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Nonprofit news roundup for April 24, 2008

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California public schools seek private dollars

Foundations supporting public schools are multiplying in California, and where they previously provided enrichment like field trips, music classes and lab equipment, many now seek to cover the basics, like saving teacher jobs and keeping class sizes down, The Los Angeles Times reported April 23. The change comes as districts grapple with proposed state funding cuts that could result in layoffs of thousands of teachers.

Tufts provides loan repayment for alumni in public service

Tufts University has unveiled a new program that will allow any student or alumnus doing public-interest work to apply for grants to help repay their college loans, Inside Higher Ed reported April 23. As college tuition continues to rise, such loan-repayment programs are beginning to move beyond the traditional realm of professional schools like law and medicine.

Many nonprofits lack volunteer screening

One in three U.S. nonprofits do not conduct background checks on volunteers and one in eight conduct no screening at all, according to a recent report, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported April 23. ChoicePoint, which provides background-screening services for nonprofits, says at least 144 people with criminal backgrounds seek nonprofit employment or volunteer work daily.

Islamic charity at center of security case

The Portland, Ore., branch of a Saudi charity, Al Haramain Islamic Foudation, is at the center of a wiretapping case that could be the first promising challenge to the constitutionality of a program allowing the U.S. government to use wiretaps without a warrant, The New Yorker reported in its May 28 issue. Al Haramain, which had been active in 50 countries, also was named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity, a designation aimed charities and individuals that amounts to an economic embargo and requires less evidence than prosecution.

‘Open-sourcing’ philanthropy

Philanthropy should adapt business models built around the “commons,” collaborative, non-market peer-production like Wikipedia, Linuz, Mozilla Firefox and Flickr, Mark Surman said in a blog at open Democracy.net April 18. “Open-sourcing” philanthropy in this way may be the best way achieve landmarks for public good, such as improving education, creating low-cost housing and evolving our democracy, Surman says.

Restoring GiveWell’s credibility

Nonprofit watchdog GiveWell will find its credibility hard to restore, though its services are sorely needed in the nonprofit world, Anya Kamenetz said in a column in FastCompany.com’s May issue. The group was created to make philanthropy’s “old boys’ club” more transparent, but only two weeks after a promising media debut, GiveWell found its own credibility damaged when its two young founders were caught promoting their website through false named and email addresses.

In Brief:

* The British Treasury and Cabinet Office is hoping to ease the burden on nonprofits that provide crucial public services by creating a system to measure the true value of these services, The Financial Times reported April 21

* The New York Landmarks Preservation Committee agreed to change the name of the New York Public Library’s main building to the Stephen A. Schwartzman Building, after the Wall Street financier recently gave $100 million to the library, The New York Times reported April 23.

* Brooklyn City Councilman Erik Dilan is charged with funneling more than $180,000 in taxpayer money to his wife’s nonprofit, The New York Daily News reported April 22.

* The good of carbon offsets revolves around “additionality,” defined as whether an environmental project would have happened without the new money created by the offset purchase, The Boston Globe reported April 20.

* The number of child pornography websites has fallen for the first time, and a coordinated international effort could eradicate them for good, according to the Internet Watch Foundation, Agence France-Presse reported April 17.

* Ken Arthur, San Francisco’s first Habitat for Humanity homeowner and now a spokesman for the program, was stabbed to death just a block from his home, The San Francisco Chronicle reported April 23.

* Illegal sales of human organs continue to run rampant in countries like Russia and The Philippines, preying on the poor and scaring off legitimate donors, Russia Today reported April 15 and The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported April 13.

* The Japanese Denture Recycle Organization has recycled 30,000 dentures so far, generating 18 million yen, or $176,500, for charity, The Star Online reported April 17.

* Jan Dally longs for the days of May 1968, when activism was done in the streets, not by TV intellectuals and the “bleeding-heart charity worker” that now resides in every musical or artistic bad-boy, he said in an opinion column in the Financial Times April 14.

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