Nonprofit news roundup – Week of 10.15.07

* Altria Group, formerly Phillip Morris Companies and maker of Marlboro, the world’s most popular cigarette, is leaving many New York dance companies, theaters and art museums scrambling to replace its reliable funding as the company spins off its international branch and moves headquarters to Richmond, Va., the New York Times reported Oct. 8. The company consistently ranked among the top three New York corporate contributors to the arts and was known for supporting edgy and experimental works.

* The San Diego Diocese of the Catholic Church is asking parishioners and priests to help pay a $198 million settlement to the victims of clergy abuse, the Los Angeles Times reported Oct. 8. Most diocesan priests and some parishioners have responded with solidarity, but the request is raising questions about the diocese’s decision to file for bankruptcy protection, as well as whether the church’s real-estate holdings are truly insufficient to pay off the settlements.

* Carnegie Hall will hire the architecture firm led by Natan Bibliowitz, son-in-law of Carnegie’s chairman, Sanford I. Weill, to design its $150 million expansion, The New York Times reported Oct 11. Experts on nonprofit law and governance have questioned the ethics of the deal with Iu & Bibliowicz Architects that will be paid for in part by taxpayer dollars in the form of a $5 million grant from New York State for planning and design.

* Nature Conservancy employees who have been on the payroll since 2000, and their dependants, are in danger of having their identities stolen after a human-resources employee accidentally downloaded a spyware program that compromised the organization’s data system, the Washington Post reported Oct. 5. The announcement of the breach follows the unexplained resignation of current President Stephen J. McKormick, although there appears to be no link between the two.

* More Americans are giving away their fortunes during their lifetimes in the interest of achieving the kind of control over their disbursal not available through charitable bequests, InvestmentNews reported Oct. 1. Though Americans left a record $295 billion to charity last year, the number of charitable bequests dropped 2.1 percent to a total of $22.9 billion, while foundation grantmaking has risen 12.6 percent since 2005 in part due to a growth in the number of foundations, according to Giving USA Foundation’s annual study.

* Many Muslims have found themselves in a quandary this Ramadan as many local charities that traditional receive zakat, a donation required of Muslims, are currently under government investigation for terrorist ties, The Detroit News reported Oct. 5.

* Billionaire David Koch has pledged to give $100 million to a new MIT cancer center, but only after the university agreed to break ground on the $280 million center immediately, even without the full 80 percent of funding the university likes to have in hand before it starts construction, the Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 9 [subscription only]. Koch, who has prostate cancer, estimates this will shave from 18 months to two years off an otherwise five-year construction process.

* The Darfur Project, which is funded by a coalition of Wall Street banks and works with humanitarian aid group the Bridge Foundation, will pay for eight airlifts carrying antibiotics and medical supplies to war-torn western Sudan over the next six months at a cost of $2 million, the New York Times reported Oct. 3. With the first flight completed, the partners are trying to grow the project in what may be the beginning of a new trend in corporate giving to international humanitarian aid.

* Renowned entomologist Evert Schlinger owes more than $35 million to his own family foundation, which he and several financial advisors allegedly defrauded and mismanaged through shaky investments and the creation of bogus churches, the Los Angeles Times reported Oct. 4. Retired professor Schlinger, who held chairs at UC Riverside and UC Berkeley has funded millions of dollars worth of entomology professorships across the country.

* Macau casino magnates may be currying favor with the mainland Chinese government in a recent turn to art philanthropy, the Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 21 [subscription only]. The special administrative region, known as a gambling resort, has spawned several big-time donors eager to help the Chinese government repatriate cultural artifacts that its borders during wartime.

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