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Nonprofit news roundup for Jan. 6, 2009

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Developer’s donation to Clinton Foundation questioned

Robert Congel, a New York developer, donated $100,000 to former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation in 2004 after Clinton’s wife, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, helped enact legislation to fund the construction of his shopping complex, The New York Times reported Jan. 3 (see donation story). Though Congel insists his gift had nothing to do with the legislation, the donation is the only known case in which a U.S. donor made a contribution to a foundation after benefiting from the actions of a lawmaker related to the foundation. Bill Clinton agreed to disclose the names of the donors to his foundation to pave the way for his wife to become secretary of state in President-elect Barack Obama’s administration.

Companies face tough decisions on charity

Though some corporate donors are stepping up to the plate as community needs skyrocket, about a third of companies cut charitable giving in 2007 as the economy faltered, says a survey by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, the Associated Press reported Dec. 31. U.S. companies, though dealing with slower sales and growing operational costs, would benefit from continued charitable giving and the community gratitude and loyalty that would result, says Charles Moore, executive director of the committee.

Yellowstone gets record $11 million from foundation

The Yellowstone Park Foundation gave $11 million in grants to the national park in 2008, the largest amount it has given to the park in a single year, Montana’s News Station reported Jan. 5. The money will go toward a variety of projects, including construction of the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, youth environmental-stewardship programs, excavation and wolf research.

University of Virginia endowment plummets $1.3 billion

The endowment of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville continues its downward spiral, having lost roughly $1.3 billion since the beginning of the fiscal year July 1, The Charlottesville Daily Progress reported Jan. 6. The endowment, which now stands at $3.9 billion, lost $280 million in November alone.

Arkansas libraries see lean times ahead

Public libraries in Arkansas are bracing for drops in funding as the credit crisis hits foundation endowments, The (Northwest Arkansas) Morning News reported Jan. 1. While some libraries are shying away from bringing in new programs and staff, still others are looking to jettison summer-reading and technology programs. Nearly seven in 10 foundations expect their grantmaking to take a downturn in 2009, says a study by the Southeastern Council of Foundations.

New York arts nonprofits slash budgets

Nearly eight in 10 New York City cultural nonprofits are making plans to cut costs, says a survey by the Alliance for the Arts, Crain’s New York Business reported Jan. 2 (see cutbacks story). Nearly half are planning to cancel programs and lay off employees, while nearly seven in 10 are putting a freeze on hiring, the report says.

In Brief:

* Even the most well-intentioned philanthropists are powerless to affect change in an environment devoid of basic human rights, says Hassan Elmasry, member of the board of directors for Human Rights Watch and managing director at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, in an opinion column in Forbes Jan. 5.

* Growth in the number of philanthropic trusts in Australia is grinding to a halt on the news that the government is planning to regulate them more strictly and increase penalties for violations, The Australian reported Jan. 3.

* The “philanthro-capitalism” fad holds no more potential for relieving poverty and promoting progress than does traditional capitalism, says Leslie Lenkowsky, professor of public affairs and philanthropic studies at Indiana University, in an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal Jan. 2.

* Oprah Winfrey donated $365,000 to the Ron Clark Academy, a private school in one of the poorest areas of Atlanta, The New York Times reported Jan. 1. Ron Clark, who founded the school last year with donations and proceeds from his best-selling book on education, appeared twice on Winfrey’s show.

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