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Nonprofit news roundup for Jan. 5, 2009

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Foundations lobby for health-care reform

California foundations are launching efforts to educate state and federal legislators on the need for health-care reform, The Los Angeles Times reported Jan. 5 (see health story). Foundations are hiring experts to push lawmakers to enact policies for disease prevention and increased health coverage for children. However, foundations have to walk a fine line, since the IRS prohibits nonprofits from engaging in partisan politics.

Muslim donors cautious after recent foundation verdict

Since the Holy Land Foundation and five of its organizers were found guilty in November of funding charities controlled by Hamas, Muslims are finding it more difficult to donate to Palestinian refugees and other Middle Eastern causes, The Dallas Morning News reported Jan. 3. Charities that focus on Muslim issues are faced with the risk of being shut down if they do not cut back on philanthropy, says Kay Guinane, a lawyer for OMB Watch. However, the challenge could strengthen Muslim charities by forcing them to devote more attention to oversight, says a report by the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Library foundation declines to name donors

The foundation that aims to raise $300 million for President George W. Bush’s Dallas-based library will not disclose the names of its donors, the foundation president says, The Dallas Morning News reported Jan. 4. Foundation organizers insist that circumstances are different than those surrounding the charitable foundation of former President Bill Clinton, who agreed to disclose the names of foundation donors after President-elect Barack Obama tapped Clinton’s wife, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, to serve as secretary of state. There is no law requiring former presidents to disclose money they collect for their foundations.

Knight Foundation trims budget

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is freezing hiring and salaries in an effort to cut costs, says foundation president Alberto Ibargüen, The Editor & Publisher reported Dec. 31. The foundation, one of the leading grant providers for nonprofit journalism, has no plans to slash funding for nonprofits despite recent financial concerns, Ibargüen says.

Kansas legislator raises bar for phone solicitors

Derek Schmidt, Kansas Senate majority leader, has proposed a law that would force charity fundraisers to disclose over the phone the percentage of donations they raise that go to charitable causes, the Associated Press reported Dec. 31. Though fundraisers soliciting donations over the phone already are required to provide a registration number, Schmidt’s “truth in giving” proposal also would make them identify themselves and their companies. Under the proposal, companies violating the new restrictions could be fined up to $10,000 per violation, or up to $20,000 if the offense targets the elderly or disabled.

In Brief:

* Focusing philanthropy on minority communities is an investment in the future, says Al Piña, chair of the Florida Minority Community Reinvestment Coalition, in a letter to the editor in The Wall Street Journal Jan. 4, in response to an editorial published Dec. 30.

* The foundation that runs Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia of user-contributed information, met its $6 million fundraising goal for fiscal 2008, the Associated Press reported Jan. 3.

* The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship has launched an online resource center to help foundations make investments that support their missions, The Boston Business Journal reported Jan. 2.

* The outcome of a lawsuit between Princeton University and the Robertson family holds valuable lessons for donors, says Frederic Fransen, president of Donor Advising, Research and Educational Services, in an opinion column in The San Jose Mercury News Dec. 31.

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