What happened with our fiscal sponsor

International Humanities Center

(If you haven’t yet read Critical Update from Peaceful Uprising, we suggest starting there first.)

We were recently shocked to learn that our fiscal sponsor, International Humanities Center, (a California-based 501(c)(3) charitable trust) had spent the money donated to Peaceful Uprising on their own operating costs. They claimed to be unable to give us access to the funds or to return them – which has left us unable to pay our small staff, rent for our space, or any other expenses. As it turns out, we weren’t the only ones to be deceived – over 200 other Projects under IHC’s fiscal sponsorship were also caught by this horrific surprise.

Last November, upon noticing several delays in payments, as well as lack of communication and transparency, we grew suspicious and began carefully monitoring IHC more closely, though still trusting that the inconvenience would only be temporary. Once we realized that our funds were essentially gone, we took immediate action. We secured an attorney. We dissolved our relationship with IHC, and became an official Project of Living Rivers, a Utah based non-profit organization, under the Directorship of our trusted friend and ally John Weisheit. We’ve also joined forces with other affected IHC Projects, in an effort to cooperatively pursue a return of any remaining funds, along with looking into legal pathways that our attorneys choose to pursue. As a small coalition, we’ve called for an investigation into the matter by California public officials.

That said, we maintain low expectations of any funds being returned.

And now, we are asking for your help as we rebuild. We gratefully invite you to make a secure donation to PeaceUp today. And if you can, please consider becoming a monthly donor to help us sustain our role in the heart of the Climate Justice movement.

Frequently Asked Questions

[spoiler title=”What is a “Fiscal Sponsor”?”]Loosely defined, a fiscal sponsor (sometimes called a “financial umbrella”) is a registered non-profit which provides accounting support for groups whose work falls within their official mission statement. In return, the fiscal sponsor takes a small percentage of all donations to the project, and puts them aside for use by that project. There are many nonprofits that offer fiscal sponsorship, and many projects of all sizes doing all sorts of important work. We have gotten the ball rolling to become an independent 501(c)(3), but that process usually takes awhile.[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Why did Peaceful Uprising trust IHC as their fiscal sponsor?”] We looked at several nonprofit umbrellas before we chose IHCenter. We considered numerous factors before we voted to sign on with them, including: Some of our most trusted allies had recommended them; IHC apparent solvency as an operating and registered non-profit with the IRS; Many other Projects were operating under IHC (in some cases, since 2003.) [/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”What is a “Project”?”]A Project, in our case, refers to organizations that are carrying out semi-autonomous missions as part of a fiscal sponsor (in our case, IHC).  A Project organizes itself, but must have a Project Director to sign agreements.[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Is Living Rivers trustworthy?”]Absolutely. Their executive director, John Weisheit, is a close friend and ally, with whom we’ve worked extensively in the past. John is also the Colorado Riverkeeper of the Riverkeepers Alliance. Unlike our arrangement with IHC, we now have full access to our funds, our own bank account, and share accounting responsibilities with Living Rivers. After this financial upheaval, we’re certain of one thing: we will maintain full control over donated funds in the future.[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”How long was this going on, and why didn’t the Projects know?”] As we continue to work and organize as a coalition of projects that were housed under IHC’s fiscal sponsorship, it seems that everything was going smoothly with IHC until around September 2011.  As more and more of IHC’s projects come forward and tell their stories, we find that everyone is shocked and saddened by the IHC’s tangled deception and abuse of trust that only grows as more and more projects share their experiences and timeline with the coalition.  IHC was entrusted to hold each projects fund as a separate account, where that money was stored specifically for that project’s mission statement alone.  It is not unusual for fiscal sponsors in the non-profit world to not grant their projects access to their banking, so until invoices began to not be paid, there was no reason to be suspicious that the money we had deposited with IHC had been grossly mismanaged.  As we alert our allies, we continue to hear stories about similar situations catching otherwise attentive people by surprise. Nonetheless, hindsight is 20/20, and if we could do it differently, we would have hired an expert to investigate them prior to signing on.[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Was Tim DeChristopher’s legal defense money affected?”]Tim’s legal defense fund has always been completely separate from any of PeaceUp’s money. Thankfully, none of his legal defense money has been affected.[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Do you think you’ll get any of your money back?”] Our lawyer has advised us to maintain very low expectations of any Project getting any of their money back at this point. Nonetheless, our legal council will be working to pursue any course of action necessary to hold IHCenter legally accountable, which may or may not include the distributions of any remaining funds at IHCenter to the projects in whatever way is legally equitable under the applicable legal juristiction. We will keep you updated.[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”I donated to PeaceUP in the past. Do I need to do anything? “]If you were a recurring monthly donor, you should have received a personal phone call or email from us.  Your monthly donation should have been cancelled after your last payment in December 2011.  If you have had another charge go through in January coming from IHC, or wish to renew your monthly donation, please email us at donations@peacefuluprising.org or call us at: #(801) 747 9871.[/spoiler]
[spoiler title=”Is my 2011 donation to Peaceful Uprising still tax-deductible?”] As far as we’ve been able to deduce, your 2011 donations should still be tax-deductible as IHC was a functioning 501(c)(3) charitable trust.  If you encounter any problems, please contact us immediately.  If we find out any more information that leads us to believe your tax-deductible donation is at risk, we will contact you immediately. [/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”I want to support Peaceful Uprising, but I have some questions/concerns. Can I talk to someone?”]We’d be more than happy to speak with you. You can reach us at: 801.747.9871. You can also email us at: info@peacefuluprising.org. We will get back to you.[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”What consequences will come to International Humanities Center?”]We’re not sure yet. That’s not for us to decide. Peaceful Uprising and a small coalition of projects hosted by IHC have sent in a letter calling for an investigation by the public officials of California.  We are hoping that through forensic accounting and an in-depth investigation, we can at the very least learn exactly what happened and make sure that it those in charge are unable to cause financial harm to any other groups in the future. [/spoiler]