Nonprofit news headlines – Week of 03.26.07

* In a deal between the Sierra Club and Kansas City Power and Light, the electric utility agreed to “fully offset” the 6 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions produced by a new power plant in exchange for the environmental group’s consent to drop its complaint against the plant, the New York Times reported March 20. To achieve this unprecedented “full offset,” the utility will purchase hundreds of windmills and undertake a conservation program that includes increasing energy efficiency among commercial landlords and households by subsidizing new equipment.

* The World Jewish Congress, the small nonprofit that compelled European banks to pay billions of dollars in Holocaust restitution, has dismissed its long-time leader, Israel Singer, the New York Times reported March 16. The organization has struggled financially after three years of controversy over odd transfers to a Swiss bank account, and numerous criticisms of Singer’s lavish travel and expenses, as well as the organization’s financial controls and fundraising practices.

* An impending rift between the American Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion over Episcopal Church’s consent to the ordination of a gay bishop in 2003 would threaten the flow of money to much of the church’s mission and evangelism, the New York Times reported March 20. Representing 2.3 million members of the 77 million-member of the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church finances at least a third of the Communion’s annual operations, including tens of millions in aid and development work in the Communion’s poorer provinces in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

* A New York Times report on the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, the 135-year-old fraternal organization that founded and controls the Shriners Hospitals for Children, painted a picture of lax accounting procedures and oversight under which money earmarked for the hospitals instead financed temple activities. The report found that more than 57 percent of the $32 million the Shriners raised in 2005 went to costs of the fraternity, and only 2 percent of the Shrine hospitals’ operating income comes from money raised by Shrine temples, the other 98 percent originating from the hospital’s $9 billion endowment.

* Charities are lobbying Congress to expand and make permanent the temporary tax break granted in the Pension Protection Act last August that allows donors age 70˝ and older to transfer up to $100,000 annually from their pre-tax Individual Retirement Accounts, Forbes reported March 21. The Public Good IRA Rollover Act would remove the $100,000 limit, allow contributions to all charities from donors as young as 59˝, and include lifetime gifts such as charitable gift annuities under the tax break; it also might relieve administrative headaches for donors and charities who have run into problems with financial institutions unwilling to amend procedures for only a temporary tax twist.

* The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Christmas campaign raised a record-breaking total of $117 million during Christmas 2006, the Christian Post reported March 20. The campaign was boosted by partnerships with Wal-Mart stores and Sam’s Clubs, including an extended number of days that Salvation Army bell-ringers could ring in front of the companies’ stores, as well as Wal-Mart’s $1.25 million direct donation to the Red Kettles.

* The Smithsonian Institution has come under growing scrutiny. The organization’s former inspector general says top official Lawrence M. Small tried to head off an audit of the Smithsonian’s business ventures division, which eventually brought the size, and scope of Small’s compensation package under Congressional review, the New York Times reported March 21. A confidential report by leading U.S. museum directors found deficits in collection quality, facilities maintenance and poor organizational structure and lack of cooperation between institutions due to a culture of “go-it-alone habits,” The Art Newspaper reported March 20. And in a slap at Small, the Senate voted to freeze a $17 million increase in the Smithsonian’s proposed 2008 budget, the Washington Post reported March 23.

* That $10 billion federal telephone tax rebate should do some good – not for individuals, at only $30 to 60 per household, but for the common good – say Archbishop Desmond Tutu and actors Martin Sheen, Larry Hagman and Ed Begley Jr., the Boston Globe reported Mar. 11. Refunds for Good, the new website they’re promoting, hopes to channel the rebates to causes such as the Solar Electric Light Fund, Physicians for Social Responsibility and PeaceJam.

* Results of a three-year legal tug-of-war between Tennessee and Mississippi over the $100 million Maddox Foundation, left by the death of Nashville tycoon Dan Maddox and his wife in 1998, have been hailed as a victory for layers hoping to bring the organization back to Tennessee, the Tennessean reported March 13. A Nashville judge ordered $34 million, which had been moved to a Mississippi bank without the knowledge of the independent company appointed to oversee the trust, restored to a financial institution with offices in Tennessee; accusations of money squandered on bad investments and legal fees are still under investigation.

* As the number of small nonprofits devoted to public-interest causes multiplies, a network of more than 1,000 auxiliary organizations is sprouting up across the U.S. to provide training services to small staffs whose members must master a staggering variety of tasks, the New York Times reported March 18. These auxiliary groups are most often nonprofits themselves, says the Alliance for Nonprofit Management, but consulting firms and over 250 universities and colleges also offer nonprofit resources.

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