Making headlines – Week of 02.26.07

* The number of houses Habitat for Humanity International has built for Katrina victims lags behind expected output from the $127 million it raised for the Gulf Coast in the wake of the disaster, the New York Times reported Feb. 22. Many have blamed the nondenominational Christian ministry’s insistence on working through affiliates and its emphasis on building from scratch instead of rehabilitation for the slow pace.

* The loss of significant support for the arts through the restructuring of Altria is only a notch in the decline over the past decade of corporate dollars dedicated to the arts, the New York Times reported Feb. 21. A new metrics-driven corporate arts philanthropy calls for high-impact marketing boons targeted to a specific demographic, something small arts organizations often cannot offer a company looking for reach of breadth.

* The Bush administration’s proposed 2008 budget is a “reminder” of the war conservatives are waging on nonprofit, political scientist Robert Koulish said in a Feb. 16 guest column in the Baltimore Sun. Koulish, a professor of service learning at Goucher College, says that the 2001 Patriot Act authorized funding cuts, financial audits, privatization and National Security Agency surveillance that will ensure the decline of the nonprofit sector if progressives don’t form a plan of action.

* The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received $50 million from Dennis and Joan Gillings for its School of Public Health, the Durham Herald-Sun reported Feb. 22. Dennis Gillings, former UNC biostatistics professor and current CEO of Durham, N.C.-based contract pharmaceutical research company Quintiles Transnational Corp., will funnel the money towards projects including “Innovation Laboratories” – a collaborative university/private sector effort to solve global public health problems – fellowship programs and a Gillings Prize for impact in the field of public health.

* Peter Diamandis, backer of the $10 million prize that sent the first privately-funded manned rocket into space in 2005, is looking to expand his “prize philanthropy” formula to social, environmental and medical causes, the Los Angeles Times reported Feb. 16. Part of a growing trend of incentive-based philanthropy, the Santa Monica-based X Prize Foundation, which Diamandis chairs, will offer prizes for innovations such as a car that gets 100 miles per gallon, and faster and more affordable DNA sequencing technology, and aims to tackle problems like poverty and public education in the future.

* Carbon-offset initiatives, a rapidly growing industry through which individuals can buy and sell rights to offset “carbon footprints” created by their environmentally unsound activities, may only encourage a green glitterati to keep polluting, the New York Times reported Feb. 20. Though some experts characterize carbon offsets as “good first steps” in consciousness-raising, others worry about ineffectiveness of carbon-offset firm investments like tree-planting and their potential to encourage and prolong their customers’ environmentally harmful habits.

* Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang and his wife, Akiko Yamazaki, have donated $75 million to Stanford University, most of which is earmarked for the construction of a new environmental science building and a Learning and Knowledge Center at the medical school, the Palo Alto Daily News reported Feb. 20. Both Yang and Yamazaki are Stanford alums.

* David F. Swensen, steward of the Yale University endowment, has generated an annual compound growth rate of 16.3 percent over his 21 years in the position, the New York Times reported Feb. 18. The man who revolutionized endowment investing by diversifying Yale’s investments beyond stocks and bonds has rebuffed many a more lucrative job offer due to a sense of mission he says he finds in endowment work.

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