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Nonprofit news roundup – Week of 09.03.07

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* Democrats across the U.S. are returning or donating to charity large checks from Norman Hsu, a well-known fundraiser and political donor, after his criminal past came to light, The New York Times reported Aug. 31. Hsu, who in the past three years personally contributed over $600,000 to federal, state and municipal candidates, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, faces an outstanding warrant for skipping a court date in 1992 after pleading no contest to defrauding investors.

* Recent stock market upheavals may take a toll on the nonprofit sector as donations decline, pledges are retracted and philanthropists lose their day jobs, the New York Sun reported Aug. 29. However, the conservative investment strategies of many nonprofits, as well as payouts from foundations, which frequently increase in times of need, may soften the blow, the newspaper reported.

* Yosemite National Park is leading the way in attracting donors for a “centennial challenge” designed to prod Congress to increase park service funding and give national parks a facelift in time for their 100th birthday in 2016, the Fresno Bee reported Aug. 24. Under the plan, dependent on a spending bill awaiting congressional approval, the $300 million in private donations already pledged by corporations, nonprofits and visitors would materialize only if Congress agrees to provide matching funds.

* The Boston Symphony Orchestra will launch a fundraising campaign that could top out at $400 million, the symphony’s largest effort to date, the Boston Globe reported Aug. 29. Piggybacking on an unprecedented arts-building boom in the region, the symphony plans no new buildings, opting to renovate and restore, reserving any additional funds for its endowment, the largest in the orchestra world.

* Microsoft Corp. will distribute free software to as many as 35,000 eligible Indian nonprofits through a technology-assistance program run jointly by India’s NASSCOM Foundation and San Francisco-based TechSoup, the Associated Press reported Aug. 27. The project, BiG Tech, follows an established Microsoft strategy of tying philanthropic efforts in India to business moves.

* Rich alumni increasingly are passing over their well-funded alma maters to give to needier colleges, the Wall Street Journal reported Aug. 28. Contributions to higher-education institutions from non-alumni rose 14 percent last year, according to the Council for Aid to Education in New York, and less-prosperous schools tend to rely more than wealthy ones on such donations.

* GoodMoney, a new nonprofit in Appleton, Wisc., is trying to turn consumer dependence on short-term payday loans, which don’t require credit checks but often charge upwards of 500 percent annual interest, into a forum for promoting financially sound behavior and interrupting debt cycles, The New York Times reported Aug. 28. The nonprofit, which has attracted critics as well as supporters, offers its own payday loans at around half the going interest rate, while encouraging borrowers to consolidate their debt and resort to more reliable credit union services like automatic savings.

* Women philanthropists have taken charge of many of New Orleans’ post-Katrina recovery efforts, reflecting a common current among women worldwide, who often respond to national disastors by taking on more leadership roles as grass-roots organizers, fundraisers and donors, the Financial Times reported Aug. 27. Low-income women and the elderly were the hardest hit in Katrina’s wake.

* Old-fashioned patronage of individual artists is gaining new footing and a new look among wealthy, modern benefactors who treat the whole artist instead of merely comissioning private works, the Financial Times reported Aug. 17. This new generation of an ancient breed often works intimately with its chosen recipients to promote careers and provide space and materials in addition to funding, generally taking a knowledgable interest in a young artist’s development.

* Milwaukee real estate developer Joseph Zilber has pledged $50 million to “achieving a new potential” for the city, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Aug. 21. Zilber has pledged $30 million to the new Marquette University Law School and says he will announce the distribution of the remaining $20 million in the coming weeks.

–Compiled by Elizabeth Floyd

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