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Nonprofit news roundup – Week of 10.29.07

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* Towns such as Framingham, Mass., are beginning to demand payments in lieu of taxes from many of their nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations, having long eyed covetously the revenues lost on non-taxable properties of wealthier groups like universities and hospitals, the Boston Globe reported Oct. 18. Many nonprofits argue these so-called “PILOT” arrangements detract from their missions and ignore the vast contributions their organizations already make to their community.

* Countrywide Financial Corp., the largest U.S. home-mortgage lender vilified for alleged predatory lending practices in the recent sub-prime market crisis, will partner with its chief critic, nonprofit Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America, to help homeowners in danger of losing their houses restructure loans, the Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 24 (subscription only). Countrywide, which also faces controversy over allegations of insider-trading by CEO Angelo Mozilo, says it will examine the cases of 52,000 sub-prime clients with “a strong payment history.”

* A New Jersey judge has ordered Princeton University to court in a dispute over alleged disregard for donor intent in its handling of the Robertson Foundation’s 1961 gift to the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs now valued at $880 million, the New York Times reported Oct. 26. In a landmark case that is making many colleges queasy, the children of the original donor, who is the heir to the A.&P. supermarket fortune, have accused the university of using for too broad a range of other needs a donation intended to prepare federal government employees.

* Paid volunteerism, a rising trend in the way successful retirees view nonprofit work, may have permanently altered the volunteer culture, the New York Times reported Oct. 23. Experts attribute rising numbers of Baby Boomers willing to work hard for low pay – but not no pay – to growing concerns about personal finances, driven in part by increasing life expectancy, and to the greater sense of mutual respect and responsibility fostered by paid relationships.

* Going green is not as profitable, or as easy, as former environmental devotee Amory Lovins preached it to be in the late ‘90s, Business Week reported in an Oct. 29 cover story. Auden Schendler, a Lovins disciple and in-house sustainability expert at Colorado resort Aspen Skiing Co., has become a crusader for debunking myths of corporate-led environmental redemption, saying that daunting price tags and slow returns are causing executives to opt for the “bragging rights” offered by such dubiously effective initiatives as renewable energy credits, while most meaningful initiatives “wither on the vine.”

* Rush Limbaugh will donate $2.1 million in proceeds from the eBay auction of a letter of complaint he received, signed by 41 Democratic senators, after he characterized military employees who oppose the Iraq war as “phony soldiers,” the New York Times reported Oct. 20.  The conservative radio pundit will match funds from the purchase by the Eugene B. Casey Foundation with his own to make a $4.2 million donation to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation Inc., a New Jersey organization that aids families of killed or wounded soldiers and with which Limbaugh is already heavily involved.

* United States Artists aims to redefine arts patronage with unrestricted fellowships of $50,000 each that it awarded to 50 artists and musicians in its first round of grant making last year, the New York Times reported Oct. 10. The nonprofit, established in 2006 with $22.6 million in start-up money from prominent foundations and $4 million more from individual donors, aims to address what it sees as a dearth in broad funding for individual artists, noting that many of its fellows have used a portion of their grants for such basic needs as healthcare and housing.

* Countering the woes of commercial radio, National Public Radio and its affiliates are flourishing, a phenomenon the Wall Street Journal explored in an interview with NPR Chief Executive Ken Stern on Oct. 22 [subscription only]. Stern, who since joining the company in 1999 has overseen the station’s growth from 13 million weekly listeners to 25.5 million and nearly 200 new member stations, says that despite an aging listener population, NPR has stayed well in stride with the future, offering new media formats and encouraging youth participation.

* Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a conservative Delaware-based think tank, is suing three former managers and one of its major donors for allegedly stealing sensitive supporter databases in order to start their own rival foundation, The News Journal reported Oct. 18. The organization is asking the donor, Jim Miller, who it says had invested money in the Institute in the past but grew greedy for greater recognition, to honor his most recent pledge of $1.5 million.

* Albertson College once again will be The College of Idaho, a name change accompanied by an endowment-doubling $50 million cash gift from its former namesake, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, the Idaho Statesman reported Oct. 12. The small liberal arts college, which had suffered alumni disenchantment and an “impression the school didn’t need money” since the name change in 199l, also has launched a 10-year drive to build its own endowment to $175 million.

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