News roundup – Charity scams tracked

Here are the week’s top nonprofit stories:

* A Harvard University study says charity officials stole or misused $1.28 billion from 152 nonprofits over the past seven years, often due to lax oversight at nonprofits, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported Nov. 27.

* Forbes rated the 200 largest U.S. charities on how efficiently they collect and distribute money, and added a new gold-star list of the top 10, the magazine reports in its Dec. 8 issue.

* Bill and Melinda Gates, who have given $23 billion to charity, top BusinessWeek’s list of most charitable donors, while Intel founder Gordon Moore and his wife, Betty, ranked second with $7 billion, and investor George Soros was third with $2.4 billion, the magazine reported in its Dec. 1 special issue on philanthropy.

Many large donors are giving away their money now, rather than when they die, because they can control where the money goes, address current world problems and get their children involved early in philanthropy, BusinessWeek also reported in the issue.

* With 3 million nonprofit board seats unfilled, it is becoming easier to join a board, especially if you are young, a minority or have special expertise like public relations, accounting, lobbying or law, the Christian Science Monitor reported Nov. 24.

* British charities’ staff salaries grew 6.1 percent this year, more than the 4.7 percent increase in 2002, because nonprofits have doubled merit payments to try to retain staff in the face of nonprofit staff turnover rates of 20 percent, the Guardian Unlimited reported Nov. 20.

* Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee, accused campaign-finance watchdog groups of remaining silent over George Soros’ donations to pro-Democratic groups, the Washington Post reported Nov. 18. Gillespie says the groups are silent because they have received nearly $18 million from Soros’ Open Society Institute.

* While the government attempts to seize $278 million from Richard Scrushy, former founder and CEO of HealthSouth accused of falsifying profits and insider trading, the Richard M. Scrushy Charitable Foundation continues to make grants, the Associated Press reported Nov. 18.

* An opinion column in the New York Times questions whether AARP, which backs the new prescription-drug bill, is becoming more of a business than a service group, since it receives over $150 million yearly in commissions on prescription drugs, insurance and mutual funds.

— Compiled by Jennifer Whytock

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