Wednesday, June 6, 2012
The town of Signal Mountain is nearing a consensus with the Friends of the Library board on an operating agreement that details terms related to its fundraising activities.
“This will only be for someone who fundraises solely in the name of the town,” Town Manager Honna Rogers noted, naming the former MACC Foundation as the only other entity to which the document would apply.
Friends of the Library board president Sue Gee said her group has agreed to sign the document in theory, but there are still some particulars being worked through.
“Everybody is in complete agreement with signing the document and moving forward and keeping it on a good, happy plane with the town,” she said, although noting that “it’s been a while to bring some of them [board members] around.”
“I certainly do see the need for the town to have some sort of knowledge about what’s going on with organizations running under their direction, more or less,” she added.
Rogers said the agreement is not only protection for the town, but also for the signing organization.
“If you’re using the [town’s] name when you solicit donations, then people expect us to know where that money is going,” she said. “It’s protection for both sides so that the money raised does come to the town and also so any money donated goes to what it was donated for.
“If we don’t have that [agreement], technically the town can take money and use it in a different way possibly. It can take money from the library and put it toward the MACC.”
The proposed agreement presented to both the Friends of the Library board and former MACC Foundation, which ceased operations after refusing to sign the document, denote that the group must agree to donate to the town all funds acquired through its major fundraising activities that are intended to benefit the related town property, grounds, employees and programs except 20 percent of the total amount raised through solicitation and fundraising during the group’s fiscal year. Money including dues and fundraising with the stated purpose of covering the group’s administrative costs are not subject to this stipulation, nor is grant money for which the group holds accounting responsibilities.
“We couldn’t do business, we couldn't have raised the kind of money we’d raised,” said former MACC Foundation board member Paul Hendricks in regards to the limited overhead costs, noting that even simple mailings come with postage and paper costs of up to several thousand dollars.
A former Signal Mountain mayor, Hendricks said he also disagrees with the general concept of the new oversight measure.
“There are already state and federal laws governing nonprofits,” he pointed out. “The town does not need to add to that regulation. The town should merely expect a nonprofit to obey the law and the town should promise to spend any monies donated for the purpose for which they are given.
“If citizens offer to donate their time and money, the town’s response should be to ask ‘How can I help you?’ and get out of the way. The town should remember that it is here to serve the citizens and not the other way around.”
Red Bank City Recorder Ruth Rohen said no such agreements exist with nonprofits who raise money in the name of her municipality, but that’s because there are no such groups.
“If we had groups like that we would have an agreement,” she said.
The city of Collegedale does have groups who raise money in the name of the city, but there is no formal agreement between them and the city, according to City Recorder Cristy Pratt.
“They pretty much let the commission know what they’re doing; they kind of get their permission before, but there’s nothing in writing,” she said.
There is no mandated deadline or timeline in place for the local library group to sign the agreement, according to Rogers, but she said she expects the process to be concluded sometime this year.
“We don’t have any problems, so it’s not like we’re racing to get done,” she said. “The next step is we do want to develop agreements with people who use town facilities. We’ve talked to representatives from the Playhouse and they want that too.”