Nonprofit news roundup for Feb. 18, 2008

Elizabeth Floyd

* Former U.S.President Bill Clinton has created a sprawling business and charitable empire whose complex ties are attracting criticism as wife Hillary’s presidential campaign heats up, The Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 14 [subscription only]. His assistance in networking provided to Canadian businessman Frank Giustra, who has donated $100 million to Clinton’s foundation, extends from Kazakhstanto Colombia.

* Bill Gates’s new focus on “creative capitalism,” as revealed at the recent World Economic Forum, fails to take into account the wonders that profit-motivated capitalism has done to decrease poverty, wrote William Easterly, economics professor at New York University, in a Wall Street Journal opinion column Feb. 7. Easterly argues that the recognition garnered by corporate philanthropy is too weak a motivator to effect great change and that “picking winners” in foreign economies is too unpredictable a business for outside philanthropists.

* The Internet has changed philanthropy by increasing accessibility and the general exchange of information and by encouraging engagement and accountability, The Financial Times reported Feb. 12. The greater philanthropic promise of social networking and virtual communities may lie not in fundraising, but in increased involvement, Georgia Levenson Keohane wrote in an opinion piece for Slate Magazine Feb. 11.

* Nonprofit newspapers have been springing up lately, with the goal of filling gaps in coverage and integrity, The Christian Science Monitor reported Feb.12. Pablo Eisenberg, senior fellow at the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, suggests in a Financial Times opinion column Feb. 9 that a move toward nonprofit journalism could preserve journalistic integrity at a time when growing newsroom staff cuts and newspaper buyouts are threatening media transparency and its clout as a nonprofit watchdog.

* Arab philanthropy is on the rise, but excessive scrutiny by American counter terrorism agents may be stunting its growth, writer Ian Wilhelm said in an opinion column in the Christian Science Monitor Feb. 8. A recent report by the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo says post-9/11 suspicion of Arab charities is pushing philanthropic efforts underground that might otherwise inspire followers.

* In the mounting mortgage crisis, many nonprofit groups have become the first responders to the growing numbers of homeowners facing eminent foreclosures, Reuters reported Feb. 13. Some are holding weekly standing-room-online foreclosure prevention classes.

* Some student-loan authorities are “seriously evaluating” the viability of their programs as losses in the current credit crunch cause the Michigan Higher Education Student Loan Authority to end a loan program, The Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 13. Student loan groups in Mississippi and Montana are also struggling, and experts fear others will follow suit.

* Veteran- and military-related charities like the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes that spend 70 percent or 80 percent of donations on overhead costs are an “intolerable fraud,” the Washington Post said in an editorial Feb.8. The Post attributes the abuses of the military-related charities, a dozen of which received a failing grade in a recent American Institute of Philanthropy December study, to loose nonprofit regulatory practices.

* Fisk University cannot legally share ownership of an art collection donated by Georgia O’Keefe, a Tennessee judge has ruled, tabling a deal that would have brought the struggling university over $30 million, Northwest Arkansas’ News Source reported Feb. 10. The historically black college based in Nashville,Tenn., had sought to share The Alfred Steiglitz Collection with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, a museum founded by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton and scheduled to open in 2010.

* Four 19th century paintings valued at a total of $163 million were stolen at gun-point from a Zurich museum, The New York Times reported Feb. 12. Three men entered the E.G. Bührle Collection on February 11 and took the four major works, a Cézanne, a Degas, a Van Gogh and a Monet, in what is reported to be “the biggest art robbery in Europe.”

* Wealthy British taxpayers should pay a 10 percent surcharge on any income above 150,000 British pounds, or nearly $300,000, that would go to charitable causes, said Frank Field, the British Labor Party’s former welfare reform minister, The Financial Times reported Feb. 12. The levy would funnel money from those who failed to choose a particular cause into a national endowment and would raise 3.6 billion British pounds, or $7.1 billion, annually.

* Grant Oliphant has been chosen as the new CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation, the 14th largest community foundation in the U.S.,with funds totaling more than $750 million, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Feb. 12. Oliphant is vice president of programs and planning at The Heinz Endowments.

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