Nonprofit news roundup for May 22, 2008

Churches help with mortgage crisis

Churches and religious charities across the nation are offering workshops to help people in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure, The Associated Press reported May 14. The Roman Catholic Church and Catholic Charities USA are making a concerted effort to address the crisis, but these faith-based initiatives are just a “drop in the bucket” for the half million homeowners facing foreclosure; the House of Representatives passed an aid bill last week, but President Bush has threatened to veto it.

Foundation head seeks election to Congress

Donna Edwards, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Arca Foundation, is expected to win an upcoming special election to fill a Maryland seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, CQPolitics reported May 20. Her campaign website says that through her work at the foundation, she has supported “living wage” campaigns and advocated for ending capital punishment, protecting Social Security, supported labor and human rights, and worked for independence of the federal judiciary.

Public trust in charities grows

The British public’s trust in charities has made a “small but significant” increase over the past two years, The Third Sector reported May 21, and this trust seems to be boosting giving, The Press Association reported May 22. Yet half of respondents to a survey feel fundraising techniques have become more dubious, a response the British Fundraising Standards Board says could post a threat to growing trust in nonprofits, The Third Sector reported in a second article May 21.

‘Homeless’ billionaire gives back by investing

“Homeless” and media-shy billionaire Nicolas Berggruen is downsizing his material life by selling his homes and other possessions, while investing millions in building projects he hopes will alleviate social ills, Robert Frank said in a blog at The Wall Street Journal May 19. From rice farms in Cambodia to glittering new skyscrapers in inner cities around the world, Berggruen is part of a new generation of philanthropists like Richard Branson, Ted Turner and Google’s charitable arm that have bet on social investing as the solution to the world’s problems, Frank’s original May 19 article says.

Oxford launches campaign for poor students

Britain’s Oxford University is beginning the “most important” campaign in its history, a multi-billion-pound fundraising drive that aims to boost the university’s endowment to Ivy-League levels so it can offer more assistance to poor British students, The Telegraph of Chatham, England reported May 19. At the same time, foreign students in the UK are facing ever-increasing fees, as this year’s increase of 650 pounds, nearly $1,300, outpaces inflation, The Guardian of London reported May 20.

In Baltimore, Soros targets justice, education, drug treatment

The Open Society Institute of Baltimore, the only U.S. branch of financier George Soros’ international philanthropy, is working to identify crossover issues in the city’s justice, education and drug treatment institutions, then use its resources to leverage change through advocacy, activist fellowships, partnerships and educational outreach, The Examiner of Washington, D.C. reported May 20. The group gives $4.5 million in grants annually to Baltimore organizations.

Microfinance at crossroads

As microfinance institutions increasingly go for-profit, a transition they make to sustain significant market growth, they should define a concrete social mission and audit themselves with equal rigor on both financial and social fronts, Maria Otero said in a column in Forbes May 19. A social mission must be specific enough to define a distinct set of strategic decisions and performance metrics, Otero said.

 In Brief:

* Oklahoma State University received a $100-million donation from energy magnate and alumnus T. Boone Pickens, whose previous gifts to the school total more than $300 million, The Associated Press reported May 21.

* Pakistani-Americans give more than the national average, 43 million volunteer hours and a total of $250 million a year in cash, 40 percent of which goes to Pakistani charities, 20 percent to Pakistani-American causes, and 40 percent to groups with no connection to Pakistan, S. Amjad Hussein said in a column in The Toledo Times May 20.

* Kern Wildenthal, former president of UT Southwestern Medical Center, has been named president and CEO of the Southwestern Medical Foundation in Dallas, and William T. Solomon, retired chair of Austin Industries has been named board chair, The Dallas Morning News reported May 18.

* The Friedrich Naumann Foundation of Bonn, Germany is facing allegations that it is acting as a front organization for the German foreign ministry in an anti-Chinese, pro-Tibet campaign intended to disrupt the upcoming Olympics, Deutsche Welle reported May 19.

* The American Bible Society suspended its president after a New York Times article said the organization paid more than $5 million to an Internet contractor with ties to online pornography, The New York Times reported May 21.

* A new AIDS facility in the works for Rock Hill, S.C., aims to be a model for care in the state, which has been seen as slow in responding to the disease, The Herald of Rock Hill, S.C. reported May 19.

* An anonymous donor gave $20 million to save historic St. Brigid’s historic church in New York City from demolition, The New York Times reported May 22.

* Google launched its Go for Good campaign in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic, which aims to encourage people to improve their health by tracking a personal walking regimen on Google, the Google blog said May 19; participants who meet certain benchmarks are invited to vote for a health charity to receive a $100,000 donation.

* The director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra pledged $100,000 of her own money to support a new after-school music program the symphony is sponsoring in conjunction with a partnership of city organizations, The Baltimore Sun reported May 21.

* Eton College is the latest of several British independent schools to pledge to share resources with state schools in the wake of the national Charity Commissions recommendations to increase benefits to “people in poverty,” The Third Sector reported May 21.

* A new animated map of the Earth from space, created through a collaboration between Google and Britain’s environment ministry and Met Office, illustrates the potential impact of climate change, Reuters reported May 19.

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