Nonprofit news roundup for Feb. 2, 2009

Daschle under scrutiny for charity-related travel

The Senate Finance Committee likely will review allegations that former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, who was nominated for health and human services secretary, improperly accepted gifts of travel and entertainment from the charities with which he was involved, The Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 2 (see gift story). Daschle twice traveled to vacation destinations aboard a corporate jet owned by EduCap Inc., a student-loan nonprofit, to speak with the directors of a related organization. Federal tax law prohibits individuals involved with a charity from accepting anything of personal value from the charity, unless the gift is related to its core mission.

Brandeis decision tarnishes relationship with donors

The unanimous decision of Brandeis University trustees to close the Rose Art Museum and auction off its collection of 6,000 artworks has blindsided its art donors, Roberta Smith says in The New York Times Feb. 1 (see museum story). Even if trustees reversed their decision to close the museum, says museum director Michael Rush, they would face an uphill battle in regaining donor trust. The museum, which raises funds independently of the university, received 80 percent of its collection from donors.

Parents get creative as recession hits summer internships

As the U.S. job market tightens, so does competition for summer internships, and parents of interns-to-be are looking for ways to increase their children’s chances of landing a good one, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 28 (see internship story). Some parents are paying for-profit companies to take on their college students, or are buying opportunities in charity auctions, while others are hiring consultants to create direct-mail campaigns touting their progeny. The slowdown in opportunities comes as demand is up as much as 25 percent over the past year.

Philanthropists look to China for new wave of givers

Action star Jet Li has taken a break from his career to promote philanthropy in China, which has one of the lowest rates of charitable giving of the world’s leading economies, The Washington Post reported Jan. 31 (see China story). Through his One Foundation, Li aims to encourage all Chinese citizens to give a small amount to tackle some of the country’s most pressing problems. Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also is planning a campaign to spread the word about philanthropy among wealthy Chinese, AFP reported Jan. 31.

Madoff scandal hits home in Boston

Nonprofits in Boston face a bleak year in 2009, given that a major patron, the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, has said it will make no new grants this year, The Boston Globe reported Jan. 30 (see scandal story). The foundation, which has invested about $100 million in Boston nonprofits over the last 10 years, is reeling after losing about half its assets in the Bernard Madoff investment scandal, but says it will honor all existing 2009 funding commitments.

Arts community pleads case for economic support

Artists and arts advocates are enlisting the help of the Obama administration in breathing new life into the floundering arts community, The Los Angeles Times reported Jan. 30 (see arts story). Online petitions launched by the arts community request 1 percent of the economic-stimulus package, as well as the creation of a cabinet position dedicated to the arts. Also, as arts knowledge dwindles among American youth, a grass-roots movement has emerged to secure teaching jobs for artists in U.S. schools.

In Brief:

* Columbia University’s endowment tumbled about 15 percent in the last six months of 2008, says a letter by university president Lee Bollinger, Reuters reported Jan. 30. The drop has prompted academic departments to brace for budget cuts next year.

* The endowment pool of the University of Virginia lost $30.5 million in December, its smallest loss in six months, bringing its total losses to $1.3 billion since July 1, 2008, The Charlottesville Daily Progress reported Jan. 31.

* Some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the U.S. are watching as the economic crisis sweeps away their endowment funds, says Alison Go in a blog in U.S. News & World Report Jan. 30.

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