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Civic Skinny

How some ‘Give Local’ money ended up in Texas.



As schools lower standards, more flunk the Iowa bar.

The generous people of Des Moines last week gave $272,344 to around 140 local charities as part of the “Give Local” campaign sponsored by The Des Moines Register and the Greater Des Moines Community Foundation.

Sort of.

More than $16,000 — about 6 percent — ended up with a fundraising company in Texas or with credit-card processors across the land.

CNA - Stop HIV Iowa

Nationwide, people in more than 50 communities gave more than $50 million to their local charities as part of the “Give Local America” campaign. Of that, as much as $1.5 million was diverted to Texas — it’s hard to say precisely how much — and another $1.5 million or so ended up with credit-card companies.

Here’s the way it works: If last week you wrote a check for $100 and sent it directly to Orchard Place, say, Orchard Place would have gotten all of the hundred. If you decided to give $100 directly but did it through PayPal or a credit card, Orchard Place would have gotten a bit more than $97. But if you gave it through “Give Local Des Moines,” Orchard Place would have gotten just $94.

That’s because “Give Local America” is a trademarked operation run by Kimbia Inc., an Austin, Texas consulting company for online fundraising that takes a 2.99 percent processing fee on top of a credit-card fee. So when you get your receipt in coming weeks for the money you gave through “Give Local,” it will not be a receipt from Orchard Place or the Animal Rescue League of Iowa but rather will be from something called the K Foundation, which has a mailing address in a strip mall in Dallas.

The head of the K Foundation is Dan Gillett, who also is the head of Kimbia. The K Foundation does not file a Form 990 tax return, however, because it is an affiliate of the San Antonio Area Foundation and runs its business through that foundation. It’s hard, though, to figure where the $50 million shows up as revenue as it cycles through Texas. Though the K Foundation issues the receipt, it doesn’t house the money, Gillett says, because the San Antonio Foundation handles the paperwork. Nor does it go through Kimbia, he says. But the annual revenue listed for the San Antonio Foundation is far less than the money raised by Give Local.

That’s kind of a mystery.

What’s more, it will be June 15 before any of the local charities receive the money donated during the Give Local days. That means that, nationwide, Kimbia or the K Foundation or the San Antonio Area Foundation — whoever actually gets the money — will have $50 million in the sock for about 45 days. At 2 percent interest, that would be about $125,000 for those 45 days that someone could earn. But Gillett told Cityview that the money is put into non-interest-bearing accounts.

That’s kind of odd.

Why would a community support Give Local to charities when the charities could make 6 percent more just on direct gifts? “An excellent question,” Gillett said. His answer: People who give to Give Local often are new givers who otherwise wouldn’t think to contribute. And “Give Local” gifts from reliable contributors to local charities are often incremental — gifts in addition to the usual annual giving. What’s more, he said, some little-known charities get publicity, and, it is hoped, money from the program.

And, of course, because it is good for Kimbia, though he didn’t say that.

The Register was involved because it is owned by Gannett, and Gannett last year signed a five-year deal to be the “exclusive national print media partner” of Kimbia for Give Local America. Gannett provides no money but offers resources and publicity, Gillett said.

One example: Last Tuesday, the day of the Indiana primary and the day that huge fire forced evacuation of Fort McMurray in Canada (and the day Eddie Murphy had his ninth child), the Register’s top “news” story — covering more than half the front page — was a story giving 10 reasons why you should “Give Local Des Moines.” (Reason No. 5: “It feels good to donate.”)

Though the Register says nearly $275,000 was raised locally, planners expected more. But Kimbia’s software crashed just as the day’s giving was starting, and for hours it was impossible to give — frustrating charities and infuriating some donors. (“Technology should not hinder the donor or participant experience,” the Kimbia website says, a boast that might need to be updated.) The one-day event was extended for a day, but the total take — somewhere between $50 million and $55 million, according to Gillett — was far less than the $65 million raised a year earlier.

And as of Monday, the “leaderboard” on the Give Local site for Des Moines had recorded just $37,000 in gifts.

“While the outcome of the day wasn’t what The Des Moines Register, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines or the close to 200 nonprofits registered had planned for, we were pleased with the awareness, enthusiasm and the community participation it generated for the first year,” Anne Lawrie, the Register’s brand manager for consumer marketing, said.

And on Sunday the newspaper gave a “rose” to the folks who contributed, in effect congratulating itself. …

A few years ago, many of the nation’s law schools faced a crisis: Young men and women were no longer knocking down their doors in hopes of becoming lawyers. So some schools lowered their standards for admission. At Drake, for instance, the median score on the standard law-school admission tests dropped from 156 in the fall of 2010 to 151 last fall. The average grade point of entering students dropped from 3.41 to 3.27, according to Law School Transparency, a website. Still, enrollments fell.

Now, those students are taking the bar exam — and they’re not doing well. The state bar exam was held in late February, and results were posted the other day. Of the 69 graduates from 23 law schools who took the test, 27 flunked, meaning a pass rate of 61 percent. Five years ago, the pass rate was 73 percent.

Far more graduates take the exam in the summer. Last summer, the overall pass rate for the 227 graduates who took the bar was 86 percent. Five summers earlier, it was 87 percent. Last summer, 16 of 90 Drake graduates flunked, a pass rate of about 82 percent. Five summers earlier, 122 Drake grads took the exam and 16 flunked — a pass rate of 87 percent.

At the University of Iowa law school, the average LSAT score has been almost unchanged the past five years, and the pass rate for Iowa grads who take the Iowa bar has been inching up.

February’s exam was the first time Iowa had used the uniform bar examination — it now is used in 17 states — but that probably wasn’t a factor in the drop since the uniform exam was no different than the exam Iowa gave before.

A year or so ago, Drake was among those arguing that Iowa should eliminate the bar exam for graduates of the state’s law schools — that just graduating was a credential good enough to be a lawyer. That doesn’t seem to be the case, however. …

Incumbent Congressman David Young has close to $1 million on hand as he waits to see which Democrat will win the primary to face him in November. Young has raised $1,212,083 in the past 15 months, with $776,850 of that coming from political action committees. Local givers, maxing out at $2,700, include Dick Levitt and Jeanne Levitt (Young’s father, Denny, was a longtime associate of Dick Levitt), Kyle Krause and Sharon Krause, John Forsyth, three Lambertis — Don, Jeff and Charlene — Gary Kirke, Cameron Sutton, Jill Oman and Joe Crookham.

Crookham also gave $2,700 to Democrat Jim Mowrer, who has raised $634,236 so far — with $505,271 from individuals. (He has out-raised Young among individuals.) Mowrer also has received the maximum from Larry Zimpleman and Kathy Zimpleman, Fred Weitz and Emily Weitz, and Kurt Rasmussen and Lynette Rasmussen. Mike Sherzan has raised just $350,000 to date — and $298,000 of that has been a loan he made to his own campaign.

The third Democratic contender, Desmund Adams of Waukee, has raised just $57,856. He has received three contributions of $2,700: from Frederick Buie of West Des Moines, Cain Hayes of Dublin, Ohio, and Charlotte Hubbell of Des Moines.

The Cook Political Report initially ranked the fall election as “lean Republican,” but it moved it to “tossup” in March. Young won the seat two years ago on the fifth ballot at a party convention after no one got 35 percent in the primary. (Brad Zaun led all candidates with 24 percent.) President Barack Obama carried the district in 2008 and in 2012. CV


In February, two law-school graduates took the Iowa bar for the seventh time. Both flunked. CV

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