The California Fire Safe Council, Inc. receives reimbursement for direct and indirect expenses for administering the block grants that go through the Clearinghouse. These funds are "restricted" in that they can only be used for activities associated with administering the Clearinghouse funds. These activities include conducting grant writing workshops on how to apply for Clearinghouse grants, convening the annual Review Committee that selects projects to fund and providing administrative support for that Committee, disbursing funds to the grant recipients, processing status reports from recipients, and other tasks required by the funding agencies. Operating expenses incurred by the CFSCI outside of grant administration, such as lobbying and fund raising, must be funded from other sources.
In addition, the CFSCI has received direct grants, both for Clearinghouse operation and for other projects.
In 2009 and 2010, an attempt was made to obtain details on the various Federal grants the CFSCI has received so that an analysis could be done of how much Federal money has gone to the CFSCI itself for overhead, versus the funding that went to “on-the-ground” projects. This effort was only moderately successful. Three of the four agencies provided partial information: the Bureau of Land Management only provided information about indirect expense reimbursement. The US Forest Service and the National Park Service provided both direct and indirect reimbursement data, but not about all of their grants. Fish & Wildlife, alone among the four agencies, refused to grant a fee waiver. As of June 2010, an appeal is pending.
An analysis of the grants where full data was available on both direct and indirect expenses, about three-quarters of total Clearinghouse funding through 2010, showed that nearly 15% of the Federal funding went to the CFSCI rather than to “on-the-ground” projects. This included a previously unannounced total of $370,000 in grants, including indirect expenses, to the CFSCI by the USFS ‘’in addition to’’ reimbursement for direct and indirect expenses in the 2005 and 2006 Clearinghouse cycles. Further, the USFS gave the CFSCI a direct grant in the 2003 cycle to set up the Clearinghouse in the amount of $60,000 in direct and indirect dollars. The existence of these grants, which came directly from the block grant funds intended for subgrants, only became known when the final list of recipients was received under the FOIA request.
This 15% overhead contrasts with claims by the CFSCI that administration is only 6 or 7%. While it's true that most expenses go to programs, which is how they're reported to the Internal Revenue Service on the Form 990, every dollar that is spent on running programs is one dollar less that is available for actual on-the-ground fire prevention and should be considered overhead, regardless of how the cost is recorded on the Form 990.
Read more about this topic: California Fire Safe Council, The California Fire Safe Council, Inc. (CFSCI): An Independent Corporation, Funding For The CFSCI
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