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ACLU privacy spat

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* The American Civil Liberties Union is using technology to gather information about donors and members, including wealth, assets and previous donations, sparking criticism from board members and an inquiry by the New York attorney general’s office into whether the group is violating privacy rights, the New York Times reported Dec. 18.

* Online giving surged 60 percent to about $2 billion last year while offline giving remained steady, says a survey by Network for Good, a processor of online donations that connects donors and nonprofits and has managed $45 million in gifts to more than 15,000 nonprofits, Investor’s Business Daily reported Dec. 17.

* New Jersey Symphony officials inflated the value of a collection of stringed instruments it wanted to buy in an effort to convince the board to approve the $18 million deal, an internal report says, criticizing the process the officials conducted but upholding the purchase, the New York Times reported Dec. 18.

* Harvard’s $27 billion endowment boasts a 15.9 percent annual return over the last decade, versus 10.1 percent for the median large institutional fund, results achieved through “diversification writ large,” including stocks, bonds, international securities, commodities and private equity, Business Week reported Dec. 27.

* Grassroots charities are collecting and mailing packaged food, toiletries and other donations to fill individual soldiers’ wish lists, skirting safety prohibitions against sending care packages to entire units, while others collect Christmas toys for children of deployed soldiers, the New York Times reported Dec. 21.

* Several faith-based nonprofit hospitals, which provide charity care for the indigent in return for tax-exempt status, are being accused of abusing that status by charging the uninsured higher rates than the insured and suing poor patients who should qualify for charity status, the New York Times reported Dec. 19.

* Columbia University, whose $178.4 million in licensing revenue last year led U.S. universities, is under fire for its aggressive strategies to obtain and defend patents for inventions, with critics citing a compromise of the schools’ values of academic freedom and “double taxation” when inventions fueled by government grant dollars also reap royalties, the Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 21.

* A group of Canadian nonprofits is asking the government to change tax laws to allow tax-exempt donations to private foundations, in addition to public and community foundations, in order to spur greater giving by wealthy individuals, primarily in the form of stock donations, the Globe and Mail reported Dec. 20.

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