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Carter, Clinton enlist moderate Baptists

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Here are the week’s top nonprofit stories reported elsewhere:

* Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton hope to create a counterweight to the conservative Southern Baptist Convention by forging a coalition of moderate Baptist groups, the Washington Post reported Jan. 21. Raised as Southern Baptists, the two former presidents want to give Democrats easier access to a strengthened collective voice of less-conservative Christians.

* Through new legislation paving the way to what President Hugo Chavez calls “21st century socialism,” the Venezuelan government will force commercial banks to donate a portion of their profits to social development programs and reserve 10 percent of total loans for the manufacturing sector at interest rates below market levels, the Associated Press reported Jan. 18. Banks are already required to set aside nearly a third of all loans for agriculture, mortgages, tourism and small businesses at favorable rates.

* The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation chose Hilary Pennington, former advisor to the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, to oversee its new category of U.S. gifts, the Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 20 [subscription only]. Pennington, who co-founded Jobs for the Future, a Boston consulting and policy-development organization and frequent Gates grantee, will serve as director of special initiatives.

* As the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation struggles to respond to the Los Angeles Times report citing a mismatch between its mission and its investment practices, a growing number of nonprofits are using their stock portfolios to press public companies to conform with their philanthropic goals, the Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 19 [subscription only]. Philanthropists such as the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund now demand improvements in energy efficiency and greenhouse admissions through shareholder resolutions and proxy votes, though many foundations still cite too wide a cultural divide between financial managers and grant-makers to undertake such measures.

* A new breed of “venture philanthropists” are funding for-profit companies to develop drugs that would otherwise be neglected as unprofitable, the Wall Street Journal reported Jan 26. [subscription only]. Fed up with pharmaceuticals’ disregard of promising academic discoveries if the target audience proves small, groups like the * Michael J. Fox Foundation are bridging this gap with their own money.

Phillip Henderson, vice president of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., will take over as president of the New York-based Surdna Foundation, the Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 20 [available by subscription only]. Only the second outsider to run this family-controlled foundation, known for its work in the environment and community revitalization, Henderson hopes to better integrate family members with outsider talent.

* Donor-advised funds, a type of giving that surged to popularity in the 90s, are now under IRS scrutiny, the Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 20 [subscription only]. The Pension Protection Act, passed in August, ordered an investigation of possible abuses by donors who may have used the tax-free funds to personal benefit.

* The National Park Service will increasingly seek outside funding to help maintain its parks, the Associated Press reported Jan 13. Now constituting about 12 percent of the agency’s annual budget, private funding is expected to revitalize aging facilities and a visitor experience some say has lost its relevance for younger generations.

* Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals hockey team and director of the documentary “Nanking” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, wants to promote “filmanthropy”, or funding movies with difficult, historically important subject matter through a philanthropist’s own charity, the Washington Post reported Jan. 25 [available by subscription only]. Leonsis spent $2 million on “Nanking,” which depicts the rape and murder of 300,000 Chinese citizens of this city in 1937 and 1938.

* Many states no longer encourage privatization of nonprofit organizations, arguing the trend has fostered backroom deals and funneled millions of dollars into politicians’ pet programs, Forbes reported Jan. 9.  State regulators fear nonprofits’ missions may be sacrificed in the process of becoming for-profit, the article says.

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