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Nonprofit news roundup for Mar. 5, 2008

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Wal-Mart restructures philanthropy

Wal-Mart is restructuring its philanthropic giving, which totaled $290 million last year, to better match its rebranding efforts, The Financial Times reported Mar. 3. The company, which has traditionally given largely to local groups, will make larger, more strategic grants in three key areas: healthcare, environmental sustainability and education and training for 12 to 30 year-olds.

Real estate slump benefits nonprofits

The real estate slump has a silver lining for nonprofits in the housing market, National Public Radio reported Mar. 4. Bargain land deals have organizations like Habitat for Humanity aggressively buying properties they couldn’t afford a few years ago.

Foundations court high school donors

High school students have become sought-after donors as a number of wealthy schools raise hundreds of thousands for local medical charities, The Wall Street Journal reported Mar. 4 [subscription only]. Highland Park High raised $360,000 in donations and matching funds for a Huntington’s disease research group, a sum that rivals a typical National Health Institute research grant.

Poor give more of income

The working poor are America’s most generous philanthropists, giving away a higher percentage of their earnings than any other income level, Condé Nast Portfolio reported in its March 2008 issue. Americans who say they “cannot afford to give” are typically the ones with above-average incomes, the article said.

Malaria eradication debate rages

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s call to eradicate malaria was backed last year by prestigious health organizations, but the debate about the feasibility and potential danger of the eradication effort rages on, The New York Times reported Mar. 4. Many say eradication is too expensive, current tools are insufficient and raising expectations only invite frustration and loss of political will.

Nonprofits suffer short-term vision

The nonprofit sector has always suffered from a short-term view and an image as “career detour,” not “career builder,” said Billy Shore, founder and director of Share our Strength, in an interview with U.S. News and World Report Mar. 4. Yet the sector is beginning to attract a more returns-oriented breed of businessman, Shore said.

Rich eco-philanthropists arouse admiration, suspicion

Land conservation efforts by rich businessmen like Richard Branson, Ted Turner, George Soros and Luciano Benetton seem only equitable in light of the destructive effect excessive upper-crust lifestyles have had on the environment, CNN reported Mar. 2. Yet this foreign assistance has also aroused insult and suspicion.

Yunus opens “subprime” bank in N.Y.

Microfinance guru Muhammad Yunus brought his “sub sub sub subprime” business to New York with the opening of Grameen America in January, The Wall Street Journal reported Mar. 1 [subscription only]. Yunus is unfazed by the subprime mortgage crisis, which he blames on “sloppy business techniques,” saying accessible credit is one of the most fundamental human rights.

South African philanthropy seen missing charitable boat

In South Africa, “philanthropy” has a colonial history, tracing its roots to the paternalistic attitudes of 19th century missionaries, wrote Shelagh Gastrow, executive director of the South African Institute of Advancement, in a Mail & Guardian blog Feb. 8. Current South African philanthropy mixes up charity with strategic initiatives, insisting on a “charitable” top-down relationship of haves to have-nots, while failing to take advantage of successful charitable fundraising habits.

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