Nonprofit news roundup – Week of 06.25.07

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

* Poor internal communications and lack of executive oversight prompted the Smithsonian’s new permanent Committee on Governance to conduct an internal evaluation and release a report that includes recommendations and rules for the organization, The New York Times reported June 18.  The Smithsonian’s board of regents approved all of the recommendations, which include a code of ethics and closer auditing of expenses.

* In the first major change in 25 years, the IRS is updating its Form 990, the filing submitted by U.S. nonprofits, in an effort to make it easier for the federal agency to monitor how much charities pay their executives and spend on fundraising, The New York Times reported June 15.

* Studies by U.S. researchers suggest that giving money to charity, even if the contribution is mandatory, can trigger pleasure centers in the brain, Reuters reported June 14.  While the effect holds true for required giving, as in the form of taxes, it is stronger when donations are voluntary, findings researchers say suggest the existence of “pure altruism.”

* CNN has launched “Impact Your World,” a new initiative designed to make it easier for viewers to respond to some of the network’s stories on relief efforts and charities, the Associated Press reported June 19.  The effort, resulting from a high public response to disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the Asian Tsunami, will consist of a web site with contact information for charities.

* The legal profession has a long history of taking on pro bono cases and now many attorneys are willing to donate money to charities like Lawyers Without Borders to gain access to pro-bono cases benefiting the public good, The Wall Street Journal reported June 19 (registration required).  Law firms see pro bono work as a way not only to give back, but to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive marketplace. 

* The founders of the charity Autism Speaks are seeing a debate in the world of autism research reflected in their own family as they differ in opinion with their daughter, whose son is autistic, The New York Times reported June 18.  While some believe autism is genetically based, as do the Wrights, others like their daughter are fighting for more research into the effects of mercury and preservatives in vaccinations, which they believe to be the cause of the neurological disorder.

* Citigroup has launched a new charitable fund with the goal of using microfinance to connect philanthropists with entrepreneurs in developing countries, The Wall Street Journal reported June 14 (registration required).  The new Citi Microfinance Donor Fund, which will accept donations of at least $50,000, awards grants to microfinance institutions that in turn provide small loans to budding business people in areas that lack traditional financing opportunities.

* The Manton Foundation has donated British paintings and studies valued at $40 million, along with a $50 million cash donation, to The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., the Associated Press reported June 15.  The gift, the largest donation since the institute opened in 1955, will allow it greater research opportunities, its director says.

* The Salvation Army has sold for $16 million the home of the late Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, The Wall Street Journal reported June 15 (registration required).  The house, which had decreased in value from an asking price of $28 million in 2005, was part of a $1.5 billion bequest by Ms. Kroc designated to pay for the construction of more than two dozen community centers.

* While Jeffrey Sachs’ Millennium Promise has made advances in eradicating malaria in some African villages, many economists remain skeptical of the project’s success across the continent, Joe Nocera wrote in an opinion column in The New York Times June 16.  Despite those helped thus far, malaria is mixed with an array of other problems in Africa that the good intentions of Western corporations and philanthropists are not equipped to solve, he says.

— Compiled by Angela Strader

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