Nonprofit news roundup for April 16, 2008

‘Smart volunteerism’ on the rise

Skills-based volunteerism, which matches a volunteer’s corporate or educational experience to nonprofit needs, is on the rise, The Boston Globe reported April 12. Such “smart volunteerism,” which has its roots in legal pro-bono work, offers both satisfaction and business contacts for volunteers, while providing nonprofits with a valuable service.

‘Faithcares’ increasingly replace private health insurance

“Faithcares,” charitable ministries that collect monthly contributions from members and disburse them to pay members’ medical bills, are gaining popularity as private health-insurance premiums rise and the number of uninsured Americans grows, The Charlotte Observer reported April 9. Such Christian groups serve 120,000 believers nationwide, but critics say they operate with little government oversight and don’t guarantee coverage.

Religious Americans give despite recession

Religious Americans, who are more likely to give than their secular counterparts, show no signs of treating charitable donations as an “expendable luxury” in the current economic downturn, Arthur C. Brooks, a visiting scholar at American Enterprise Institute, said in an opinion column in The New York Sun April 9. The bad news for New York is that, with a low level of religious observance, the state can expect lower levels of charitable giving even in the best of times, Brooks says.

Toronto hosts first LGBT philanthropy conference

Canada’s first lesbian and gay philanthropy conference in Toronto brought together childless, aging baby boomers, many of whom are considering leaving their money to charity, The Toronto Star reported April 5. A recent study valued the annual disposable income of Canada’s gay and lesbian consumers at 75 billion Canadian dollars, or nearly 74 billion U.S. dollars.

Environmental laws waived for border fence

Two environmental advocacy groups have filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to review the Bush administration’s decision to waive more than 30 environmental and land-management laws for a U.S.-Mexico border fence, The Washington Post reported April 2. Government officials approved the waiver in order to finish building the fence by the end of the year, but Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club say the waiver is unconstitutional.

‘Hybrid’ technology groups mix for-profit with nonprofit

A new “hybrid” technology organization is emerging at the crossroads of the nonprofit sector and more traditional for-profit ventures, The New York Times reported April 15. Groups like Mozilla and TechSoup pursue social missions, but generate a sustainable stream of revenue that keeps them from relying on philanthropy.

EU emphasizes role of civil society in Eastern Europe

The European Union has promised to increase efforts to include civil society in its strategy to bring change to Eastern European countries like Belarus, Serbia and Russia, but civic actors at a recent conference warned against applying a single formula to the region, The Inter Press Service reported April 7. Civic groups in these countries say they are increasingly seen as “Western agents,” making the position of nonprofits in public discourse uncomfortable.

In Brief:

* The head of the Smithsonian Latino Center, Pilar O’Leary, resigned in February after an internal investigation found she had violated 14 ethical and conflict-of-interest policies, The Washington Post reported April 15.

* The Jewish Funders Network will open an Israeli branch to better serve its growing membership in Israel, reported April 7.

* A Palestinian campaign group called for renewed protests as Israeli forces continue to target Islamic charities, The Palestinian News Network reported April 15.

* Aging gays and lesbians say they still face heavy discrimination from their own age group and from health-care providers, and note that gay-friendly retirement homes are rare, Newshouse News Service reported April 9.

* Lines for free food in Singapore, the wealthiest country in Southeast Asia, have increased by as much as 30 percent as food prices continue to skyrocket, Agence France-Presse reported  April 14.

* Nepalese nonprofits face the colossal task of consolidating the country’s identity and development through avenues that have not always been transparent, while still redressing the grievances of women, various ethnic and cast groups and geographically disadvantaged areas, Meena Acharya said in an opinion column in Telegraph Nepal April 9.

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