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Nonprofit news roundup for March 19, 2008

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State budget crises may hurt millions

Millions of Americans may lose health insurance and benefits as nearly two dozen states grapple with deep budget shortfalls, the Associated Press reported March 17. A review of all 50 state budgets shows poor children, the disabled and the elderly would be most affected; lawmakers are also considering cuts in school aid, slashing state workforces, and releasing prisoners early – but few are seriously considering general tax increases.

Harvard Law waives tuition for public service

Harvard Law School will waive third-year tuition for those pledging to work five years or more in public service, The New York Times reported  March 18. The school already has a loan-forgiveness program for students who commit to public service.

British ‘sins’ fund charity causes

New British “sin taxes” on alcohol, cigarettes, gas-guzzling cars and, potentially, plastic bags will funnel money to charity, the Associated Press reported March 14. The plastic-bag tax would go to environmental groups, while the alcohol and cigarettes taxes will help raise 1 billion pounds, or $2 billion, for child poverty.

Young heirs practice social-justice giving

Relatively young American heirs are practicing “social-justice philanthropy,” divvying up large sums among small, local groups, The International Herald Tribune reported March 13. Motivated as much by family politics as by guilt, these donors violate cardinal rules of wealth management, but some call their philanthropy, which doesn’t demand guaranteed success, “promising.”

Pre-emptive philanthropy avoids awkward lunches

Low-end millionaires, now back in vogue with post-dot.com fundraisers, will find themselves getting more dollar-grubbing lunch dates, but the trick is to give without being asked, Jack Shakely, president emeritus of the California Community Foundation, said in an opinion column March 18 in The New York Times. Pre-emptive philanthropy avoids the awkward lunchtime “ask” and will make donors happier with their gift in the long run, Shakely said.

Wikipedia has growing pains

The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that runs Wikipedia, occupies humble digs for a site that could be worth hundreds of millions if it sold advertising space, the Los Angeles Times reported March 17. Its resistance to advertising has the free, collaborative encyclopedia scrambling for money, while scandals both fiscal and romantic involving co-founder Jimmy Wales further increase Wikipedia’s growing pains, The New York Times reported March 17.

CSR starts with business strategy

Companies should focus their social-responsibility initiatives on community-based programs that directly support their business strategy, thus benefitting both society and the company’s competitiveness, Bal Ram Chapagain said in an editorial March 13 in The Rising Nepal. However, most Nepalese companies – and many global ones – still see corporate social responsibility as check-writing philanthropy done after profits have been tallied.

Board work is real work

Being a board member may be a labor of love or resume-building, but it involves plenty of work, Erin Chambers says in a column in The Wall Street Journal. Chambers outlines must-dos for new board members, from charting public relations and group dynamics to arranging a one-on-one interview with the executive director.

Obama reveals earmarks, among them nonprofits

Chicago State University, the University of Illinois, Chicago Jesuit Academy, and the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry were among the recipients of $220 million in spending earmarks secured by U.S. Sen. Barack Obama over the last three years, The International Herald Tribune reported March 14. Obama, a contender for the Democratic nomination for president, made $740 million in total requests; many were rejected, including $1 million for the University of Chicago Medical Center, where his wife is vice president. U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obama’s rival for the Democratic nomination, has yet to reveal her earmark requests.

Boston Ballet cuts company by 20 percent

The Boston Ballet is cutting 20 percent of its dancers and losing its executive director in its financial recovery from a tough blow, The New York Times reported March 14. In 2004, the ballet lost access to the Wang Theater for its annual run of “The Nutcracker,” a major breadwinner for most ballet companies.

U.S. lags in digital health records

Despite two decades of promotion, electronic health records have been long in coming for the U.S., where 90 percent of doctors and two-thirds of hospitals still use paper, The Baltimore Sun reported March 12. The few hospitals that have made the change, like nonprofit Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, say the average length of a patient’s stay has dropped 45 minutes.

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