Nonprofit news roundup – Week of 02.04.08

* Faith-based charities continue to reap wide support in the U.S., from presidential candidates to governors, mayors and even the Supreme Court, the former director and deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said in a New York Times op-ed Jan. 29. President George W. Bush in his State of the Union address called for permanent extension of laws that let faith-based groups receive federal grants.

* The “call to service” President Bush issued in his 2002 State of the Union address has fallen short of reinvigorating American volunteerism, according to many of the initiative’s early supporters, The New York Times reported Jan. 27. The USA Freedom Corps, a new White House office created to promote new volunteer initiatives and expand existing ones, has lost its director and fallen short of several goals, some say.

* Former president Bill Clinton received a $31.3 million donation for his charitable foundation from Frank Giustra just after accompanying the Canadian mining financier to Kazakhstan, where his company made a surprise deal involving three coveted uranium projects, The New York Times reported Jan. 31. Clinton, husband of Democratic president candidate Hillary Clinton, has come under increasing pressure to disclose the identities of donors to his William J. Clinton Foundation.

* Elite college preparatory schools are acquiring college-size endowments as strong markets have driven a nearly 95-percent increase in the average endowment per student, The New York Times reported Jan. 28. Schools like Phillip Exeter Academy have crossed the $1 billion mark, spending surplus funds on student aid and expensive facilities.

* Conservation organizations are facing the need for radically altered land preservation strategies as landscapes change under the force of global warming, The New York Times reported Jan. 29. Many groups are combating the uncertainties by honing new strategies, searching for resilient species and potential land refuges against climate change.

* The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is launching an umbrella grantmaking organization to fight climate change, Reuters reported Jan. 25. The foundation is courting potential philanthropic partners, which it hopes will contribute a total of $500 million to $600 million annually to the climate fund.

* An increasing number of wealthy individuals are giving away their fortunes during their lifetimes, partially as a result of demographic trends towards a younger, self-made population of affluence, The Financial Times reported Jan. 26. These entrepreneurs often have a greater sense of ownership in their wealth and more international awareness than previous generations, as well as a stronger desire for self-expression and a wish to avoid spoiling their children with excess wealth, the newspaper says.

* Many foundations are seeking feedback from grantees in an effort to be more responsive to nonprofit needs, the Financial Times reported Jan. 25. Grantmakers like the Philadephia Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation and James Irvine Foundation are posting grantee perception reports and airing their mistakes online.

* A building boom in the idea industry in Washington, D.C., is expanding “Think Tank Row” in the city, The New York Times reported Jan. 30. Operating budgets are up at the city’s the top two-dozen research organizations, thanks to Wall Street money, a renewed post-9/11 interest in foreign policy, and reported frustration with the Bush administration, yet some say this influx of money has the potential to diminish the scope and quality of their research.

* The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is expanding its investment in agricultural development with $306 million in grants to six farming programs, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 25. Also in recent days, Bill Gate’s Microsoft has entered into partnerships with two education-focused Dubai philanthropies, the Mohammad Bin Rashid Foundation and Dubai Cares, reported Jan. 28.

* The Victory Project is offering $1 billion awards to anyone who can solve the riddle of cancer, diabetes, fuel-guzzling cars or the greenhouse effect, but founder Mike Dewey is no billionaire, The Austin American-Statesman reported Jan. 20. The marketing consultant from Austin, Tex., already has attracted some significant financial backers, however, and plans to claim ownership of, and then give away, any inventions the project produces.

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