Technology has helped regulators make better sense of non-profit compliance, but just as authorities are playing catch up with these organizations, charities are evolving because of the adoption of non-traditional philanthropy models.
To play catch up yet again, National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) president and Connecticut attorney general George Jepsen proposed the Single Portal Initiative, which will streamline inefficiencies in compliance requirements in 39 states through one website, according to reports.
With improved collaboration through technology, the attorney general offices across the US also aim to address issues of national concern.
“I think this will be revolutionary. It’s important in a lot of ways,” Jepsen noted.
He also envisions the portal to facilitate interstate cooperation in identifying outliers and detecting possible corruption. “It’s that kind of collaboration that makes these investigations possible,” Jepsen observed.
Currently, 70% of US charities filed their Form 990 electronically in May. The service is now available through Amazon Web Services, according to Meghan Biss, senior technical advisor to the director of Exempt Organizations at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Prior to this service, the only way to gather comprehensive information on non-profits was to put the data on DVD, but the IRS has made the paper forms machine readable.
Regulators believe that the proposed portal will also help them better understand emerging models of philanthropy, and better regulate them.
“The sector is unsure of this whole area. We don’t understand it, the language being used, but we need to know this sector. It’s really a movement … not really a question of the nonprofit sector in response to the financial sector but engaging with the market, because the market is part of the solution,” said said Richard Feiner, director of corporate and foundation relations, Weill Cornell Medicine.