Thursday, December 20, 2007

Charity Begins at the Racetrack?
Seems like every other day, a racing driver starts a non-profit foundation for one purpose or another. The cynical among us may suggest that such foundations are tax dodges. Our look at reporting requirements and evaluation of a charity suggest otherwise in the case of the NASCAR Foundation and Speedway Childrens Charities. You can study that for yourself by downloading the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 (Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax) for both organizations. The NASCAR Foundation is the trade name for Motorsports Charities, Inc.; that is what you must enter to find out the information. You can check out any charity's tax exemption status by going on line to the IRS's website ( and searching for Publication 78. You can download a copy of the IRS Form 990 at Guidestar .org ( The form contains a lot of information on where the organizations' money came from, how it was spent, and who received contributions from the organization. CharityNavigator .org rates charities ( and their website has free information. Guidestar has analysis tools available for a fee for those even more serious about their study of a non-profit organization. The business of giving is bigger than you might think; we as a people are naturally generous. When you donate to an organization, you may not want to donate cash, but, as Guidestar President and CEO Bob Ottenhof said, you might want to donate time and talent. Whatever you donate, you need to donate smartly, by studying the financial and operations history of the organization. Don't be completely influenced by the emotional appeals used by organizations--but don't be so cynical that you don't act on that impulse after you do your "due diligence" of checking the charity out. Sandra Miniutti of CharityNavigator .org says to look for a high ratio of contributions vs. expenses, which she says are among the criteria used to rate charities on a 0-4 scale. The bottom line here can be summed up in a quote attributed to the late President Ronald Reagan: "Trust, but verify". We'll also link to these sites from our Motor Sports Radio links page, on the website.