings open to the public, refused to provide copies of their bylaws to me and others and fails to post their annual tax return to their website, where donors and potential donors can easily find them.)

What’s more, their solicitation license was expired by the time the group held their first annual fundraising dinner, the Autumn Jubilee, in October. Holding such a charitable fundraising dinner is one of the criteria that explicitly requires an organization to register for a solicitation license with the state (barring any potential exemptions, which, I do not believe the center has).

Perhaps you are one of those folks who disagree with me when I say the center is not abiding by the spirit of their mission and purpose. Perhaps you believe the center is doing a fine job with the money you donate to them. But, even if you disagree with my assessment of their activities, I think we can all agree their activities — whatever they may be — should be done legally and with the proper, responsible oversight given to state agencies, donors, volunteers and community members.

P.S. — I’ve spent the last week discussing in detail, both on my blog and on Facebook with other community members, about my vision for the center and its need to provide more programs and projects for the community. Currently, they provide no substantive programming. The programming they do have — game nights and their Beach Blanket-, Wizard of Oz and other similarly-themed bingo nights — aren’t even enough to get my community-loving, way-too-involved and philanthropic gay roommate to turn off his Golden Girls reruns, get off his couch and to support the center or attend events there.

So, imagine my surprise when looking at the center’s original charitable solicitation license application and I noticed line numbers 5 and 6:

5. Describe the purpose for which you are organized: Public Charity — providing programs and services in support of the Charlotte LGBT community

6. Describe the purpose for which contributions will be used: To provide programs and services primarily in support of the Charlotte LGBT community.

That application was received by the Secretary of State in October 2012. A year later (and 12 years after their initial founding) and the best the center has come up with are game nights and bingo nights. I’m not knocking social events like game nights — many people might need an inclusive social outlet and kudos for the center for providing such an opportunity. But, I think most would agree that playing games and shouting “Bingo!” once per month aren’t the types of substantive programming that will inspire, connect with, unite or invigorate community involvement and increased donor activity.

P.P.S. — I’ve said multiple times that I’m not seeking to destroy the center. I want to save it. If I didn’t care, I’d simply sit back, like others are, and wait for the organization to fold. But, after years of having my feedback and constructive criticism rejected by center board chairs and directors, I’ve turned to my personal blog and Facebook to air these grievances publicly. I want the center to succeed, so I’m not reporting their potentially illegal fundraising activities to the Secretary of State. However, if you should feel so moved, you can click here to access the complaint form.

UPDATE: Center will host ‘open forum’ on Dec. 4, 7 p.m. More info…

Archive: All coverage of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte

3 Responses to “Charlotte’s LGBT center: Irresponsible spending, irresponsible non-profit governance”
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  1. […] The catalyst to this public sharing and airing of previously unheard and/or ignored grievances has been my past week’s coverage and commentary on the center, starting last Sunday with the post, “Rent or resources? What are local LGBT organizations’ priorities?” Last night, I also published, “Charlotte’s LGBT center: Irresponsible spending, irresponsible non-profit governance.&#8221… […]

  2. […] of taking responsibility for their many mistakes in non-profit governance, including their expired charitable solicitation license from the North Carolina Secretary of State, the center and Dunn thought it was more important to paint me merely as a critic with no […]

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