MISSOULA, Mont.-Responding to questions about some nonprofit organizations' handling of special auction/raffle hunting permits issued by states, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is calling for transparency and open review of the financial records of all conservation nonprofits.
RMEF has made its records available online, reiterated its longstanding policy of financial accountability and is urging other nonprofit organizations to follow suit.
"When dealing with these special auction or raffle hunting permits we are dealing with a public trust," said David Allen, president and CEO of RMEF. "It is imperative that we are as open and transparent as possible when we assume the responsibility of selling these permits."
"Organizations should not become financially dependent upon the sale of these permits for their operating budgets, but rather find ancillary benefit by helping our state agency partners realize greater conservation revenues from the sale of these limited permits," he added.
At question is the accountability of some nonprofit groups that accept special permits for auction and/or raffle fundraising. More specifically, questions have surfaced about how funds generated from these permits are allocated and spent. In most states, legislation dictates how proceeds from these permits are allocated.
RMEF has an operating policy that specifies it will only sell special permits for states that require proceeds to go on the ground for wildlife conservation purposes. Over the last five years, for example, RMEF generated a total of $5,211,214 in special permit revenue. Of that, $4,759,759 was returned directly to the states or specific project accounts for wildlife habitat or conservation purposes. Approximately $451,455, or just 8.7 percent, was retained by RMEF for administrative and fundraising expenses. It is important to note that income from these permits represents less than half of one percent of RMEF's annual budget. RMEF indicates that in nearly all cases, the administrative fees retained by the organization cover only the direct expenses associated with selling the permits.
To view five years of RMEF's Special Permit Financial Summary, and more than 10 years of the organization's Federal 990 tax returns, as well as RMEF's Audited Financial Statements, go to www.rmef.org and click on the word "Financial" at the bottom of any page.
"We are very proud of the fact that RMEF has been able to raise millions of dollars over the years for wildlife through special permits while only retaining an average of 10 percent or less to cover our marketing costs, transaction fees, overhead, etc.," said Allen. "We view our handling of these permits as a service to our state agency partners. When done correctly, and in very limited numbers, these permits can have a huge benefit to wildlife."
"We're an open book, we are accountable to our members, donors and supporters for every dollar they commit to RMEF," said Allen. "We also feel an accountability to all hunters, members or not, when receiving any amount for assisting state agencies in selling the public trust assets represented by these permits."
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
RMEF is leading a conservation initiative that has protected or enhanced habitat on over 6 million acres-an area larger than Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain and Great Smoky Mountains national parks combined. RMEF also is a strong voice for hunters in access, wildlife management and conservation policy issues. RMEF members, partners and volunteers, working together as Team Elk, are making a difference all across elk country. Join us at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.