If you gifted some of your hard-earned money to a charitable organization, would it surprise you to learn that after receiving $2.6 million in donations over a year's time, the organization ended up giving away only $5,000? That's the brouhaha happening with Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation, now that tax records show her charity spent the vast majority of its 2012 assets on lawyers, accountants, and publicity.
Lady Gaga's mother, who is the foundation's president, says that the scrutiny over the funds is a "misinterpretation" of how the Born This Way Foundation works. I see her point, but I can also understand why there are some raised eyebrows over this nonprofit's cash allocations -- particularly the $808,661 that was spent on a mysterious category simply described as "other."
Born This Way spent over $500,000 on web/digital consulting, stage productions, social media, travel, and event coordination. That all makes sense, given the charity's somewhat nebulous but surely well-meaning mission to "help connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a kinder, braver world." Gaga's mother, Cynthia Germanotta, explained some of their tactical efforts:
Born This Way Foundation's work has focused heavily on providing information on empowerment through its website, raising awareness of the importance of being kind to others through public relations and social media, bringing messages about individuality and bravery to communities around the country via the Born Brave Bus Tour and multiple events.
However, it seems to be the foundation's spending in other categories that has some wondering if those $2.6 million in donations were used wisely:
• Legal: $406,552:
• Philanthropic consulting: $150,000
• Research: $60,000
• Publicity fees: 58,768
• Other: $808,661
Under ‘grants to organizations or individuals,' Born This Way spent $5,000.
Germanotta is defending Born This Way with the statement that the report "misinterprets the (foundation's) essential mission and critical work":
We are an organization that conducts our charitable activity directly, and we fund our own work. We are not a grant-maker that funds the work of other charities, and were never intended to be. (...) Every dollar spent across these categories, including the legal fees towards the safe and effective implementation of each initiative, directly serves the Born This Way Foundation’s core mission of empowering youth. (...) a true examination of this form, not to mention a clear understanding of the differences between a grant-making organization and one that carries out its work directly would have made this a non-story.
I get what she's saying, and I agree that singling out that $5,000 doesn't make sense given the organization's overall mission. But I can also understand why people are questioning how the money was spent, particularly considering this is a nonprofit exempt from federal income taxes.
Separately but related, I'd like to offer my various legal, consulting, research, and "other" services to Born This Way. I'll take a check or just a giant envelope of cash, whichever's easier.
What do you think of this tax record info for Born This Way? Do you think it's much ado about nothing?
Image via Gaga Media