Nonprofit news roundup – Week of 08.27.07

* The U.S. Agency for International Development will begin screening the nonprofits it funds for ties to terrorism, according to a recent Federal Register notice, the Washington Post reported Aug. 23. The Bush administration plans to require detailed information about key personnel, but does not intend to clarify how the information will be used or inform groups deemed unacceptable about the reasons for their rejection.

* Faith-based activists have entered the corporate sector, trading a reliance on consumer action and political lobbying for agenda-driven investing, the Religion News Service reported Aug. 11. In the past decade, demand for religious investment services has increased more than 3,500 percent, according to fund-tracker Morningstar Inc., and faith-based mutual funds have grown to more than $17 billion from approximately $500 million.

* Former World Jewish Congress president Edgar Bronfman and the WJC itself each has filed suit against the group’s former chairman, Israel Singer, the Jerusalem Post reported Aug. 20. The suits involve $500,000 in personal loans that Singer allegedly failed to repay, as well as discrepancies in expenses related to frequent-flier miles and company computers.

* Harvard University’s endowment, overseen by the Harvard Management Company, posted a 23 percent increase during the fiscal year ended June 30, the New York Times reported Aug. 22. This brings the school’s endowment, the largest among U.S. universities, to $34.9 billion for the first full year influenced by new company chief Mohamed A. El-Erian, who took over from Jack R. Meyer in 2005.

* Student activists increasingly are resorting to corporate strategies, plying university administrators with PowerPoint presentations and research proposals to convince them to adopt socially conscious investment practices, the Boston Globe reported Aug. 13. Though success is often slow, this collaborative approach is gaining momentum, with groups like the Responsible Endowments Coalition, which has established chapters at 50 colleges and universities since its founding in 2004, pushing for incremental change instead of instant revolution.

* American billionaire Sheldon Adelson has pledged $60 million to the Taglit-birthright israel project, a program that sponsors trips to Israel for Jewish youth, Haaretz reported Aug. 17. Adelson’s contribution already has doubled this year’s participants to 25,000.

* The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hopes to increase its responsiveness to the public by accepting unsolicited donations, a change from the past policy that mandated such donations be returned in order to avoid undermining smaller nonprofits’ fundraising efforts, the Associated Press reported Aug 13. While the foundation still encourages direct gifts to the organizations it supports, over the past seven months it has received 45 donations totaling $108,000, the administrative costs for which may exceed any income from the donations.

* Christians, Jews and Muslims whose religious beliefs prompt them to embrace sustainable and humane farming practices increasingly are organizing on a national level, the New York Times reported Aug 22. The faith-based agricultural movement already is responsible for $250 billion a year in food production, says Arlin S. Wasserman, founder of St. Paul consulting firm Changing Tastes.

* The Boy Scouts of America are employing new strategies to recruit Latino youth, the Boston Globe reported Aug 13. With national enrollment down nearly 10 percent since 1998, the group has begun to use Spanish-language advertising campaigns and soccer programs to attract new members from the nation’s fastest growing minority group.

* Financial services marketer TIAA-CREF is playing up its nonprofit status, hoping a more humane, attentive image will set the company apart in a viciously competitive market, the New York Times reported Aug 15.

— Compiled by Elizabeth Floyd

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