Nonprofit news roundup for Feb. 4, 2009

Habitat for Humanity co-founder dies

Millard Fuller, co-founder of Habitat for Humanity International, died Feb. 3 at age 74 after a brief illness, The New York Times reported Feb. 3 (see habitat story). Fuller, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, spearheaded the business model of using donated money, labor and materials to build and sell houses without profit. The organization has built homes for more than a million low-income residents in over 100 countries.

Daschle speaking fees raise questions

Former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, who withdrew from consideration for secretary of health and human services, was paid $195,000 to give speeches to health-care groups, CQ Politics reported Feb. 2. The fees, which Daschle received while serving as a special-policy adviser with Alston & Bird, a law and lobbying firm, raised doubts as to whether the former Senate majority leader could be trusted to overhaul the industry. Daschle already faced scrutiny for failure to pay $128,000 in taxes, says an editorial in The New York Times Feb. 2.

Gift annuities appealing option in hard times

Charitable gift annuities, which allow donors to make a tax-deductible gift to charity while securing a steady flow of payments for life, have proven to be a popular giving vehicle during the recession, The Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 3 (see annuity story). Though rates paid to beneficiaries are scheduled to drop this month by 0.4 percent to 0.7 percent, annuities still are seen as an attractive investment option for donors who want to transfer market risk to a charity and set up a reliable source of income during tough economic times.

Kennedy Center lends hand to floundering arts groups

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is offering free crisis-consulting services to arts organizations struggling to weather the economic storm, the Associated Press reported Feb. 3. The “Arts in Crisis” initiative, which may cost up to $500,000, will provide budgeting and fundraising guidance to arts groups as their box-office revenues, endowments and private donations melt away.

In Brief:

* The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is donating more than $50 million for polio-eradication efforts in Nigeria, The Voice of America reported Feb. 3. The foundation already has committed more than $700 million to the worldwide fight against the disease.

* Two foundations in the Seattle area that fund conservation efforts have lost sizeable chunks of their assets in Bernard Madoff’s alleged investment scam, says Kristi Heim in a blog in The Seattle Times Feb. 2.

* The Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment plans to give more than $11 million in grants to 16 religious groups in Indiana to help pastors address financial hardships, the Associated Press reported Feb. 3.

* Boosting solar energy in Texas could create up to 22,000 jobs, says a report by three nonprofits, The San Antonio Express-News reported Feb. 3.

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