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Nonprofit news roundup – Week of 11.12.07

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* The richest US college endowments have gotten only richer since the early 90s, thanks largely to alternative investments that have allowed a dozen or so top-tier schools to achieve dramatically greater returns on their endowments and continue to monopolize superstar faculty and cutting-edge research opportunities, The Boston Globe reported Nov. 2. While the average US college endowment increased 268 percent since 1991, this elite dozen has averaged gains of 488 percent over the same period, according to a joint Harvard-MIT study.

* Many smaller college endowments are producing returns as substantial as their Ivy League rivals, despite limited staff size and difficulty of access to the alternative investments that have been padding larger university endowments in recent years, The New York Times reported Nov. 4. Liberal arts colleges such as Bowdoin, Hamilton, and Furman often depend on alumni support and connections to bolster their return rates.

* Young graduates of elite colleges with a penchant for world-saving are finding the public-interest field crowded, volatile and often unfulfilling, The Washington Post reported Nov. 2. Many are finding early career stagnation and low pay lead to drifting forays into graduate school and long hauls on the temporary job track.

* Gifts of stock, mutual funds and other investments to charity  have jumped as much as 75 percent at many donor-advised funds this year, as donors reap the extra tax benefits from a strong stock market, The Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 7 [subscription only]. Journal columnist Tom Herman recommends prospective donors choose shares with unrealized long-term gains and be careful not to donate securities now worth less than what they originally paid for them.

* A company’s charitable attitude seems to be an indicator of consistently strong performance not only in the “good vibe” department, but also in the pure economic terms of cash flow, columnist Herb Greenberg wrote  in The Wall Street Journal Oct. 27. Several recent studies indicate that emphasis on such intangibles as humane business practices by top management trickles down to both employees and consumers, ultimately enhancing revenues in a very tangible way.

* U.S. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa is investigating the finances of six television evangelists who preach “prosperity theology,” or the idea that wealth is a sign of God’s favor, The Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 6 [subscription only]. Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is following up on the complaints of many watchdog groups that “mega-church” preachers such as Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar live in exorbitant wealth at least partially supported by the profit-making capacities of their large ministries.

* The Smithsonian Institute has temporarily suspended processing of a $5 million donation from the American Petroleum Institute, due to board members’ concerns that visions of oil spills may taint the oceans exhibit the money was meant to fund, The Washington Post reported Nov. 3.

* The recent flurry of e-mails soliciting donations for California fire victims allegedly on behalf of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is a scam according to a bureau communication, the Associated Press reported Nov. 2. The IRS never requests charitable gifts or personal information such as PIN numbers and passwords through e-mail.

* Employment in Britain’s voluntary sector has increased 26 percent in the past decade, outstripping growth in both the private and public sectors, the Financial Times reported Oct. 30. These new jobs fall mostly in the social-care sector and result in large part from increased government outsourcing, which tends to benefit larger charities – a sign that smaller organizations may need to “raise their game.”

* Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, is trying to build a culture of philanthropy in China, where a closed and entirely unregulated civic sector still requires charitable donations to be channeled through the governing Communist Party, The Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 2 [subscription only]. Yet a growing wealth disparity is  weakening party resistance to change, and many of China’s wealthiest are following in Li’s footsteps. Li, chairman of Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchinson Whampoa Ltd., plans to endow his foundations with one-third of his fortune, an estimated $10 billion.

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