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Nonprofit news roundup for Dec. 22, 2008

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Foundation closes doors amid Madoff scandal

The Bernard Madoff investing scandal, which continues to wreak havoc on foundations and nonprofits, is shuttering the Picower Foundation, the 71st largest philanthropy in the U.S., The New York Times reported Dec. 19 (see Madoff story). The foundation has given $268 million to nonprofits since it was founded in 1989 by Barbara Picower and her husband, investor Jeffry M. Picower. The foundation’s assets, listed previously as $1 billion, were managed almost entirely by Madoff, a New York money manager accused of cheating his investors out of as much as $50 billion. The alleged scam also dealt a blow to Boston-based Tufts University, which lost $20 million, or 2 percent of its endowment, through its investment in a fund tied to Madoff, The Boston Globe reported Dec. 20.

Harvard money managers earn $26.8 million total

Five of the top managers and the former chief executive of the Harvard Management Company, which handles the university’s endowment, earned $26.8 million for the fiscal year ended June 30 as a reward for an 8.6 percent investment return, The New York Times reported Dec. 19 (see pay story). Though the compensation package has fallen since 2003, when top managers made a total of $107.5 million, it represents a 15 percent increase from the previous academic year, The Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 20.

Many nonprofit executives keep dry in economic storm

Even as U.S. nonprofits combat skyrocketing community needs on dwindling budgets, many nonprofit executives in the Boston area still rake in startling salaries, The Boston Herald reported Dec. 22. Some of Boston’s largest foundations and nonprofits paid at least 20 executives more than $300,000 in 2007, more than eight times the average household income in the U.S., says a review by the newspaper. Though lofty, these compensation packages comply with IRS guidelines, say charity spokesmen.

University of Georgia gets grant for disease research

The University of Georgia Research Foundation has received a five-year $18.7 million grant, the largest medical grant in the university’s history, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Dec. 18. The grant will go toward reducing the effects of schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease that affects about 200 million people in tropical and subtropical areas.

Museum expansions bring economic headaches

Many museums are expanding to attract new audiences, despite the risk of higher operating expenses in a down economy, The New York Times reported Dec. 19 (see museum story). The Washington, D.C.-based Newseum, which opened a new building in April, has lost about 25 percent of its endowment in the past few months and expects its $50 million annual operating budget to drop by about 10 percent.

United Way audits ousted CEO’s expense account

The United Way of Central Carolinas is auditing ousted CEO Gloria Pace King’s $35,000-a-year expense account to see how she spent the agency’s funds during her 14 years at the helm, says the board chairman, The Charlotte Observer reported Dec. 19. King was fired in September after a scandal erupted over her $2.1 million compensation package.

In Brief:

* The University of Michigan could lose as much as 30 percent of its endowment, or $2 billion, by the end of the year, the Associated Press reported Dec. 18.

* Liberals push for greater government spending to help the poor, but keep a tight hold on their own wallets, says Nicholas Kristof in an opinion column in The New York Times Dec. 20.

* Kentucky colleges and universities have been hit hard by the economic meltdown, with many losing up to 20 percent of their endowments, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported Dec. 20.

* Donations to pre-holiday fundraising drives for Austin nonprofits have taken a drastic dip since last year, The Austin American-Statesman reported Dec. 22.

* The credit ratings of nonprofit health-care providers are taking a nosedive as investment swaps lose value, The Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 21.

* Israel’s finance ministry is seeking to offset dwindling charitable donations by easing financial requirements on nonprofits, allowing them to get an additional 150 million shekels, or $39 million, in state funding annually, The Jerusalem Post reported Dec. 22.

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