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Nonprofitxpress roundup – United Way under fire

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Compiled by Donnie Stanley

Here are the latest nonprofit headlines:

*United Way accounting practices are being examined in the wake of recent financial scandals, The New York Times reported Nov. 19. Local United Ways, including the United Way of the National Capital Area and United Way in Chicago, have been counting the same contributions, inflating their overall giving totals.

While United Way groups say they apply a certain percentage of contributions to administrative costs, some fail to tell donors they apply different amounts of their contributions to different costs. And many charities criticize United Way guidelines that let local groups count the value of volunteer time and add it to their total contributions.

*Ruth Lilly, heir to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune, left a bequest that could be worth more than $100 million to Poetry magazine, the largest single donation made to a group committed to poetry, The New York Times reported Nov. 18.  In the 1970s, the magazine rejected poems Lilly submitted to it.

*A growing number of Americans are getting health insurance through nonprofit groups, and finding the groups are taking advantage of loopholes in rules designed to protect policyholders, The Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 21.  Some groups charge high enrollment fees and are not capping rate increases, which are passed on to consumers.

*Exxon Mobile and four other international companies are giving Stanford University $225 million over 10 years to set up the Global Climate and Energy Project, a research project to find new energy sources that won’t increase global warming, The New York Times reported Nov. 21.

*Domino’s Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan pledged $220 million to a new Catholic university, the first to be founded in the U.S. in 40 years, and a supporting town in Naples, Fla., The Washington Post reported Nov. 21.

*A coalition of religious groups backed by the National Religious Partnership for the Environment is preparing a grass-roots campaign to ask consumers, “What would Jesus drive?”, in an effort to raise awareness about fuel efficiency, The New York Times reported Nov. 18.  The group planned to meet in Detroit with executives from the Ford Motor Company and General Motors.

*A survey of 148 environmental executives in the U.S. and Canadian Northwest by Training Resources for the Environmental Community found most are satisfied with their jobs but struggling to keep their companies afloat.  Most executives criticize their board of directors’ lack of involvement in fundraising efforts.

*Nonprofits are struggling to see that the glass as half full instead of half empty as many try to find the money and resources to keep their groups operating in the slumping economy, The New York Times reported Nov. 18 in its annual Giving section.

*After giving $1 billion to the United Nations in the 1990s, CNN chief Ted Turner paved the way for foundations to give more money to international charity groups, The Washington Post reported Nov. 18.  Between 1998 and 2001, charitable giving for international causes increased by 32 percent, according to the AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy

*Grantmakers in Health released two publications focusing on patient safety and e-health in its series Issue Briefs based on discussions at meetings held earlier in the year. Both publications are available for free.

*Faced with the slumping economy, arts groups in Minnesota face serious gaps in funding for dance, small and new arts groups, as well as declining donations, according to a study of Minnesota’s largest private arts funders and arts nonprofits by the Minnesota Council on Foundations.

*One citizen, on behalf of 300 participants in a community ventures program, sponsored by the Northwest Area Foundation in St. Paul, Minn., is filing a lawsuit against the foundation. After spending two years conducting research and meetings in Yakima County to determine whether residents could benefit from a poverty-reduction program, the suit claims, the foundation unexpectedly pulled out the project in August 2002 without spending the $1 million it had promised.

The foundation was trying to determine whether the county and 15 other communities should receive $150 million over 10 years to help reduce poverty in the area, the suit claims. After the departure of its community liaison in March 2002, the foundation halted research in April 2002 to give its new liaison time to assess the program – and told residents that demands on resources led to its decision to end research in Yakima County, according to foundation documents.

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