Nonprofit news roundup for Feb. 9, 2009

Some foundations rise above financial worries, address need

Despite their own financial troubles, nearly 50 foundations have committed more than $100 million to initiatives aimed at reducing foreclosures and providing financial counseling, The Christian Science Monitor reported Feb. 8 (see foreclosure story). The Silicon Valley Community Foundation has pledged an additional $5.2 million to California service providers, while the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has given more than $38 million to help low-income Chicago homeowners. Many U.S. foundations have lost almost one-third of their assets, says a survey conducted last month by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Harvard endowment manager plans layoffs

The Harvard Management Company, which runs the university’s endowment, announced plans to cut 25 percent of its staff, or 50 positions, over the next several months, The New York Times reported Feb. 6 (see endowment story). The university, having lost 22 percent of its endowment’s $36.9 billion value in the four months leading up to December 2008, recently put about 38 percent of its $1.5 billion in private-equity holdings up for sale.

Madoff aftershocks felt in Montana, Florida

The Oneness Project, a Montana nonprofit that aims to promote world peace through dance, lost $3.75 million, 75 percent of its assets, in Bernard Madoff’s alleged investment scam, the Associated Press reported Feb. 6. The organization has halted grantmaking and plans to cut back the number of events it sponsors this year. At least 35 people from Montana lost a total of more than $18 million to Madoff, state securities officials say. The scandal also has devastated 22 charitable foundations near Palm Beach, Fla., that had invested more than $621 million in combined assets with Madoff, The Palm Beach Post reported Feb. 8.

University of Wisconsin halts endowment payouts

The University of Wisconsin System is suspending payouts from 38 endowments, a move that will lead to a $700,000 drop in funding for scholarships and programs this year, says Kevin Reilly, president of the university system, the Associated Press reported Feb. 6. The cutback represents a 3.5 percent drop in the $20 million total the trust funds pay out annually. The funds lost a total of $70 million, more than 16 percent of their assets, in the last six months of 2008.

In Brief:

* The Silicon Valley Community Foundation is laying off 14 percent of its workforce and closing its San Jose office after a 22 percent drop in its total assets in the past year, The San Jose Mercury News reported Feb. 6.

* Following a more than 25 percent drop in the value of its endowment fund, the foundation at the University of Washington warned employees of a 20 percent staff reduction in early March, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Feb. 6.

* The election of President Barack Obama may have opened a door for arts groups looking to shape public policy, The San Jose Mercury News reported Feb. 8.

* More nonprofits are merging to keep from buckling under the economic pressure, The Kansas City Star reported Feb. 8. One in 10 nonprofits in the Kansas City area said they considered a merger last year, while one in eight said they would consider merging in 2009, says a survey by the United Way of Greater Kansas City.

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