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Nonprofit news roundup for Jan. 7, 2009

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Foundations rush to help Madoff victims

Large U.S. foundations are considering new grant programs to help nonprofits burned by the financial crisis and Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50 billion scam, The Washington Post reported Jan. 6. A variety of philanthropies and donors already have pledged more than $1 million in aid to Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights and others. Activist group MoveOn.org organized an end-of-year fundraising drive for four human-rights organizations, raising more than $635,000 in three days.

Museum falls on hard times

As a result of the plunging stock market, the endowment of the Chicago-based Field Museum dropped by 30 percent, or $95 million, in the last six months, The Chicago Sun-Times reported Jan. 7. To make up for the decline, museum officials are planning to cut salaries, lay off staff and cancel plans for a small Sesame Street exhibit, the museum says. A “robust” schedule of other exhibits will continue as planned, it says.

Texas universities scale back

Texas colleges and universities are looking to cut costs after suffering devastating blows to their endowments, The Dallas Morning News reported Jan. 7. Texas Christian University asked its departments to trim 8 percent to 10 percent of their budgets after its endowment plummeted $100 million in the stock-market meltdown. The University of North Texas, the hardest hit among the schools interviewed, lost more than a quarter of its endowment in the last year.

Indianapolis arts nonprofits take hit

Indianapolis arts organizations are struggling to stay afloat as the economic crisis takes a bite out of their endowments, The Indianapolis Star reported Jan. 7 (see arts story). The Indianapolis Museum of Art lost $57 million from its endowment in the last two months alone, and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra has seen its endowment drop to the “high eight figures” from $127 million at the beginning of fiscal 2008, says CEO Simon Crookall.

In Brief:

* As President-elect Barack Obama tackles some of the most daunting challenges in recent history, he should make use of nonprofits’ independence, innovation and willingness to take risks, says Jane Wales, co-founder of the Global Philanthropy Forum, in an opinion column in The San Francisco Chronicle Jan. 6.

* There can be a middle ground between self-interested profit-seeking and bleeding-heart philanthropy, says Edward Glaeser, economist at Harvard University, in a blog in The New York Times Jan. 6.

* The economic crisis is spurring a reevaluation of how nonprofits and foundations accomplish their missions, The Economist reported Jan. 6.

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