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Nonprofit news roundup for Nov. 26, 2008

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U.S. Muslims divided over charity convictions

U.S. Muslims expressed differing views over the conviction of the Dallas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which was considered the largest Muslim charity in the U.S. when it was shut down by the federal government in 2001, The New York Times reported Nov. 25 (see Muslim story). While some consider the conviction further evidence of an anti-Muslim bias in the U.S. government, others suspect the charity of funneling money to Hamas, a Palestinian political group that the government has considered a terrorist organization since 1995. In a retrial, the charity was found guilty of money laundering, tax fraud and supporting terrorism.

Universities sell investments as endowments tank

As university endowments take a nosedive along with the markets, schools are looking to sell chunks of their portfolios to generate cash, The New York Times reported Nov. 25 (see investments story). Harvard University is putting up $1.5 billion in venture-capital and buyout funds, and the University of Virginia posted on its website that it would consider the sale of some of its private-equity funds. Universities are having a hard time shedding some of their investments in private equity, real estate, venture capital and hedge funds, which they bought up enthusiastically during the past few years.

Gates Foundation to increase grants by 10 percent

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which lost nearly $1 billion of its endowment during the economic meltdown, plans to increase its grants payout by only about 10 percent next year, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Nov. 25 (see grant story). The Seattle-based foundation, which expects to make about $2.8 billion in grants by the end of this year, plans to increase its total grants made in 2009 to about $3 billion, less than previously planned.

Princeton holds off on construction

Princeton University plans to cut its 10-year, $3.9 billion construction budget by $300 million due to the economic slump, Bloomberg reported Nov. 25 (see construction story). The Ivy-League school will also put off for one year the construction of neuroscience and psychology buildings, which was scheduled to begin in June. Despite delays, the university said it was in “solid financial condition” with an endowment valued at $16.4 billion as of June 30.

In Brief:

* Despite their reputation for low pay, some nonprofit jobs pay about the same as comparable for-profit positions, The Washington Post reported Nov. 26.

* Though ExxonMobil and other big oil companies have enjoyed record profits, they have been comparatively stingy in their charitable giving, says Curt Weeden in an opinion column in BusinessWeek Nov. 25.

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