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Nonprofit news roundup for June 20, 2008

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Sunset provision suggested for charity status

Tom Belford suggests a sunset provision on IRS charitable status that would weed out under-performing nonprofits, he says in his blog The Agitator (see charities story). Recent news reports that urged Massachusetts’ 36,000 nonprofits to consider merging and highlighted the inefficiency and potential harm the myriad of “unregulated” aid groups operating in the health field led Belford to the conclusion not that nonprofits should meet some sort of performance measure or close their doors.

Patient-advocacy funds ‘change paradigm’ of biotech

Philanthropic and patient-advocacy disease groups are investing millions of dollars in early-stage science that most venture-capital investors won’t touch, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported June 20 (see biotech article). Robert Beall, CEO of The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which tops the list of philanthropic biotech investors, says these groups are have “really changed the paradigm” of early drug discovery, though a decade ago biotechnology companies largely were uninterested in his foundation’s money. Nationwide, disease foundations invested $75 million in biotechonology companies in 2007, ten times the amount invested in 2000.

British universities’ fundraising off to good start

Two recent high-profile and high-dollar donations to Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Britain’s most famous institutes of higher education, bode well for the schools’ ongoing fundraising drives, The Telegraph of London reported June 18 (see British university story).

ACLU seeks to clear two Muslim charities

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a request in a federal court in Dallas to have two Muslim organizations removed from a list of unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation-terrorism financing case, The Dallas Morning Times reported June 19 (see ACLU article). Holy Land, once the largest Muslim charity in the U.S., has been accused of funneling money to a Palestinian resistance movement that which has been designated as a terrorist group by the U.S.

Largest-ever forest-protection fund launched

Britain and Norway have launched the largest-ever fund to battle deforestation with a gift of 108 million British pounds, or $213 million, to the Congo Basin Forest Fund, which will target the vast Congo basin rainforest in central Africa, The Guardian of London reported June 17 (see Congo story). The effectiveness of projects that receive funding will be monitored by satellite cameras to be launched into orbit in the next two years.

In Brief:

* Baltimore’s Urban Leadership Institute is planning a national roadshow for controversial inspirational speaker, Shanae Watkins, who committed murder  at age 12, The Baltimore Sun reported June 18.

* The charity that journalist Bob Woodward funds with his speaker’s fees focuses its “meager” philanthropy on elite causes, some of which benefit Woodward’s children and “prettify” his neighborhood, Ken Silverstein said in a column in Harper’s Magazine June 13.

* Nonprofit news agency MinnPost will expand its coverage of rural issues and communities thanks to a grant from the Blandin Foundation, MinnPost editor Joel Kramer said in an editor’s note.

* Two Arab women philanthropists, Sana bin Laden and Muna Abusulayman, were honored by the Future Experts Group, The Khaleej Times reported June 20.

* A judge ruled that Princeton University will be reimbursed in full for $9.6 million in legal expenses it incurred in a fight to control an $880 million endowment for the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, The Times of Trenton reported June 19.

* Two foundations affiliated with the late media mogul William Randolph Hearst have awarded grants totaling nearly $1.1 million to California science, art and health-care nonprofits, The San Francisco Chronicle reported June 20.

* Two Virginia historical groups are at odds over a rezoning proposal that would allow the expansion of a quarry near a historic battlefield and plantation, The Winchester Star reported June 20.

* A Bronx charitable fund established by Yankee Stadium in 2006 in exchange for huge public subsidies has distributed only $12,000 of the $1.6 million it should have donated to Bronx youth groups and nonprofits, Juan Gonzalez said in a column in The New York Daily News June 19.

* The Vancouver Board of Trade’s new commissioner, well-known philanthropist Donald Rix, says he will push corporate philanthropy aggressively among the Canadian city’s businesses, The Vancouver Sun reported June 20.

* Nonprofits in Wyoming are now the state’s fourth largest economic sector, having increased from 531 to 895 over the past decade, The Star-Tribune of Casper, Wyoming reported June 20.

* French charity Action Against Hunger is demanding an international probe into the execution-style killing of 17 of its employees in Sri Lanka in 2006, Agence France-Presse reported June 18.

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