Monday, May 10, 2010

Charity Case

The ExploreHoward blog says Columbia Association leaders want to turn something called Friends of Columbia into a charitable, non-profit organization that can accept grants and donations for CA projects.

At its April 29 meeting, board members asked CA staff to provide them with explicit instructions for moving forward with the Friends of Columbia, which is designed to support CA projects open to the public, such as Symphony Woods Park, pathways, and upgrades and maintenance at the community's three lakes and related watersheds.

CA President Phillip Nelson said moving ahead with the Friends organization is "critical."

"Without a 501(c)(3) status, we can't apply for grants, we can't compete for grants. It all has to come out of our capital budget," he said. "Without it, we're at a disadvantage."

According to Rafia Siddiqui, CA's vice president of administrative services, CA's first attempt to become a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) was denied by the IRS in 1983, as the association itself does not qualify for such status. CA is a 501(c)(4) -- a nonprofit organization that is not eligible to accept donations that are tax-deductible for the donor.

Board member Alex Hekimian, of Oakland Mills, questioned why previous momentum to create the Friends organization seemed to go "off a cliff."

In 2005, CA officially created Friends of Columbia as a separate legal entity by submitting articles of incorporation to the state Department of Assessments and Taxation. The process stalled there, however, as the CA board could not agree on the composition of the "Friends" board.

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