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Nonprofit news roundup for Dec. 15, 2008

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Ousted United Way CEO devised own compensation, report says

Gloria Pace King, former CEO of the Charlotte-based United Way of Central Carolinas, engineered her $2.1 million pension two years ago, ignoring advice from an attorney that any new benefits might violate federal tax rules, says a new report released by the United Way affiliate, The Charlotte Observer reported Dec. 15. The board of directors, showing a lack of “attentiveness, independence and sensitivity,” approved the compensation package, which prompted King’s dismissal and ignited a public scandal. Following King’s ousting, the United Way affiliate’s annual fundraising campaign fell $20 million short of the $45 million raised last year.

Money manager’s arrest rattles U.S. nonprofits

U.S. nonprofits are reeling after the arrest of Bernard Madoff, a New York money manager and philanthropist accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of defrauding his clients, Bloomberg reported Dec. 15 (see Madoff story). Madoff, who managed funds for a charity of movie director Steven Spielberg and the foundation of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, among others, has allegedly cost investors $50 billion with his long-running scam, the news service reported Dec. 15. The Boston-based Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation, which financed trips to Israel for Jewish youth, already has shut its doors after losing all of its investments with Madoff, Reuters reported Dec. 13.

Nonprofit news organizations struggle to stay afloat

Nonprofit news organizations are not immune to the financial worries that plague traditional news outlets, Forbes reported Dec. 12. National Public Radio, for example, laid off 64 people this week and projected a $23 million loss next year. Though not subject to some of the business concerns that occupy for-profit news outlets, nonprofits such as MinnPost, Pro Publica and voiceofsandiego.org are struggling to find sponsors and sell enough advertising to ride out the economic maelstrom.

Non-musical theater losing audiences

Despite the popularity of musical theater, audiences for non-musical plays are thinning out, says a study by the National Endowment for the Arts, The New York Times reported Dec. 15 (see play story). The number of people attending non-musical plays in the U.S. fell to 21 million this year from 25 million in 1992. The falling numbers are not the result of higher ticket prices, the study says, but rather a matter of supply outstripping demand.

California nonprofit’s spending draws scrutiny

A nonprofit founded by the Los Angeles chapter of the Service Employees International Union, California’s largest union local, spent no money on charitable purposes during at least two out of the four years since its inception, The Los Angeles Times reported Dec. 13 (see spending story). The Long Term Care Housing Corp., whose purported aim is to provide housing for low-income workers, spent all $165,000 of its expenses in both 2005 and 2006 on consulting fees, insurance costs and other overhead, say IRS filings.

Need has new face in wealthy Fairfax County

Even nonprofits in Virginia’s affluent Fairfax County are dealing with an explosion in requests for food, shelter and rental assistance, The Washington Post reported Dec. 13 (see need story). Fairfax County nonprofits are seeing growth not only in the number of requests, but also in need from middle-class families and families with two working parents. Applications for food stamps in the county have increased 69 percent and requests for emergency rental assistance have jumped 46 percent in the past two years, says Verdia Haywood, a deputy county executive.

In Brief:

* A new yearlong program at Harvard University, the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative, prepares retiring Baby Boomers for second careers in the nonprofit world, The New York Times reported Dec. 12.

* American Idol and Fox will not air an “Idol Gives Back” charity telecast during the show’s upcoming season, says Roger Catlin in a column in The Hartford Courant Dec. 14. The event, which raised $64 million for various causes in 2008, is expected to air every other year.

* The University of Dubuque in Iowa is ending a capital campaign that raised about $128 million, the Associated Press reported Dec. 12. The university’s endowment has grown to more than $70 million from $16 million in the past decade.

* In a nod to deepening financial unrest, Long Island nonprofits are shelving their annual fundraising dinners, Newsday reported Dec. 15.

* Foundations and charities must fight the natural urge to tighten their belts during tough economic times, says Melissa Fondakowski in an opinion column in The San Francisco Chronicle Dec. 14.

* Citing the growing popularity of donating to charities in lieu of traditional gift-giving, Amber Dance offers tips for making charitable gifts a holiday hit in a column in The Los Angeles Times Dec. 15.

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