Nonprofit news roundup – Week of 09.10.07

* Exxon Mobil Corp. will donate $125 million to the National Math and Science Initiative, a nonprofit that encourages math and science majors to pursue teaching careers, reported Aug. 28.  The award, the largest in the oil company’s history, aims to counter a decline in high school students’ math and science skills highlighted in a 2005 National Academies of Science report.

* While donations to universities have been doubling every decade, benefactors are becoming increasingly exacting about how their contributions are spent, the Washington Post reported Sept. 4. Alumni are now much more likely to donate to specific projects than to operating costs and often demand greater personal involvement in the distribution of their money.

* The all-time highs of volunteer and civic-engagement rates among Americans since the 1970s paradoxically are a result of an all-time low in the public’s confidence in public institutions, TIME Magazine reported recently. The next U.S. president should “mine” these trends to create a program for universal national service, the article says.

* A growing debate over the effectiveness of charitable foundations is weighing wealthy philanthropists’ goals and achievements against existing tax breaks, which many see as robbing government coffers, the New York Times reported Sept. 6.

* Susan Kennedy, chief of staff to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is being criticized by government watchdog groups for the favor she is garnering for her domestic partner’s nonprofit, Marin Services for Women, the Los Angeles Times reported Sept. 4. Critics allege the nonprofit, a small treatment center for women with alcohol and drug addictions, has become a power broker for state jobs and is capitalizing on its political connections in order to raise money.

* Nonprofits are widening their circles of fundraisers by involving staff members outside development offices in asking for money, the Boston Globe reported Sept. 5. From offers of exclusive dinners with symphony musicians and MIT lab visits to Audubon Society rangers who solicit donations in the field, nonprofit fundraising is branching out.

* The rich, and even the slightly less so, have become interested in wealth transfers that take place during the donor’s lifetime as opposed to waiting until after their deaths, USA Today reported Aug. 25. The number of family foundations has increased by 77 percent in the past 10 years, and the reasonably-wealthy are giving more to kids and grandkids for college educations and down payments on houses.

* Wake Forest University’s investments manager, Louis Morrell, is using an old-school investment in mutual funds to great effect for the university’s $1.2 billion endowment, one of the strongest-performing in the country, the Wall Street Journal reported Aug. 30.

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