February 9, 2012
Dear friends and supporters of Afghan Women’s Mission and RAWA,
We are deeply saddened to inform you of a devastating incident that has affected our operations.
We were informed in mid-December 2011 that International Humanities Center (IHC), the non-profit group that we had hired to manage our funds since 2003, has lost all of our donations. All of the nearly 200 organizations that had accounts with IHC are the victims of this theft. Altogether, about $400,000 donated to Afghan Women’s Mission to fund RAWA’s projects were lost.
Nothing prepared us for this. We were, and still are, in shock.
“[t]he news of the IHC’s collapse struck most, if not all, of the IHC-affiliated projects as a complete shock. Staff or board members at the IHC projects we contacted were unanimously stunned, “blindsided,” and “bewildered.”
STEPS WE HAVE TAKEN
As soon as we found out that IHC had misappropriated our donations, we took the following steps:
- We removed all electronic donation forms from our website (which linked to IHC’s server)
- We held all checks received at our mailing address without forwarding them to IHC. These will now be deposited with our new fiscal sponsor SEE (see below).
- We began searching for a new fiscal sponsor to carry on our primary mission, funding the lifesaving work of RAWA.
- We have begun working with a coalition of many of the other organizations affiliated with IHC to uncover exactly what happened.
- We have been participating in an investigation of the California Attorney General’s office, sharing all our documents and information with them, to get to the bottom of this.
- We formed an advisory board to help oversee future operations and share expertise in our continued support of RAWA.
In addition we have been in contact with lawyers, and have consulted with other non-profit leaders to guide our actions over the past month.
However, the reality is that we may never recover the stolen funds.
RAWA NEEDS YOUR HELP – Click here to donate
RAWA, whose life-saving projects AWM has funded for nearly 12 years, is struggling to cope with this abrupt cut in funding.
Danish school for girls in Farah province, RAWA’s flag ship project, has not been funded for the past 4 months. Teachers have gone without salaries and bills unpaid.
Additionally, a crucial emergency relief operation that RAWA carried out in December 2011, costing them $30,000, has not been reimbursed.
AWM and RAWA are in dire straits. We have become the victim of what appears to be serious deception at best, outright theft at worst. We need your help to cover the costs of RAWA’s projects as soon as possible.
Click here to help AWM and RAWA rebuild.
OUR NEW FISCAL SPONSOR
We are pleased to announce that beginning on February 8, 2012, Afghan Women’s Mission became a Project of Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE). Established in 1994, SEE has a long track record of providing reliable and stable non-profit financial services. Currently they serve about 100 projects in total.
SEE is a “fiscal sponsor,” a nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charity that confers nonprofit status on small organizations like AWM. In exchange for a small percentage of all donations (6.5% in the case of SEE), a fiscal sponsor manages its projects’ funds, processes and deposits donations, files taxes, sends out tax receipts, etc. These are extremely useful services for organizations like Afghan Women’s Mission that are run entirely by volunteers.
SEE’s operations are consistent with the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors’ Guidelines for Comprehensive Fiscal Sponsorship. In particular, they receive an external audit every year to ensure that project donations are spent where donors intend and are never ever spent on SEE’s own operational costs.
NOTE: SEE’s 2010 Audited Financial Statement is also available upon request.
Many of our donors will understandably be very upset about this devastating incident. Please contact us with any questions you may have and we will do our best to answer them all.