Nonprofit news roundup for May 19, 2008

Arts center at ‘ground zero’ stalls

Plans for the performing-arts center to be built at the site of World Trade Center appear to have stalled as three of the four groups that were to relocate there have moved on and fundraising has yet to begin, The Associated Press reported May 19. The ground zero center, which was designed by architect Daniel Libeskind and would cost hundreds of millions to build, has proven a difficult site for groups hoping to exercise artistic freedom, civic and arts leaders say.

Earthquake awakens philanthropic giant

The massive grassroots-volunteer movement sparked by the earthquake in China could be the first sign of the emergence of a broad-based civil society in a country with no tradition of private philanthropy or community activism, The Globe and Mail of Toronto reported May 17. Private charities were banned in China until 2004, and the vast majority of disaster aid still is coming from the government, but the newly-affluent increasingly are acting on their own, causing the state agency China Charity Information Center to predict that private foundations and activists groups will become the country’s main source of charity in five years, The Associated Press reported May 19.

Young philanthropists on the rise

By some estimates, juvenile philanthropy has increased by 30 to 40 percent among the wealthy over the past decade, TIME Magazine reported May 19. The explosion of charitable-giving information available on the Internet, public examples set by celebrities and sports icons, the onslaught of disasters since 9/11, and travel trends that take rich children to far-flung and often poor destinations are all factors fueling philanthropy among teens and preteens.

Florida voters consider state funding for religious groups

This fall Florida voters will have the option to strike down a century-old law banning state funding for religiously-affiliated organizations, The Washington Post reported May 15. The Blaine Amendment originally was passed in a number of states by a Protestant majority intending to block government support for Catholic schools.

Myanmar allows apolitical Asian countries in; charity scams proliferate

Asian countries like Taiwan that have no political agenda in Myanmar are quietly joining aid efforts within the country’s borders, even as officials continue to block visas for workers from the U.N. and Western aid agencies, The Christian Science Monitor reported May 16. In other reports, a string of scammers is trying to divert disaster assistance through emotional text-message appeals sent to Chinese cell phones, Reuters reported May 15.

Gates Foundation seeks transparency, broader reach

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is seeking greater transparency and a broader reach in its philanthropy, which some have criticized as technology-centric, said Melinda Gates and new foundation CEO Jeff Raikes in an interview in The Seattle Times May 18. Gates says she is taking a more hands-on role in the foundation now that her last child is in school full-time.

Canadians, Californians fight to feed homeless in parks

A pastor from Vancouver, Canada has refused to stop serving food to homeless people in a local park, despite demands by city officials that he move the food program to his church or stop it altogether, The Vancouver Sun reported May 16. A California faith-based group is currently suing state park authorities in federal court over a similar injunction, The Los Angeles Times reported May 9.

In Brief:

* Bank of America Corp. launched a searchable website of 70 grantmakers that allows nonprofits to identify foundations most likely to fund their programs, The Boston Globe reported May 17.

* A Pennsylvania judge has thrown out an attempt by a citizens’ group to stop the Barnes Foundation’s art collection, valued at $5 billion, from moving to a new Philadelphia exhibit space, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported May 15.

* Lehigh University received a $34.2 million gift, the largest in the school’s history, from alum and trustee Donald B. Stabler, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported May 17.

* The struggling Honolulu Symphony received $1.175 million from an anonymous donor to pay its musicians and staff seven weeks of back pay, but the group remains $2 million in debt, The Honolulu Advertiser reported May 16.

* The Robert M. McCormick Tribune Foundation is dropping “Tribune” from its name, underscoring independence from the media company in which it used to be a major stockholder, The Chicago Tribune reported May 16.

* The Children’s Hospital of Michigan announced plans to build a $34 million outpatient pediatric center, The Detroit Free Press reported May 16.

* Blue Cross Blue Shield is being criticized for excessive executive salaries during a legislative debate over an initiative that would allow the nonprofit insurer to raise its rates, The Detroit Free Press reported May 19.

* A new nonprofit in Cambridge, Mass., wants to bring microfinance into the classroom in Boston and beyond with a new curriculum and student-run micro-lending clubs, The Boston Globe reported May 12.

* Ph.D. holders who don’t want a career in academia should consider a nonprofit career that applies their expertise, whether through environmental protection, biomedical research, health care, education, disaster relief, science policy or science awareness, Patricia Gosling said in a column for Science Careers May 2.

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