Dissolving a nonprofit: The lifespan of Event Committee Pittsburgh
A fishing pro at 2005's Bassmaster Classic tournament.
The president and first lady at 2009's G-20 welcoming reception at Phipps Conservatory.
A work of art by Dale Chihuly from "Viva Vetro! Glass Alive! Venice and America," a year-long celebration of glass in 2007.
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Event Committee Pittsburgh, born as a conduit for funding for the 2005 Bassmaster Classic, has died after supporting three major Pittsburgh events and then developing a framework for other organizations to stage their own regional events.
It was 8 years old.
Known by its initials ECP, Event Committee Pittsburgh was set up for the Bassmaster Classic as a way to showcase the environmental cleanup of the region, if not, ultimately, the catching of any large fish. The winning total in the event was a catch of 11 fish weighing an official total of 12 pounds, 15 ounces -- a record for the smallest winning catch in Bassmaster history.
When ESPN wanted to broadcast the event, Bill Flanagan, a past president of Event Committee Pittsburgh, said, "There had to be a host committee. ... There was really no entity that was appropriate to stage and market an event like that."
That host committee had to have nonprofit status, a designation that is easier to obtain if it is set up under an existing organization.
Event Committee Pittsburgh, the host committee for the Bassmaster, was born as a 501(c)(3) -- the tax designation of a nonprofit organization -- that was a child of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.
The organizational structure later came in handy for other events.
It was the overall organizer for "Glass 2007," a series of events held in the rest of the city when the exhibit of Dale Chihuly's glass was on display at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
And it was ready to handle financial details and help organize the events around Pittsburgh's 250th celebration.
The organization was inactive but still filing tax returns for 2008 when Mayor Luke Ravenstahl received the call from the White House that the September 2009 G-20 Summit would be held in Pittsburgh. Mr. Flanagan said the conference dusted off Event Committee Pittsburgh to handle the extraneous particulars, such as presenting the image of the city to the world media.
Now that there is a group of nonprofits working together for regional events, there isn't the need for any one organization to take the lead, Mr. Flanagan said. Instead, others are stepping up.
For instance, the Pittsburgh Marathon has established its own nonprofit status, as has the Mylan Golf Classic. Mr. Flanagan said such major events require coordination throughout the region in order to be staged, but since that sense of cooperation is already ingrained, the event committee isn't needed to run them.
There is also a cost to having a nonprofit, even one that isn't running, Mr. Flanagan said, because tax forms still have to be filed and updated. It's not a lot of money, he said, but it adds up.
The organization's tax return for 2010 noted that there were no activities. The committee's only revenue was $217 from investments. It provided $115,680 to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. At the end of the year it had total assets of $32,775.
The attorney for K&L Gates handling Event Committee Pittsburgh's closure was unable to comment on the dissolution, according to the law firm's spokesman, Michael Rick.
However, John R. McGinley Jr., the attorney who spent six years working on the dissolution of St. Francis Hospital, said with revenues of $217, the cost of keeping Event Committee Pittsburgh exceeded the benefit of shelving the organization in case it might be needed again.
Mr. McGinley said there are hordes of zombie nonprofits (he called them "shell nonprofits," sort of like shell corporations) existing in name and incorporation, sitting on shelves in offices around the city but not doing anything.
"Operating small nonprofits can be very cost-intensive relative to the benefits," he said, adding that most are better off finding another nonprofit with a similar or the same mission and transferring their assets over, then dissolving.
The dissolution is a matter of first paying off debts, then identifying all of the nonprofit's assets and distributing them to other causes that carry out the same mission. That was what took so long in closing St. Francis Hospital, Mr. McGinley said. There were many different trusts, each set up for a slightly different purpose, that had to be moved to another organization.
An organization has to file its dissolution with the Pennsylvania Department of State and have the distribution of the remaining assets approved by the state attorney general's office. Ultimately the distribution goes through Orphan's Court, in much the same way a will would.
"There's a certain cost and inconvenience in closing them up," Mr. McGinley said, but it is also worth the effort down the line because recurring costs, such as filing tax returns, disappear.
Event Committee Pittsburgh is survived by its parent organization, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development; its sister organizations: Pittsburgh Regional Alliance; Pennsylvania Economy League of Southwest PA, LLC; Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce; Greater Pittsburgh Charitable Trust; Strategic Regional Developments, Inc.; Strategic Investment Fund, Inc; and the Robotics Foundry and Digital Greenhouse. It was predeceased by War for Empire, Inc.
First Published November 5, 2012 12:00 am