Making headlines – Week of 02.12.07

* South Dakota billionaire T. Denny Sanford will give $400 million to Sioux Valley Hospitals and Health System in hopes of creating a national institute that will rival Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic, the New York Times reported Feb 4. The largest gift ever to a hospital, this is the third major contribution to a health care organization announced in the past week.

* The Salvation Army’s Western Territory has filed suit over the division of a $260 million trust among 8 charities, the New York Times reported Feb. 3. The gift from the late H. Guy di Stefano awarded a share of the funds to now-defunct Greenpeace International, and the Salvation Army is arguing that Greenpeace Fund, Greenpeace International’s designated successor-in-interest, is not eligible to receive the money.

* A special report by the Smithsonian Institute’s acting inspector general A. Sprightley Ryan revealed that 19 of the Institute’s top executives earned more than Vice President Cheney last year, the Washington Post reported Jan. 31. This and other departures from federal compensation norms are a result of the Smithsonian’s two-tier pay system, which funds top employees out of a private trust while all others receive payment through federal appropriations.

* Colorado Springs millionaire and former McDonald’s franchise owner Steven T. Bigari aims to fix working poverty one family at a time, the New York Times reported Feb. 4. Bigari’s personal services to his former employees, which included arranging day care, transportation, and emergency loans, reduced turnover and increased profits at his franchises, a University of Colorado study says.  Bigari hopes to expand these practices to other employers through America’s Family, the nonprofit he founded in 2002.

* The pension law Congress passed last summer will increase federal tax breaks through the end of 2007 for landowners who permanently preserve their property from development under conservation easements, the Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 7 [subscription only]. Some states now offer tax incentives to promote the easements, which allow landowners to continue to use or sell their land providing development restrictions are not violated.

* New House ethics rules involving fundraising may inadvertently burden charities who depend upon the celebrity of legislators or their spouses to sell tickets and raise money, the Washington Post reported Feb. 8. The complex new rules ban House members and staff from accepting gifts and free tickets to events from organizations that employ lobbyists.

* Though America’s millionaire population is exploding, the number of U.S. citizens who filed returns stating they owe estate tax fell by one-third from 2004 to 2005, the Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 2 [subscription only]. While the Bush administration’s tax policies account for some of the drop, experts say a combination of tax-efficient estate planning, an increasingly younger generation of wealthy and growth in philanthropy may have contributed.

* The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is launching one of the country’s largest hospital fundraising campaigns, hoping to raise $1 billion to turn rapidly advancing cancer research into better treatments, the Boston Globe reported Jan. 31. The push comes at a time of extraordinary promise in cancer research, experts say, but medical centers nationwide are being forced to undertake increasingly ambitious fundraising efforts to offset federal funding cuts and tighter insurance reimbursements.

* Duke University researchers believe they can detect altruistic behavior in brain scans, the Scientific American reported Jan. 21. A test on 45 college students indicated that a different part of the brain was activated when the students believed they were winning money for charity than when they believed the money was for their own benefit.

–Compiled by Elizabeth Floyd

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