Nonprofit news roundup for July 1, 2008

Obama would expand faith-based initiative

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has announced plans to expand President Bush’s program supporting faith-based charities, as well as and support some ability to hire and fire based on faith, The Associated Press reported July 1 (see Obama faith-based story). A campaign fact sheet clarifies that Obama does not support religion “tests” for recipients of aid or using federal money to proselytize, and would allow religious institutions to choose their staff based on religion for the non-taxpayer funded portion of their activities.

GE awards largest-ever corporate grant to NYC schools

General Electric is a company that “does philanthropy right” through the millions it gives to support schools in the U.S. and healthcare in poor countries, said Marc Gunther in an opinion column in Fortune July 1 (see GE philanthropy column). The company, which doles out its philanthropy with a eye for both charitable and profitable results, just announced a five-year $18 million grant to New York City public schools, the largest-ever single corporate contribution to the system.

‘Voluntourism’ falters on fun

A growing number of charities and tour groups are rethinking “voluntourism” packages that pair vacation with volunteering in exotic locales, The Wall Street Journal reported June 28 (see ‘Voluntourism’ 2.0 story). After early “voluntourists” criticized many programs as “less-than-fun,” some groups are returning to the idea that tourists should just be tourists, leveraging less work on the part of vacationers to produce a more sustainable income for local residents.

‘Tainted’ money for D.C. education fund

An education fund created by Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty to raise funds from the private sector for public-school operating budgets is soliciting “tainted” money, Colbert I. King said in an opinion column at The Washington Post June 28 (see D.C. education fund story). The mayor has asked for money for the fund from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield in the same week the D.C. government filed a highly-publicized lawsuit against the region’s largest health insurer, and has accepted money from Kuwait, which supports an Islamic charity the U.S. has accused of bankrolling al-Quaeda, King said.

In Brief:

* Andrew Carnegie’s hometown of Dunfermline, Scotland, is honoring the philanthropist with a new annual festival to be launched this summer, The Scotsman reported July 1.

* Two year-round campuses open July 1 as part of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s scaled-down plan to take control of the nation’s second-largest school system, The Los Angeles Times reported July 1.

* A new Massachusetts loan fund of $20 million from corporate and foundation sponsors will finance the purchase and rehabilitation of about 150 properties with a total of 500 housing units, The Boston Herald reported July 1.

* The Op-Ed Project works with five universities and about 20 think tanks and nonprofits to promote women opinion columnists, The San Francisco Chronicle reported July 1.

* Eight Los Angeles parks will stay open until midnight this summer as part of an anti-gang program offering sports, arts and entertainment supervised by “at-risk” youth, The Los Angeles Times reported July 1.

* A Massachusetts contracting procedure has left some nonprofit service providers stuck in contracts that haven’t increased in 21 years, The Patriot-Ledger said in an editorial July 1.

* Two new books explore the life of Jacob Riis, the early New York City social reformer, reporter and campaigner against slum housing, NPR reported June 30.

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