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Nonprofit news roundup for Jan. 13, 2009

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Clinton promoted interests of husband’s donors, letters indicate

U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, who was appointed secretary of state by President-elect Barack Obama, intervened at least six times in government issues directly affecting donors to her husband’s charitable foundation, the Associated Press reported Jan. 13. Though three of Clinton’s official letters show she promoted the business interests of donors disclosed by former President Bill Clinton, the senator’s spokesman said she makes decisions based solely on the interests of her constituents. Several senators are requesting more details on the arrangement between Obama and Hillary Clinton to ensure her husband’s charitable work will not present a conflict of interest if she joins the cabinet, the news service reported Jan. 12.

Yale endowment manager keeps long-term focus

Though the endowment of Yale University has tumbled 25 percent since June of last year, David Swensen, chief investment officer for the endowment, has no plans to make changes to an investment strategy that has served the school well over the long term, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 13 (see investment story). Yale has seen an average 16 percent annual return for the past 10 years through June, nearly tripling its assets to $23 billion, compared with a 2 percent average return for the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. Investing successfully is not about riding out financial storms, but making informed decisions aimed at long-term growth, Swensen says.

University of Washington‘s endowment continues slide

The University of Washington’s endowment, estimated at more than $2 billion last year, dropped 25 percent, or $550 million, in the year ending Nov. 30, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Jan. 12 (see endowment story). Though the highly diversified endowment has outperformed the stock market, the university is bracing for a simultaneous dip in public funds. The budget proposal released last month by Gov. Chris Gregoire includes a 13 percent cut in funding for the university.

Kauffman Foundation primes future entrepreneurs

The Kansas City, Mo.-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation plans to invest $5 million in two new fellowship programs to groom future technology entrepreneurs, The Kansas City Star reported Jan. 12. The fellowships are part of the Kauffman Laboratories for Enterprise Creation, a multimillion-dollar initiative that aims to jump-start the flagging economy by boosting the creation of new cutting-edge companies.

Stanford plans energy-research institute

Stanford University announced plans to build a $100 million institute for energy research, which will be funded mainly by two private donations, The New York Times reported Jan. 12 (see energy story). Oil executive Jay Precourt donated $50 million for the institute, and hedge-fund manager Thomas Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, donated $40 million. The Precourt Institute for Energy will be led by Lynn Orr, current director of Stanford’s initiative to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

In Brief:

* Canadian law schools are steeling themselves for financial hardship as endowments, government funding and private donations shrivel, the Jan. 16 issue of The Lawyers Weekly reported. The economic crisis is squeezing many of Canada’s most prestigious universities, including the University of Calgary in Alberta, whose endowment dropped to $348 million from $426 million since March of last year, CBS News reported Jan. 12.

* As Bill Gates withdraws from the corporate world and assumes a more active role in his foundation, he reflects on transparency, leadership and the direction philanthropy is taking, The Financial Times reported Jan. 13.

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