Nonprofit news roundup – Week of 01.28.08

* Bill Gates urged leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to engage in “creative capitalism,” meeting the needs of the poor while generating profits, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 24 [subscription only]. Gates said he had not given up on capitalism, but has become impatient with its failures, particularly innovations in technology, education and health care that only increase the wealth gap.

* Investment-advisory fees paid by a trust cannot be deducted in full for income-tax purposes, the Supreme Court has ruled, but instead are limited by a 2 percent floor, the Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 23 [subscription only]. The case was closely watched by trust holders, who have proliferated in recent decades as American prosperity increases.

* The “growing tyranny” of donors who earmark their generosity for particular projects and special initiatives while general operating funds drain dry has “hamstrung” the Red Cross and other nonprofits, The New York Times reported Jan. 20. The trend of wielding restricted gifts as an accountability tool intensified after September 11, partially in response to an outcry over the Red Cross’s intent to redirect 9/11 funds to other purposes.

* Fundraising efforts at American nonprofits this year may reflect the uncertainty of a tough economy, the recent mortgage crisis and the presidential election, DMNews reported Jan. 21. While some fear a significant reduction in available charitable funds, others have not yet felt the crunch.

* U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama has donated to charity more than $40,000 in past political contributions, the Associated Press reported Jan. 20. The contributions were linked to former Obama fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko, the Chicago real estate developer and fast food magnate on trial for fraud, attempted extortion and money laundering.

* The U.S. government should take greater responsibility for social needs instead of leaving them to the whims of wealthy private benefactors, The New York Times said in an editorial Jan. 22. While private philanthropy in the U.S. is the most generous in the world, its relatively low tax take makes the U.S. one of the ‘stingiest’ industrialized nations.

* “Pixelanthropists” are raising real money in virtual worlds like Second Life, MSNBC reported Jan. 10. A number of prominent nonprofits are beginning to pick up on the trend, staging virtual charity walks and virtual nonprofit meetings.

* Planned Parenthood Federation of America is launching its first-ever major effort to elect pro-choice candidates during the 2008 presidential elections, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 22 [subscription only]. With its “One Million Strong” campaign, the abortion-rights advocacy group will spend $10 million in election campaigns, joining a growing number of interest groups undertaking independent efforts to elect their preferred candidates in the wake of beefed-up campaign-finance laws.

* The United Negro College Fund is getting a facelift with a new branding effort that highlights the nonprofit’s initials and infuses color into its traditionally black-and-white logo, The New York Times reported Jan. 17. The U.N.C.F. faces the same predicament as AARP and N.A.A.C.P. – sustaining its history while trying to remain relevant with an expanded, contemporary clientele.

* The Peace Corps has long “neglected its customers,” its inexperienced recent college graduates generating goodwill for the U.S. but doing little for development in the poor countries they are sent to help, former Peace Corps Cameroon Director Robert L. Strauss said in a guest column in The New York Times Jan. 9. He says that the organization resists being more selective in its volunteer recruiting for fear their numbers will plummet.

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