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News roundup – Donated items’ value probed

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Here are week’s top nonprofit stories:

* Congress may start investigating donations of items to charities because a new report by the General Accounting Office shows big differences between the value of items claimed on donors’ tax forms and the actual amount charities get from the items, The New York Times reported Dec. 12. Vehicle donations to charity cost the government $654 million in lost tax revenue, but over half of charities receive less than 5 percent of the amount reported on tax deductions, the newspaper says.

* Gordon Conway, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, will retire at the end of 2004, The New York Times reported Dec. 9. Conway helped the foundation focus more on international issues, such as the frequent exclusion of poor people from the benefits of globalization.

* Charity promoter Aaron Tonken pleaded guilty to federal charges of fraud for skimming nearly $7 million from fundraising events that should have gone to charities, The New York Times reported Dec 10. While Tonken claims he kept less than 5 percent of the money for himself, many celebrities received lavish gifts in exchange for appearing at his fundraising events, a common, legal practice between stars and many charity promoters, the Chicago Tribune reported Dec. 10.

* National Public Radio is battling with local stations over how to spend a $200 million gift from the late Joan B. Kroc, widow of McDonald’s founder, BusinessWeek reported in its Dec. 15 issue.

* Poetry magazine lost its editor of 20 years over squabbles over its $100 gift from Ruth E. Lilly, drug company heiress, The Wall Street Journal reported Dec.8.

* The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is giving $27 million to Seattle-based Program for Appropriate Technology in Health to make a Japanese encephalitis vaccine accessible to more people in Asia and the Pacific. The foundation also will give $25 million to the state of Karnataka in India to help prevent AIDS, the Associated Press reported Dec.5.

* Charities that use telemarketers to solicit money in Massachusetts received on average 26 cents of every dollar raised, and three out of four charities received less than half the money raised, the Boston Globe reported Dec.9

* Ottawa, Canada, closed a loophole that had allowed people to buy items such as art at a low price, donate them to charity, then take tax deductions for a higher appraised value, the Financial Post reported Dec.9. The new rule says tax deductions must reflect the item’s actual cost to the donor.

* Scottish charities formed the Giving Scotland group to restore confidence in the nonprofit sector and urge the public to continue donating, the BBC News reported Dec. 11. The move comes after several charity scandals and a recent poll that found over half of Scots were less like to give to charity.

— Compiled by Jennifer Whytock

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