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Doing Good Works, Not Paperwork

Former bank executive Herb Knoll of The Villages, Florida, started Michelle's Angels to keep his wife's spirit alive. But now he's running into government red tape.

What inspired the charity? My late wife, Michelle, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004. During her treatments, she worried about others who didn't have the resources we did, and she worked tirelessly to help them.

How did networking to help others become the charity's theme? At the time, I was a bank executive. The thing I knew best was how to market and use my database. So I reached out to everyone I knew for help for Michelle, such as medical advice. Soon the world was responding to her in-box, and those contacts helped us find and arrange for her best medical treatment. We realized that could be harnessed to help others.

So what's your mission? We use networking via our Web site to provide love, hope and assistance to those who suffer quietly. Our emotional support can be through e-mails, phone calls and home visits. Our network also provides many medical referrals.

But that hasn't been easy? Following Michelle's passing in 2008, we formalized the board and filed for incorporation as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. That's when we started to realize the bureaucratic challenges.


What kind of challenges? In order to accept donations, a not-for-profit must register with each state in which it receives donations. In some cases, it must renew its registration annually and pay a renewal fee. The paperwork can be both tedious and expensive for a small not-for-profit.

Can't you hire someone to handle the paperwork? There are companies that can do it for you, but the cost is prohibitive for a small not-for-profit. We try to keep administrative costs to a minimum.

So what's the answer? Especially in times like these, with so many people hurting, small not-for-profits can be the first responders to a crisis or a need. The federal government and the states need to help those in a position to help others. There should be a not-for-profit national registry or a single, uniform state application and low fees -- or no fees for small charities.