Nonprofit news roundup for May 12, 2008

Proposed payout by universities questioned

U.S. Senators Charles Grassley and Max Baucus are threatening to exact greater public benefit from wealthy universities through an annual disbursement requirement of 5 percent, a move that challenges the notion of philanthropy, Collin Levy said in a column in The Wall Street Journal May 9. Donations should be spent at the discretion of the recipient, not the government, and the 5 percent rule would damage universities’ abilities to save for bigger undertakings, Levy said. A meeting of Congressional aides, IRS officials and others at the American Bar Association Friday is a sign that federal and state scrutiny of colleges and other nonprofits is on the rise, Inside Higher Ed reported May 12.

Borrowers turn to nonprofits for loans

The credit crunch may be funneling more borrowers hunting for microloans of under $35,000 not to banks, but to nonprofits that work with credit-risky companies, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported May 11. However, the greater demand at nonprofits has also pushed up denial rates.

Nonprofit connects volunteers with opportunities at work, home

Boston nonprofit Building Impact brings philanthropic opportunities to people where they live and work, The Boston Globe reported May 9. Through newsletters, e-mails, elevator signs, lobby events and web postings, the group provides single-afternoon or months-long community-service opportunities to those people in residential and commercial properties.

Banks seen going green for gain, not philanthropy

A growing number of U.S., European and Japanese banks are going green by setting internal greenhouse-gas-reduction targets, boosting climate-related equity research, and increasing lending and financing for clean energy projects, Victoria Pennington, deputy editor of OpRisk & Compliance, said in a column in BusinessGreen May 8. But these efforts mostly are not about public relations, but about managing future risks, costs and liabilities that could arise from long-term climate change, Pennington said. A group of major world financial institutions recently agreed to strengthen guidelines for managing environmental and social risks that stem from project finance, Jiji Press reported May 9.

N.Y.C. Council’s accounting system at issue

As the New York City accounting scandal continues to unfold, Christine C. Quinn is being asked to answer for a system that long predates her tenure as Council speaker, The New York Times reported May 11. Council members began earmarking discretionary funding for nonprofits and programs of their choosing, often under the names of fictitious groups, sometime after 1989 in a bid for influence in a mayor-centric system.

In Brief:

* Wholesale fees for Internet addresses ending in “.org” will increase by 10 percent November 9, The Associated Press reported May 9.

* The Georgia Aquarium has announced a $110-million expansion, keeping its title as the world’s largest aquarium, The New York Times reported May 7.

* Milwaukee philanthropist Joseph Zilber committed $50 million over the next decade to improve the city’s low-income neighborhoods, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported May 10.

* Australian kidney expert Gavin Carney triggered a national debate when he suggested his government should offer up to 24,000 British pounds, or $46,900, for kidneys to overcome a chronic donor shortage that is one of the worst in the world, The Press Association reported May 5.

* Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Abdulaziz al-Saud gave a total of 16 million British pounds, or $31.4 million, to the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh to set up study centers to foster greater understanding between the Muslim world and the West, Royal Watch News reported May 8.

* Tax evasion by multinational companies is leeching billions of British pounds from developing countries, says British charity Christian Aid, The Financial Times reported May 12.

* U.S. Army Lt. Jason Faler launched Checkpoint One Foundation to help Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who work for the U.S. military, and whose lives are often in danger, escape to the U.S. with their families, The Christian Science Monitor reported May 7.

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