* Many of the largest U.S. foundations are trying to align their investment portfolios more closely with their social goals, adopting such practices as voting shareholder proxies or setting aside portions of endowments for mission-related investments, the Los Angeles Times reported Dec. 29. Experts say the example of funders like the Ford Foundation, along with a recent series of Times’ articles analyzing the investments of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have provided much of the impetus for this new trend.
* Experts worry that Harvard University’s mid-December announcement that it will reduce tuition costs for middle- and upper-income students has changed the landscape of college pricing so that universities with smaller endowments will not be able to keep up, The New York Times reported Dec. 29. The university has pledged to cap direct contributions from families earning $120,000 to $180,000 at 10 percent and replace all student loans with grants.
* At many veterans’ charities, fewer than one-third of donations actually reach veterans, the American Institute of Philanthropy found in a recent study of 29 such groups, newsday.com reported Jan. 2. Congressional hearings and states such as Pennsylvania are beginning to crack down on high overhead costs, high-cost solicitations and huge salaries for charities’ executives.
* Research shows children and teenagers are getting involved in philanthropy beginning at a younger age, The Washington Post reported Dec. 30. Many credit the democratizing effects of new technology with popularizing giving among young people.
* Lawyers in Ohio are focusing their pro-bono work on foreclosures in a state that tops the charts in the recent housing crisis, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 2 [subscription only]. Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer has encouraged these efforts, noting that nine in 10 foreclosures in the state go uncontested.
* Many community colleges are reducing their reliance on public dollars in an effort to better serve their students, The Macon Telegraph reported Jan. 2. Many two-year colleges are only now beginning to place a focus on fundraising, competing against their four-year peers with an arsenal that often lacks in infrastructure, but boasts unusually strong community relations.
* Luring top students into transformed teacher-training programs is the goal of a recent program launched by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation in Princeton, N.J., The New York Times reported Dec. 20. Backed by the Annenberg Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Lilly Endowment, the program will award 33 national Leonore Annenberg Teaching Fellowships annually and additional fellowships in selected states at universities that agree to remake their teacher training programs.
* Former Harvard University endowment chief Mohamed El-Erian made $6.5 million during the last fiscal year for his successes in building the university coffers, which posted the endowment’s fourth-best performance since 1974, with returns of 23 percent and year-end totals of $34.9 billion, The Boston Globe reported Dec. 21. While such compensation is low compared with his private-sector peers, El-Erian earned almost 10 times more than Harvard’s president.
* Unlike most other U.S. cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., are giving hotspots at a moment when most companies are cutting back, The New York Times reported Dec. 22. Historical charitable incentives such as the Five Percent Club, whose still-strong corporate members are required to give away 5 percent of their pre-tax income, have encouraged an atmosphere of hearty corporate generosity.
* Many religious organizations are beginning to see the value of educating the ministry in management skills, The New York Times reported Dec. 15. Several recently-founded graduate management programs teach business management principles specific to the work of churches and religious nonprofits.