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Nonprofit news roundup – Week of 10.01.07

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* One Laptop Per Child, an M.I.T. Media Lab initiative designed to introduce the developing world’s children to computing, will launch “Give 1 Get 1,” a two-week marketing campaign promoting sales of the low-cost, rugged machine the Lab has spent years developing, the New York Times reported Sept. 24. In an effort to boost slow sales, the group will offer Americans and Canadians the chance to buy two XO Laptops for $399, one to be shipped to a child in a developing country and the other to the purchaser.

* A recent jump in fundraising for college athletics may be responsible for the decline in academic donations on some campuses, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported. The largest athletic departments in the U.S. raised $1.2 billion in 2006-07, and some saw their gifts more than triple during the past decade, a recent Chronicle survey said.

* Secretive philanthropist Chuck Feeney has stepped out of the shadows with the publication of an authorized biography “The Billionaire Who Wasn’t” by journalist Conor O’Clery, the New York Times reported Sept. 26. Self-made proprietor of a worldwide empire of duty-free airport shops, Feeney last year gave out $458 million in grants, more than any U.S. philanthropy besides the Ford and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations, through his Atlantic Philanthropies, which was established in Bermuda to avoid disclosures required by U.S. law.                                                                                                   

* The wealth- and asset- management job outlook has continued to improve, even in the face of recent turmoil in mortgage and credit markets, the Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 24 [subscription only]. The number of U.S. households with $1 million in investable assets has doubled over the past decade, and many companies such as Wachovia and Bank of America have expanded their wealth-management services to serve this growing client base.

* The high lead content discovered in many Chinese exports has impacted a Boston cancer charity, which recalled 200,000 memorial bracelets after a 9-month old boy was hospitalized with lead poisoning, the Boston Globe reported Sept. 22. The Friends of Mel Foundation had raised over $1 million for Massachusetts General Hospital selling the Chinese-manufactured bracelets online and at local shops.

* While the IRS has ended its investigation into a 2004 antiwar sermon delivered at a prominent church in Pasadena, Calif., parishioners at All Saints Episcopal are demanding clarification of the agency’s ruling, and an apology, the Los Angeles Times reported Sept. 24. Though the church no longer faces the loss of its tax-exempt status, the latest IRS communiqué indicates it still consider the sermon an illegal intervention in the 2004 presidential elections.

* Yale University’s endowment grew 28 percent to $22.2 billion as of June 30, continuing its decade-long dominance in investment performance within the academic world, the New York Times reported Sept. 27. Wall Street has long kept an eye on Yale’s chief investment officer, David F. Swenson, whose maverick diversification strategies include hedge funds, private equity funds and hard assets like timber and oil and gas.

* ThinkMTV.com, MTV’s new social networking website aimed at engaging young people in activism, has come under criticism as “shallow” and profit-motivated by leaders of other nonprofit social-networking websites, the New York Times reported Sept. 27. Critics suggest financial backing from foundations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates and Case Foundations, could have been better directed to collaboration with popular existing sites such as Idealist.org or YouthNoise.com.

* The naming rights for 10 new species of fish sold for more than $2 million at a recent auction in eastern Indonesia, with proceeds benefiting conservation efforts in Bird’s Head Seascape, where the fish were discovered, the Washington Post reported Sept. 22. A joint project of Conservation International, Prince Albert II, and the Monaco-Asia Society, the auction is part of a new trend among environmentalists to sell naming rights in exchange for money for conservation.

* British arts organizations have begun to tap Americans for funding, citing a favorable tax regime and generous giving culture, the Financial Times reported Sept. 21 [subscription only]. As British arts subsidies decline, many institutions, from the Tate Modern to the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, have established permanent offices or partners in the U.S.

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