Nonprofit news roundup for July 30, 2008

Homeless population dropping, federal report says

The number of chronically homeless people living in the nation’s streets and shelters dropped by about 30 percent – to 123,833 from 175,914 – between 2005 and 2007, The New York Times reported July 30 (see homeless story). Housing officials say the statistics, which the Department of Housing and Urban Development collects annually from more than 3,800 cities and counties, may reflect better data collection and reporting and some variation in the number of communities reporting on an annual basis. But the officials attribute much of the decline to the “housing first” strategy that has been promoted by the Bush administration and Congress and increasingly adopted
across the U.S.

Declining property values aid conservation efforts

Plummeting property values are putting put tens of thousands of additional acres of historic and scenic property within conservationists’ reach, the Associated Press reported July 28 (see conservation deals story). Conservationists have had significant success in Florida, the Southwest and parts of California, says Will Rogers, president of the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit that helps conserve land as parks, historic sites and rural lands.

Food pantries rethink what they stock

Mindful of clients with hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, food pantries across the U.S. are rethinking what they stock on their shelves, The Washington Post reported July 29 (see food pantries). These days, clients of Bread for the City, Washington’s largest food pantry, might open their bags to find that whole wheat pasta has replaced familiar boxes of neon orange macaroni and cheese.

Bloomberg, Gates praised for antismoking effort

After years of watching public-health groups and governments struggle to rein in the multinational tobacco companies, The New York Times, in an editorial on July 29, said it was good to hear that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and philanthropist Bill Gates have joined forces to combat the smoking epidemic threatening many low- and middle-income countries.

MBA a hot commodity at nonprofits

As many nonprofits strive to make their operations more professional, a growing number of their employees are pursuing MBAs, the Financial Times reported July 28 (see MBAs story). “In the nonprofit field, we’re good generalists or we come with degrees in public policy or nonprofit sector management but we’re not steeped in traditional business skills.” says Lara Galinsky, head of strategy at Echoing Green, a foundation that provides seed money and support to young social entrepreneurs. Many in the new generation of philanthropists made their money in business and look for the same rigorous standards of professionalism and accountability in the charities they fund.

In brief:

* The University of Colorado received $162.5 million in donations in the latest fiscal year, setting a record, the Denver Business Journal reported July 29.

*Eleven microfinance groups that serve nearly 26 million people agreed to publicly report annual interest rates, a move many hope will empower the world’s poorest borrowers as the once-charitable sector becomes increasingly commercialized, the Associated Press reported July 28.

* The Patterson Foundation in Sarasota, Fla., received $225 million from the estate of Dorothy Clarke Patterson, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported.

* The Archibald Bush Foundation, which serves nonprofits in Minnesota and the Dakotas, is changing the way it hands out money, the Star Tribune reported. The foundation will focus on only three areas of giving and forge longer-term commitments with fewer partners.

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