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Nonprofit news roundup – Week of 05.14.07

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* The investment strategy of Berkshire Hathaway, whose $31 billion in stock will fund roughly half the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s grants by 2009, conflicts even more sharply with the foundation’s philanthropic goals than do the foundation’s own endowment investments, the Los Angeles Times reported May 4. The article cites Berkshire Chairman Warren Buffet’s refusal to divest from PetroChina, which the Times says is an indirect but key player in the Sudanese genocide, and the company’s socially-irresponsible stock holdings as evidence Buffet is not using his authority to chart a more socially-conscious role for business.

* The IRS has redesigned Form 990, the annual information filing submitted by nonprofits, and will launch a three-month public comment period in June, The Wall Street Journal reported May 4. IRS officials and tax experts say the new form will be streamlined and clarified, but will stop short of providing the kind of detailed performance measures that publicly traded companies are required to make public.

* The Salvation Army and the Greenpeace Fund say they have settled their dispute over the $264 million estate of United Parcel Service heir H. Guy di Stefano, though details of the settlement have not been released, the Seattle Times reported May 9. Di Stefano split his fortune equally among eight charities, but the Salvation Army argued that the Greenpeace Fund, a fellow beneficiary, was not the same organization as Greenpeace International, the group originally listed in Di Stefano’s will.

* Large employers like JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Google have begun allowing recent college graduates to defer job offers and spend two years teaching at under-funded schools through the nonprofit Teach for America, The Wall Street Journal reported May 3. Many of these companies face growing competition from such philanthropic organizations in recruiting top candidates.

* Insurance tycoon Barry Kaye says he will raise $100 million for Florida Atlantic University if the school agrees to launch a fundraising campaign based on one of his new life insurance plans, the Palm Beach Post reported May 1. The program, similar to one recently implemented by Oklahoma State University that sparked a trend in investment strategies involving life insurance, could make use of “life settlements,” a controversial new segment of the industry.

* The American Association of Museums has chosen Ford Watson Bell as its new president in the group’s first change of leadership in 20 years, the Washington Post reported May 3. The Minnesota native served as president of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation from 1995 to 2005 and is known for his activism in the Minneapolis museum community.

* Off-shore hedge-fund investments by Harvard, Stanford and Yale universities are under investigation by Senate Finance Committee aides as part of a broader search for new sources of tax revenue, Bloomberg reported May 8. As of June 30, 2006, about 18 percent of overall university endowments were invested in hedge funds.

* Nonprofit mailers may see their special standard mail rates, which are 40 percent lower than the commercial rate, revoked in the next five to 10 years, says Anthony W. Conway, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, DMNews reported May 8.

* Billionaire liquor magnate Edgar M. Bronfman Sr., has resigned as president of the World Jewish Congress, The New York Times reported May 8. Bronfman’s surprise resignation comes just two months after he dismissed the Congress’s secretary general, Israel Singer, following additional alleged financial improprieties by Singer.

* Maine State Sen. Elizabeth Schneider is sponsoring a bill that would limit to $250,000 compensation for nonprofit executives whose organizations receive at least 25 percent of their funding from government coffers, the Kennebec Journal reported May 7.

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