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Nonprofit news roundup for Dec. 24, 2008

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Kennedy’s fundraising gets mixed reviews

Though Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City school system, described Caroline Kennedy as “highly focused, efficient and hands-on” during her two years as a fundraiser and goodwill ambassador for the city schools, others argue Kennedy served primarily as a figurehead, The Politico reported Dec. 23 (see Kennedy story). Though she organized several high-profile events, she spent an average of only three hours in the office every day, say news accounts. Kennedy’s education credentials are one of her main selling points in her bid for the soon-to-be-vacant U.S. Senate seat of Hillary Clinton, who has been tapped to become secretary of state in President-elect Barack Obama’s administration.

Retailers aim to boost donations amid waning sales

Despite flagging holiday sales, many big-name retailers, including Target, Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Costco, are planning to boost their charitable giving this year, says a report by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, USA Today reported Dec. 24 (see corporate story). Many retailers are finding that consumers, though cash-strapped themselves, are demanding greater corporate responsibility from the companies they support. Last year, nearly eight in 10 consumers said they would switch from one brand to another similarly-priced brand that was associated with a cause, up from fewer than seven in 10 in 1993, says a survey by Opinion Research for Cone.

Jewish foundations team to help Madoff victims

Thirty-five of the largest Jewish foundations in the U.S. are launching an effort to help the charities hit hardest by money manager Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50 billion scam, The Boston Globe reported Dec. 24 (see scam story). The network of foundations aims to provide free consulting services to nonprofits facing legal or tax problems, and to offer bridge loans to charities on the brink of collapse, says Mark Charendoff, president of the network. Madoff, who was charged Dec. 11 with securities fraud, already has cost the Jewish community at least $2.5 billion, Charendoff says.

Michigan nonprofits struggle to stay afloat

Michigan’s nearly 43,000 nonprofits are reducing staff, scaling back operations and exploring partnerships to deal with skyrocketing needs caused by the economic crisis, The Detroit News reported Dec. 24. More than seven in 10 Michigan nonprofits have reported a surge in demand for services, while more than six in 10 noted a drop in financial support, says a survey by the Michigan Nonprofit Association and the Johnson Center at Grand Valley State University.

University of Arizona endowment loses $60 million

The University of Arizona’s endowment has dropped 17.9 percent, nearly $60 million, since the summer, The Arizona Daily Star reported Dec. 24. Despite the tanking economy, the university has no plans to cut back on programs, say foundation officials.

In Brief:

* Former President Bill Clinton has shown that his foundation accepts donations from almost anyone, without showing where those donations are going, says Martin Peretz in an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal Dec. 23.

* Many individuals are taking over for floundering charities by increasing their donations and, in some cases, starting their own holiday-giving initiatives, MSNBC reported Dec. 24.

* Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra of California should reconsider his proposed move to tap into the estimated $32 billion in tax exemptions enjoyed by U.S. foundations, says an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal Dec. 24.

* The Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Foundation, which aims to promote environmental causes, has donated $1 million to nonprofits providing food and emergency assistance in the Detroit area, The Detroit News reported Dec. 24. The couple directly matched half the contribution.

* The University of Nevada in Las Vegas has extended by one year its seven-year, $500 million fundraising campaign as the economic crisis dries up donations, The Las Vegas Sun reported Dec. 24.

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