Nonprofit news roundup – Week of 01.14.08

* Anonymous giving is on the rise amid growing tension, as lawmakers and consumer groups increase pressure on charities to reveal donor identities, while some states move to protect donor privacy, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 9 [subscription only]. Last year 37 donors gave gifts of $5 million or more anonymously, many citing religion, safety or pushy fundraisers as their reasons for resorting to elaborate identity screens or opting to back donor-advised funds instead of more traditional philanthropic endeavors.

* Habitat for Humanity International has been sued by its oldest affiliate in protest of a new agreement that would transfer significant control of local assets to the headquarters organization, The New York Times reported Jan. 9. The San Antonio affiliate is one of an unknown number of Habitat partners that neglected to sign the agreement by the Dec. 31 deadline.

* Yale University announced it will increase its endowment spending by 40 percent next year, providing an additional $307 million for financial aid, scientific and medical research, and a potential expansion of undergraduate enrollment numbers, The New York Times reported Jan. 8. A response to Congressional pressure, donor concerns and rapid endowment growth, this change brings the university, whose endowment spending has been relatively low for an elite university, up to par with recent moves by its peers.

* Several recent publications and a “small and increasingly vocal” group of foundation leaders are reaching the same conclusion: The continuing push for goal-driven, accountability-obsessed giving has sacrificed long-term effectiveness for short-term efficiency, The New York Times reported Jan. 6. A growing number of foundations are insisting there are ways to attaining measurable results without denying promising young nonprofits the long-term support and operating grants required to foster sustainability, passion and innovation.

* Tax-exempt organizations will no longer fall victim to a 2004 law meant to combat tax shelters, thanks to a recent amendment, The New York Times reported Jan. 3. The law had been intended to curb questionable tax arrangements between corporations and local governments, known as “lease-in, lease-out” and “sale-in, lease-out” deals, but also had the potential to affect other types of partnerships involving tax-exempt entities.

* Major museum directors are becoming harder to find as reduced arts funding and flagging audiences make the job profile increasingly multifaceted, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 10 [subscription only]. The retirement of Philippe de Montebello from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is the latest of 21 director vacancies at major U.S. museums, nearly double the usual number.

* The Carnegie Foundation has named Anthony Bryk, a scholar in urban school reform at Stanford University, as its next president, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Jan. 9. Bryk holds a joint appointment at Stanford’s School of Education and its Graduate School of Business.

* New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has proposed an endowment and a faculty increase of 2,000 members for the state’s higher education system, The New York Times reported Jan. 7. Several top state university systems already boast multibillion-dollar endowments, including California and Michigan, whose public universities New York hopes to equal.

* GiveWell founder Holden Karnofsky is facing demotion and pay cuts after admitting to promoting his organization by posing on its website as a prospective donor, The New York Times reported Jan. 8. The charity watchdog group has drawn much interest and controversy thanks to a hard-line, skeptical take on evaluating nonprofit effectiveness.

* Eli Broad, a billionaire financier and philanthropist who sports a collection of over 2,000 works of modern and contemporary art, has opted to keep permanent control of his collection in a “striking reversal,” The New York Times reported Jan. 8. Broad, who says he will loan the pieces out on a temporary basis, touts his decision as a new economic model for museums struggling with staggering increases in auction prices and changing donor relations.

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