Nonprofit news roundup for May 1, 2008

British charities’ investment returns lag U.S.

British charities miss out on 750 million pounds, nearly $1.5 billion, in investment profits annually, with an average return of 8.8 percent a year on their endowments over the last five years, lower than the U.S. average of 12.4 percent, The Guardian reported May 1. Experts say charities lose face with donors when they increase the pressure to give while an improvement in investment strategies “could easily raise more than the man in the street could ever hope to give.”

Wealthy colleges encouraged to give to less-wealthy peers

Wealthy U.S. colleges and universities still serve a disproportionately rich student body, so they should collaborate with institutions serving a higher percentage of needy students in order to relieve the burden these students must shoulder, Sharon Herzberger, president of Whittier College, said in an opinion column in Inside Higher Ed May 1. Government must also do its share, she said, through measures like increasing grant aid to students or offering tax incentives that encourage wealthy institutions to make donations to their less-wealthy peers.

Evangelicals seen as stand-out givers

Evangelicals stand out in terms of their charitable giving, even among religious people, donating more than three times the national average last year, Brent Castillo said in an opinion column in The Wichita Eagle May 1. As some steer the U.S. “towards secularism and socialism,” Americans should be wary of letting their charitable spirit be “snuffed out,” Castillo said.

Philanthropy could replace student loans at strapped colleges

As the student-loan market sours, students at schools like historically black colleges, which have a higher-than-average percentage of students requiring deep financial aid, are facing the prospect of an unfinished education and towering loan debt, Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College, said in an opinion column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution May 1. Private lending must be replaced by private philanthropy, she says, and scholarship organizations must act immediately to quell the increase in university dropouts.

Citizen journalism means networking for nonprofits

Nonprofits that do not actively engage in social networking will lose out as the news that makes mainstream media is increasingly driven by “citizen journalists” rather than press releases, Elizabeth Toledo said in an op-ed in PRWeek April 28. Recent investments by CNN and other news outlets in online media, for which content is generated by regular citizens, means advocacy groups should restructure to take advantage of the news-making power of their local supporters, Toledo says.

Donor intent at issue in Montana museum case

Donor intent is at the heart of a Montana Supreme Court case that dismissed the board of the Charles M. Bair Family Museum, saying it breached its fiduciary duties by closing the museum in 2002, The New York Times reported April 30. Heiress Alberta M. Bair had given the board the option of closing the museum after five years, but the court ruled that “the museum never received a fair opportunity to succeed.”

Rockefellers shake up shareholder activism

Shareholder activists are usually corporate outsiders, so the recent campaign by members of the Rockefeller family to press oil giant Exxon Mobil into devoting more resources to finding green energy alternatives is attracting attention, Condé Nast Portfolio reported April 30. Exxon Mobil is a descendent of Standard Oil, founded in 1870 by John D. Rockefeller, whose genius was in recognizing kerosene as the “alternative energy” to whale oil, experts say.

Food crisis update

Global food-aid organizations like Mercy Corps and World Vision have had to drop between one and one and a half million people from their food-assistance lists, The Seattle Times reported April 29. The UN and the World Bank have pledged to set up a task force to address the food crisis, Reuters reported April 29. U.S. Senate Democrats are calling for a $200 million increase in foreign food aid on top of the $350 million supplement President Bush already requested, The New York Times reported April 29. And regions like Latin America and the Muslim world are creating their own funds to address the crisis, The Associated Press reported April 24 and April 29.

Latin American immigrants sending less home

Half the 18.9 million Latin American immigrants living in the U.S. now send home money regularly to their relatives, a practice called “remittances,” compared with 73 percent two years ago, The New York Times reported May 1. As the economic hits hard, causing a slump in low-wage jobs and a crackdown on illegal immigration, many immigrants are considering a return home.

In brief:

* Payday-loan giant Rent-A-Center says it will pull its charitable contributions to food banks in Ohio unless America’s Second Harvest and its Ohio affiliates drop a campaign to crack down on the payday loan business, Reuters reported May 1.

* The McGee Foundation withdrew $2 million in cash and art donations to West Virginia University after the school improperly awarded a degree to West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin’s daughter, The Associated Press reported May 1.

* The University of Toronto received $20 million for a school of public health, which it calls Canada’s largest network of disease-prevention health researchers and educators, The Canadian Press reported April 30.

* Wal-Mart launched a food-donation program at more than 560 Sam’s Clubs nationwide to benefit member food banks of America’s Second Harvest, The Associated Press reported April 30. The Wal-Mart Foundation also has given the charity $1.5 million, which will provide 16 million meals.

* The Salk Institute of LaJolla, Calif., received a five-year, $20 million donation from the Waitt Family Foundation and its president, Ted Waitt, founder of Gateway computer company, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported May 1.

* The Clinton Foundation HIV/Aids Initiative and international drug-purchasing consortium Unitaid have struck deals to offer deeper discounts on 40 generic AIDS drugs and create child-friendly formulas, The Wall Street Journal reported April 29.

* Museums, zoos and aquariums provide informal opportunities to learn about science that may be helping combat a lack of scientific education and literacy among Americans, The Associated Press reported April 28.

* Two British citizens say the World Wildlife Fund is trying to put them out of their home in a dispute over a property, inherited from an elderly aunt, that is worth 250,000 British pounds, or $493,000, The Daily Mail reported April 24.

* The British government is asking boarding schools to share facilities with state schools “where possible and practical,” the BBC reported April 28.

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