Nonprofit news roundup for Jan. 15, 2009

IRS may turn up heat on colleges

In a move to ensure that U.S. colleges and universities are not misusing their nonprofit status to avoid paying taxes, the IRS may demand more detailed information on their financial activities, The New York Times reported Jan. 13 (see IRS story). Despite their tax-exempt status, universities and colleges are required to pay taxes on transactions and investments outside the scope of their nonprofit activities. As part of its current investigation, the IRS sent detailed questionnaires to 400 private and public schools in October 2008 asking about their business activities and executive-compensation policies.

U.S. universities rush to sell bonds

U.S. universities are scrambling to sell bonds following an average endowment loss of 25 percent to 30 percent over the past six months, Bloomberg reported Jan. 14 (see bonds story). Princeton University sold $1 billion of debt, while Harvard University raked in $1.5 billion. Many cash-strapped colleges prefer to sell taxable bonds, which are not only in-demand, but also cheaper than borrowing from banks, says Laurence Allen, managing member of Nyppex Holdings.

Half of Israeli foundations plan to cut grants

Of the private foundations giving money to Israeli charities, half expect their grants to be lower this year due to the economic crisis, says a survey by Israel Philanthropy Advisors, Ha’aretz reported Jan. 14 (see grants story). Only one in 10 foundations plan to increase their donations, and four in 10 said their giving levels would remain steady, the poll says. Though most foundations that plan to cut their giving expect a decrease of about 20 percent, nearly one in 10 expects to slash giving by at least 50 percent.

Nonprofit sells bonds to finance vaccines

The Global Alliance for Vaccine Immunization, an organization co-founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to raise as much as $500 million by selling bonds to Japanese investors, Bloomberg reported Jan. 15 (see vaccine story). The organization will offer buyers higher-than-average yields to fund a program providing vaccinations to children in developing nations.

Atlanta Ballet gets largest donation to date

The beleaguered Atlanta Ballet has received $3 million from the Michael C. and Thalia N. Carlos Foundation, the single largest gift in its 79-year history, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Jan. 14. The ballet company has raised a total of $10 million toward the $14.8 million it needs to buy and renovate a new headquarters and boost its endowment. The new facility, scheduled to open in summer 2010, will be called the Michael C. Carlos Dance Centre.

In Brief:

* The University of Toronto’s struggling endowment may not be able to part with the $62 million slated for hiring and student grants this April, says university President David Naylor, The Globe and Mail reported Jan. 14.

* The Chicago-based Lincoln Park Zoo plans to trim more than $1 million from its $21 million annual budget following a $7.6 million endowment loss, The Chicago Tribune reported Jan. 15. The cutbacks will force the zoo to lay off staff and cut programs.

* Adding a nonprofit-stimulus plan to President-elect Barack Obama’s economic-recovery package would not only prevent job loss, but also would secure a talented workforce for the future, say Paul Grogan, president of the Boston Foundation, and Eric Schwarz, president of Citizen Schools, in an opinion column in The Boston Globe Jan. 15.

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