Nonprofit news roundup for Dec. 3, 2008

Younger philanthropists take the wheel

As an older cadre of philanthropists moves towards retirement, a younger and more vibrant generation is emerging to fill the void, Barron’s reported Dec. 3. Millionaires between 28 and 42 years old gave an average of $20,000 to charitable causes in 2006, twice the amount given by their parents and grandparents, says a survey by Northern Trust. Armed with more of a global perspective than many of their predecessors, younger philanthropists also are more likely than previous generations to donate to international causes. They also show more interest in visiting, researching and volunteering for the organizations they support, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Dec. 3.

Fate of nonprofit HMOs goes to Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to hear a case that could have a big impact on tax-exempt organizations, including hospitals and health-maintenance organizations, Forbes reported Dec. 3. Vision Service Plan, the largest provider of insurance plans covering eyeglasses and contacts in the U.S., is asking the court to consider whether the IRS was justified in revoking its tax-exempt status as a social-welfare organization in 2003. The debate is “sounding the death knell” for nonprofit HMOs, says Kenneth Starr, who was hired to plead the case of Vision Service Plan.

Foundation awards $100 million in grants

The Maryland-based Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, citing the crippling need caused by the economic crisis, announced it is distributing $100 million in grants to U.S. nonprofits, The Baltimore Sun reported Dec. 3. The foundation awarded the grants, a quarter of which will stay within Maryland, despite a 13 percent drop in its assets. The foundation expects to distribute at least $90 million in grants in the next fiscal year, trustees say.

Birch Foundation gives $10 million for hospital

The Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation gave San Diego-based Sharp HealthCare a $10 million donation, the largest gift in the nonprofit’s history, to build a 334-bed patient tower at Sharp Memorial Hospital, The San Diego Union Tribune reported Dec. 2 (see hospital story). The tower, slated to open in mid-January, will include an expanded surgery center, emergency room and trauma center.

Smithsonian gets $6 million for air and space museum

Airbus Americas Inc. gave the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum a $6 million gift, the largest corporate donation to the museum in 2008, the Associated Press reported Dec. 3. The donation from the European aircraft manufacturer will go toward building the second phase of the museum’s Virginia-based annex, which will be used for aircraft and spacecraft restoration.

In Brief:

* Harvard University’s endowment has plunged $8 billion, or 22 percent, in the four months since June 30, the end of its fiscal year, the Associated Press reported Dec. 3.

* Former President Bill Clinton urged Asians not to reduce their charitable giving because of the global economic crisis, the Associated Press reported Dec. 3.

* In light of the slumping economy, Congress should lift restrictions on increased charitable activity, says Steve Gunderson, former U.S. representative from Wisconsin and president of the Council on Foundations, in an opinion column in The Washington Times Dec. 3.

* North Carolina state law provides few ways to check the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations, state officials say, WRAL reported Dec. 2.

* Though not slashing budgets as vigorously as the Maine public-university system, the state’s private colleges are pinching pennies to prepare for lean times, The Portland Press Herald reported Dec. 3.

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