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Nonprofit news roundup for Oct. 22, 2008

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ACORN report raises legal questions

A lawyer for the community organizing group ACORN, formerly known as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has released a report that raises questions about the legality of the group’s relationships with its 174 affiliates, The New York Times reported Oct. 21 (see ACORN story). The report details money transfers among affiliates and the potentially improper use of charitable dollars for political purposes, as well as the embezzlement of almost $1 million by the brother of Wade Rathke, founder of ACORN. Allegations of voter-registration fraud by ACORN have prompted U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, to distance himself from the organization, which he represented in a lawsuit in 1995.

Princeton sees lower endowment return

Princeton University’s endowment returned 5.6 percent in the fiscal year ended June 30, down from 24.7 percent the previous year, Bloomberg reported Oct. 21 (see return story). This fell short of Harvard University’s endowment, which returned 8.6 percent for a total of $36.9 billion at the end of fiscal 2008. Princeton’s endowment, which totaled $16.4 billion on June 30, has since dropped to an undisclosed amount as financial markets have faltered.

EBay founder expands philanthropy firm

Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, plans to expand his philanthropic investment firm, The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 21 (see eBay story). Despite the global recession, the Omidyar Network aims to boost donations, add two new areas of investment and create six management positions next year. This year, the organization aims to donate $110 million to nonprofit and for-profit companies focusing on social change.

Gates Foundation keeps some gifts close to home

Of the nearly $17 billion given by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation since its inception in 1994, over $2 billion, or more than 12 percent, has stayed in Seattle, the Associated Press reported Oct. 22. The top 10 Seattle organizations benefiting from the foundation’s funding focus on global health and development, education and the arts.

Fundraising approach draws ire

Framingham State College in Framingham, Mass., is catching flak for sending a fundraising letter containing 137 instances of the word “blah” to 6,000 recent graduates, the Associated Press reported Oct. 21. The unusual style was meant to appeal to younger potential donors, said Christopher Hendry, vice president of college advancement at the school. Though the school later sent a letter of apology, nearly 40 alumni who had never previously given money contributed a total of $2,000.

In Brief:

* The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plans to award $100,000 each to 104 scientists in 22 countries for research on unusual approaches to preventing and curing diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis, the Associated Press reported Oct. 22.

* Charities want the next U.S. president to take steps to encourage charitable giving and strengthen the nonprofit sector, says a survey by the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported Oct. 22 [subscription only].

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