Nonprofit news roundup for May 27, 2008

Tax exemptions face challenges

Growing confusion over what constitutes a charity may be behind a spate of recent challenges to the tax-exempt status of a variety of nonprofits, including a Minnesota day care, universities, religious ministries and nonprofit hospitals, The New York Times reported May 26. The tax-exempt status of charities costs local governments between $8 billion to $13 billion annually, and as government coffers run low, authorities from the local tax assessor to members of Congress are questioning the results charities reap with that money.

Aid agencies criticized for sex abuse, corruption

Sexual abuse of children by humanitarian-aid workers and UN peacekeepers is “chronically under-reported” and should be subject to a global watchdog effort, says a new report by Save the Children, CNN reported  May 27. Corruption in disbursement of foreign aid in Africa was critiqued at a recent conference in Kenya, China View reported May 26, where governments were urged to reject aid packages tied to conditions contrary to their development goals, The Nation of Nairobi reported May 25. Women’s-rights group Femnet said donor agencies don’t make gender equality a priority, The Standard of Nairobi reported May 27.

Hospitals, patients clash over fundraising practices

Hospitals are using patient information, without permission, to raise funds, says a recent survey of Bay Area hospitals, The San Francisco Chronicle reported May 27. Federal and state privacy provisions limit such unauthorized uses of patient information, but some believe a patient’s explicit consent should be required before the data can be used for fundraising.

Fewer churchgoers tithe

Tithing, a practice that mandates giving at least 10 percent of one’s income to religious congregations or charities, may be on the decline, the Newhouse News Service reported May 23. About 5 percent of Americans say they tithe, according to a recent poll, and other studies say churchgoers give an average of 2.58 percent of their income to churches, down from 3.11 percent in 1968.

In Brief:

* T. Boone Pickens’ record donation to Oklahoma State University leaves the state government $250 million in debt because of an obligation to match donations at certain state schools, KOCO 5 reported May 22.

* The University of Florida’s College of Medicine received $1 million to research optic nerve hypoplasia, a leading cause of blindness in children, The Independent Florida Alligator reported May 27.

* Privately-run, state-funded schools serving the blind, deaf and disabled in New York are under scrutiny over their spending practices, The Buffalo News reported May 21.

* Nonprofits, hospitals and nursing schools are fighting a decade-long nursing shortage while degree programs turn away thousands of qualified applicants due to a lack of resources, The Rocky Mountain News reported May 26.

* David R. Jones, president of the Community Service Society of New York, answers questions about how New York City and its residents can fight poverty in a New York Times blog this week.

* The University of Toronto has received $14 million for building upgrades and scholarships from developer John Daniels, The Toronto Globe and Mail reported May 27.

* The American Jewish Historical Society has appointed Evan M. Kingsley as its new executive director, The Staten Island Advance reported May 23.

* Almost a third of this year’s Tony Award nominations went to plays and musicals produced by three nonprofit companies rather than those funded by private investors, Jeremy Gerard said in a commentary in Bloomberg News May 27.

* United Way of America launched its first online public-awareness campaign, promoting its new 10-year plan, PRWeek reported May 22.

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