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Nonprofit news roundup – Week of 09.24.07

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* A new nonprofit, the Indianapolis-based Center for Excellence in Higher Education, will encourage big-money donors to give gifts with legally enforceable strings attached to curb colleges’ discretion in how they spend the donations, the Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 18 [subscription only]. The recent high-profile battles over university endowments that inspired this initiative, which is backed by the foundations of Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus, investor John Templeton and the late North Carolina retailer John William Pope, may also have affected annual alumni giving, which is down to 11.9 percent from 13.8 percent in 2001.

* The Peace Corps, created by President Kennedy to promote peace by sending Americans to live and work in developing countries, is ramping up its recruitment of volunteers ages 50 and over, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Sept. 20. The Corps is adopting new language-training methods and gentler placement policies geared towards older people, who bring extensive life experience and skills to an organization whose ranks are traditionally dominated by recent college grads.

* New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave away more than $165 million in 2006, an increase of $22 million over his 2005 donations, the New York Times reported Sept. 17. Bloomberg has indicated he will give away most of his fortune, estimated at between $5 billion and $13 billion, and plans to become a full-time philanthropist when his term ends in 2009.

* Barbara Dowd Anderson, an early investor in Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, has donated $128 million to The George School, a Quaker high school in Bucks County, Penna., in what is believed to be the largest-ever donation to a secondary school, the New York Times reported Sept. 17. Anderson’s gift was made possible when her father, Columbia University business professor David Dodd, whom Buffett credits as a key player in his own success, made an early investment in his student’s first investment partnership.

* Latin America’s wealthy should give a larger percentage of their earnings to charity, a columnist wrote in the Miami Herald Sept. 20. Those with an income greater than $1 million donate an average of only 3 percent of their financial assets, compared to their counterparts around the world, including those in Asia who donate 12 percent, in the Middle East and U.S. who give 8 percent and in Europe who give 5 percent, according to World Wealth Report 2007, a recent study by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini.

* The Smithsonian Institution is under scrutiny again for a reported lack of transparency as board members of the National Museum of the American Indian say they were not consulted in the recent appointment of new director Kevin Gover, the Washington Post reported Sept. 19. Gover, a law professor at Arizona State University, led the U.S. Bureau for Indian Affairs from 1997-2000, during which a federal judge held him in contempt of court for refusing to provide documents in a long-standing suit over Native American trust accounts.

* The U.S. Senate approved $200 million in aid for nonprofits helping homeowners avoid foreclosure as part of a $106 billion transportation and housing bill that the White House has said it will veto, the Associated Press reported Sept. 12. Nonprofit groups such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now and NeighborWorks America are often seen as a friendlier option for borrowers with weak credit histories who want to refinance their mortgages.

* Detroit now will benefit from a $100 million fund designed to help the city transition to an economy less dependent on the auto industry, The Detroit Free Press reported Sept. 14. Supported by 10 foundations, including the Ford Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, the New Economy Initiative will support workforce training, entrepreneurial start-up firms, new technologies and will be chaired by Steve Hamp, brother-in-law and former chief of staff to Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford.

* Former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will create a foundation to fund post-graduate fellowships that encourage public service, support micro-credit enterprises in developing countries and boost advocacy for Central Asian republics, the Washington Post reported Sept. 17. He plans to establish this new foundation with funds from a family foundation set up with his wife in 1985, valued at $20 million, as well as other personal assets, royalties from his forthcoming memoirs, and friends’ contributions.

* Hawaii is one of 11 states without an effective monitoring system for nonprofits, the Honolulu Advertiser reported Sept. 16. Recent high-profile cases have drawn attention to the state’s lack of a nonprofit registration requirement, allowing Hawaii’s 5,000 public charities to raise millions of dollars with virtually no government scrutiny.

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