Sunday, July 19, 2009

What is This All About?

I am launching this blog, Perspectives on Charity Accountability, as President of the International Committee on Fundraising Organizations (ICFO). While I am a neophyte at this new media stuff, I felt it is time to engage a conversation about charity accountability and monitoring around the world. Therefore, the purpose of this site is to provide some commentary on issues arising out of the work of monitoring those organizations and institutions that are important to the civil society movement, with particular emphasis on public benefit organizations.

This site is not primarily directed to providing commentary on issues in the non-profit sector that are of principal concern to donors and the public generally with respect to the raising of funds and accountability, and how funds are used in advancing the mission of the charity or public benefit organization. Rather, the emphasis will be on how charities can be accountable to their constituencies through the application of legislative and regulatorily imposed requirements and by standards issued and enforced by independent monitoring organizations and self-regulatory bodies.

Just over fifty years ago, representatives from Denmark, Germany, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, and later, The Netherlands, gathered in Bonn, Germany to form an association of monitoring organizations. Over the next few years, this informal association of like-minded foundations became more formally established as the Commission Internationale Pour Le Controle Des Dons, International Kommission Für Spendenordnung, Internationella Kommissionen För Inslamlingskontroll, and International Commission for Donations-Control. But, more about how these foundations and organizations functioned in performing their monitoring activity, such as it was fifty years ago.

The agendas of those early meetings appeared to deal was the gathering and exchange of information from national foundations monitoring charitable activity. The goal was to advance the missions of national monitoring foundations and promote interest in unaffiliated countries, such as France, the United Kingdom, and Belgium. In time, the agendas included establishing international standards and monitoring practices.

What is clear from this early history is that there was great interest in understanding the nonprofit sector, and specifically how it operated across national boundaries. As its organizing purpose became clearer, the organization was formally established as the International Committee on Fundraising Organizations (ICFO) and chartered in The Netherlands. Since its founding, the membership of ICFO has grown to include representative groups from Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United States, with supporting membership organizations from Belgium and the United Kingdom. See This site will describe some of the history and role of the national members of ICFO, and how they have evolved over time to find common means of monitoring the nonprofit sector.

Much has changed in the 50 years since the founding of the International Committee on Fundraising Organizations or ICFO as it is known. This site will explore some of those changes, including the return of the concept of civil society, the nature, functions, and roles of nonprofit, charitable, and Non-Government Organizations (NGO) in meeting human and societal needs, the role of governments in providing human, social, and quality of life services verses that of the charitable institutions, and the role of governmental monitoring of charitable organizations and activities verses independent monitoring or self-regulation.

The ICFO website ( contains contact information about the member organizations performing some form of monitoring, the Board, the ICFO Constitution and International Standards, publications that have been presented by individuals associated with ICFO, press releases, the annual reports of activities, and the minutes from the Annual General Membership meetings.

The Constitution, the International Standards, the Annual Reports prepared by the ICFO Secretary General and approved by the membership, and the approved minutes of the Annual General Membership meetings all represent the official voice of ICFO. My commentary on this site, while hopefully consistent with the approved official positions of ICFO, represents my opinions and hopefully opinions that will spark discussion both within ICFO and on this site.

Consistent with the primary goals of ICFO, this column encourages the exchange of information and experience relating to public benefit organizations and their accountability. Because of the international nature of ICFO, this column will attempt to address those issues that cut across the various cultures and jurisdictions, suggest areas of interest for cooperation between independent non-government monitoring organizations, and matters relating to cross-border fundraising. Therefore, comments are encouraged.

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