With the 2006 calendar running out of days, time is running out for those last-minute tax deductible charitable donations. I'm sure I'm not the only one whose mailbox, and email in-box, have been stuffed with solicitations from groups big and small.
I've seen requests from the National Parks Conservation Association, The Wilderness Society, National Wildlife Federation, the International Wolf Center, the Yellowstone Park Foundation, the Yosemite Fund, and many, many other organizations.
So, how do you decide where to invest? Well, you could go to the Charity Navigator and see how these groups measure up in terms of how much of their donations are actually spent on programming as opposed to administrative costs.
Do that for NPCA, for example, and you'll see that it "exceeds or meets industry standards and performs as well as or better than most charities in its cause." You'll also see that NPCA fares better than the Yosemite Fund, according to the Charity Navigator, but not quite as good as the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, which "exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its cause."
Of course, spend a little time on the Charity Navigator and you'll learn that not all charities are reflected there. One that's missing, and one that I think is more deserving than all others this year when it comes to investing in our national parks, is the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.
This group is just three years old, but has had an incredible impact on the national park landscape. Operating on a shoestring, this group of more than 550 NPS retirees played a key role in leaking, and overturning, the now infamous Paul Hoffman rewrite of the Park Service's Management Policies.
Along with its members' tenacity, what makes the coalition such a remarkable organization in defending the national park system is its more than 12,000 years of collective experience and knowledge, both institutional and program specific.
Among its ranks the group can count five former NPS directors or deputy directors, 24 former regional directors or deputy regional directors, 32 former associate or assistant directors at the national or regional office level, 70 former division chiefs at the national or regional office level, and 132 former park superintendents or assistant superintendents.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that the coalition maintains solid relations with current NPS employees and so can closely monitor the agency's pulse.
Talk about credibility. Is it any wonder that the NPCA calls regularly upon the coalition when it comes time to deliver testimony to congressional committees? And is it any wonder that reporters across the country turn to the coalition when they want reaction to what's going on within the NPS?
What is a wonder is that the coalition doesn't wither and vanish. Not just because the group consists of retirees who should be settling down and enjoying life, not working as hard, or harder, than they did when on the NPS payroll, but because it has so little financial underpinning. That point was driven home earlier this month in a High Country News article that contained the following paragraph:
From the beginning, the coalition leadership wanted it to be different than the traditional, often slow-reacting environmental advocacy group. (Rob) Arnberger likens the retirees to a quick-strike force. They communicate mostly by e-mail. They have no office, no staff and no bank account (although they have an application pending with the federal government for nonprofit status and hope to hire professional grant writers soon). They use the Washington, D.C.-area media relations firm the Hasting Group, and The Wilderness Society handles what money the coalition receives from grants and donations. The small 444s Foundation based in Bellevue, Wash., whose mission is to "protect wild lands and wildlife in western North America," has given the group $25,000 in the last two years.
While I can't quibble with any of the groups that shower us with year-end solicitations, I can't think of any more deserving and more worthwhile than the coalition. And so, if you can only give to one or two groups, I'd urge you to seriously consider the coalition.
Check out their website to learn more about their collective background, their views on how the national park system should be run and their concerns about what's going on within the NPS. And then write them a check. For now, donations should be routed through The Wilderness Society, which returns the funds to the group.
Here's how to do it:
Checks or money orders should be made out to 'The Wilderness Society.' In the memo section, add 'For CNPSR.' Send donations to:
The Coalition of NPS Retirees
5625 North Wilmot
Tuscon, Arizona 85750
The coalition will in turn consolidate donations and send them to TWS for deposit. Since TWS is a tax-exempt organization, donations are tax-exempt to the extent allowed by law. Donations to the Coalition will be used to further goals outlined in its Strategic Plan.