High Overhead or Low Overhead, SriSri and his men can’t agree!
Jim, the owner of 2nd AOL counter-blog artoflivingvalues , in his latest post enclosed below (which comes after a long gap!!) says:
“Like other educational organizations, the Art of Living foundation is primarily funded via course fees with added support from donations for specific programs. “
Now suddenly AOL changed from charitable trust to an educational organization. In that case, like other private educational organizations, which are run like businesses, AOL should pay taxes. It should also be honest with public and withdraw its charitable status and it should pay all its employees minimum wage and refrain from using slave-laborers!
He also says:
“The Art of Living has very low overhead compared to most other nfp’s.”
“I would say that the foundation is one of the lowest overhead organizations in the world.”
Now jimmy you are contradicting your own CEO, SriSri, who claimed in his own official website : “We hardly save 10 to 15 percent on course.” That means a very high and unacceptable overhead of 85 to 90 percent! (Read His Holiness penchant for lying and deceiving – Part 1 and part 2 for more analysis.)
So which one is it? Do you guys have a low overhead or a high overhead? It seems to me that whenever it suits you, like when you are asked where the money from courses go to, you say you have high overhead. And whenever you guys want to appeal to public generosity to fleece them, you claim you have low overhead.
“Except for a few full time staff members, all the work done by the foundation is done by volunteers. “
Who are these full time staff members? Why don’t you publish their names and their salaries? As you are running AOL as a charitable trust, public has a right to know this. There are so many AOL volunteers who work full time or part-time (or for considerable amount of time) for AOL and receive no payment. They are under illusion that everyone works voluntarily in AOL.
While you are at it, please also publish how much SriSri gets whenever he attends a part3 course or an AOL event? Please confirm if it is true that SriSri receives US$100 per participant in each part3 courses? Also the $200 (or whatever) per participant, per course (part2/DSN/ etc.) which goes to VVM, where do they end up? In Sumeru real estate by any chance?!
“Sri Sri and the foundation have always placed strong emphasis on keeping expenses low and making good use of the funds we do collect. “
Oh, sure. We let our readers to read the post “BECAUSE BILL CLINTON STAYED THERE ONCE!”and decide for themselves if SriSri and sister are making good use of AOL funds! And that is just one example, otherwise that kind of fund usage is quite regular occurrence for SriSri and his family and top lackeys.
We also let our readers decide if channelling the funds to private and personal businesses and buying real estate is good use of funds donated for the purpose of charity.
And yes Jim, let’s don’t confuse the issues here. When it comes to organizing AOL courses, teachers, organizers and volunteers are asked to keep the expenses low (and indeed get things done for free as much as possible). The volunteers time and resources come for free too.
However, it is a different story, when it comes to SriSri spending the funds generated from these courses or from donations. Then there is no rules or limits to expenses(presidential suits, hiring of Limos, helicopters and so on). He insists on street display of big photos of himself and banners before he visits any AOL events or conferences, quite expensive. And no one seems to know what happens to the funds which are sent to VVM (from all AOL centres globally).
Similarly there is no limit to using AOL funds to buy SriSri fame and name and political influence and awards and honors. And make no mistake, most people do not consider these proper usage of funds collected (or donated) in the name of charity.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
The Art of Living and Money
I want to share some thoughts with you about money and the Art of Living. First, let’s look at some basic concepts. I work for a for-profit company that makes financial software for not-for-profit (nfp) organizations and I can assure you, money is a big topic in all organizations both nfp and for-profit. Why is money necessary? In a for-profit company it’s obvious – money is needed for rent, salaries, capital expenditures and, of course, profit. In an nfp, it’s less obvious. Of course the expenses are still there, salary, rent, etc., but money is not the goal. Rather, it’s an enabler; it helps organizations accomplish their mission.
In the west, it’s very difficult to do anything without money. Cash flow is the financial heart of any organization and when income falls below expenses, it’s only a matter of time before the doors close. Nfp’s can ‘go out of business’ just as easily as for-profit companies, and their officers and board need to manage finances just as carefully as for-profit organizations.
There are many types of non-profit organizations and all require money to operate. Depending on the organization and its members and/or benefactors, funds may come from many sources, such as membership dues, donations, fees, endowments and grants. Organizations like churches pass the collection plate on Sunday. Some organizations have fundraising events such as telethons or walkathons. Others rely on grants or endowments. The YMCA is a fee-based membership organization. The United Way solicits donations and major grants. Most education nonprofits like schools, colleges and universities charge course fees (tuition) for their programs. Like other educational organizations, the Art of Living foundation is primarily funded via course fees with added support from donations for specific programs. The common theme of course is that organizations depend on income from one or more sources in order to accomplish their missions.
The Art of Living has very low overhead compared to most other nfp’s. Except for a few full time staff members, all the work done by the foundation is done by volunteers. I would say that the foundation is one of the lowest overhead organizations in the world.
So why charge at all for courses? First, as mentioned above, the organization needs money to operate. It’s a fact of life. Second, from my experience (and that of many other Art of Living teachers), is that people tend to value something more if they have invested in it. Finally, on a subtler level, it’s important to give for something where you have received.
So why not just rely on donations? First, operational costs tend to track with the number and variety of courses that we offer and a course-fee approach to revenue works well to make sure that costs are covered. Second, donations tend to be seasonal at best and highly variable at worst and this makes it very difficult to forecast revenue and plan expenditures. Finally, there is a bit of a catch-22 with donations – if you don’t ask for them, they tend to not be given. If you do ask, people can feel some pressure from it.
Sri Sri and the foundation have always placed strong emphasis on keeping expenses low and making good use of the funds we do collect. Every approach to funding an nfp organization has advantages and disadvantages. Fees have generally worked well for the Art of Living in balancing the needs of the organization for covering expenses with the needs of participants for affordable access to the foundation’s programs. In my experience with the foundation, we’ve always put more emphasis on availability. In the 10 years I’ve been teaching in the Prison SMART program in a federal prison in Denver, I’ve donated my time and travel expenses and we’ve never collected any fees.