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Nonprofit news roundup for Jan. 26, 2009

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Charlotte United Way dips into reserve fund, slashes staff

Charlotte-based United Way of Central Carolinas is taking up to $5 million from its reserves to compensate for a dismal 2008 fundraising campaign, The Charlotte Observer reported Jan. 23. The agency also plans to cut its full-time staff by up to 30 percent. In part because of fallout over former CEO Gloria Pace King’s controversial pay package, the agency’s 2008 annual campaign fell $15 million below the previous year’s total.

Largest charitable gifts in 2008 came from deceased donors

Seven of the 10 largest charitable gifts made last year in the U.S. came from the estates of deceased donors, indicating that living donors may be shying away from large gifts, Bloomberg reported Jan. 25 (see gifts story). The top two donors were late billionaires Leona Helmsley, who left $5.2 billion to her charitable trust, and James LeVoy Sorenson, who left $4.5 billion to his family foundation. In 2007, all top 10 donors were alive when they made their gifts, say the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Slate online magazine.

Johns Hopkins campaign raises second-largest amount in U.S.

Despite the tanking economy, Johns Hopkins University raised more than $3.7 billion over eight-and-a-half years, the second-largest total ever raised in a U.S. university campaign, The Washington Post reported Jan. 23 (see campaign story). The money will go toward a new business school, scholarships for low-income students and research into malaria transmission, among other projects. The largest gifts to the campaign included more than $157 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and $150 million from Sidney Kimmel, founder of Jones Apparel Group.

Harvard holds out for better deal on buyout funds

Harvard University’s attempts to unload $1.5 billion worth of stakes in private equity hit a stumbling block when sellers flooded the market, driving prices down, Bloomberg reported Jan. 23 (see equity story). As much as $40 billion in private-equity interests may go unsold this year as sellers hold out for higher prices, says Nyppex Holdings LLC. Universities such as Harvard, Duke and Columbia are looking to rid themselves of buyout and venture-capital stakes to raise cash as investment returns shrivel.

Cornell regroups to combat across-the-board losses

Cornell University is grappling with a 10 percent budget shortfall caused by reduced state funding, dwindling donations and a 27 percent endowment loss over the past six months, The Ithaca Journal reported Jan. 26. To combat losses, the university’s board of trustees cut spending at two campuses, suspended salary increases and extended the length of hiring and construction freezes launched in October.

In Brief:

* Carnegie Mellon University is slashing academic, administrative and construction budgets in anticipation of a 30 percent endowment drop, the Associated Press reported Jan. 24. The Pittsburgh-based university froze hiring and salaries in December 2008.

* Bill Gates, co-founder of the largest charitable foundation in the U.S., is releasing a letter underscoring his belief that governments, businesses, nonprofits and individuals have the power to bring about positive change, the Associated Press reported Jan. 26.

* U.S. museums are cutting staff, and even shutting their doors, as endowments dry up and wealthy donors shift their focus to basic needs, Reuters reported Jan. 25.

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