Nonprofit news roundup for Feb. 11, 2009

States pushed to ease endowment spending limits

U.S. nonprofits, struggling to avoid program and staff cuts, are pushing state legislators to ease limits on endowment spending, The Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 11 (see limit story). Nonprofits argue that state laws, which passed in the 1970s to keep charities from depleting their resources, are tying their hands as they try to find funding during the economic crisis. Since 2007, 26 states have loosened spending restrictions, which freeze endowments when gift funds fall below their initial dollar value.

Harvard unloads two-thirds of its U.S. stocks

Harvard University sold 67 percent of the U.S. stocks held by its endowment in the fourth quarter of 2008, Bloomberg reported Feb. 11 (see stocks story). Harvard Management Co., which manages the university’s endowment, scrambled to sell 117 stocks after its endowment lost 22 percent of its value from July through October. The endowment now stands at $28.8 billion.

Prep school to cut spending after endowment loss

Phillips Exeter Academy, one of the wealthiest prep schools in the U.S., is slashing its budget following a 21.8 percent endowment loss in 2008, The New York Times reported Feb. 11 (see prep story). Though the New Hampshire school plans to cut its operating budget in the coming years by $6 million, or about 8 percent, it vowed to retain staff and continue providing full financial aid to students whose families earn $75,000 or less per year, says Tyler C. Tingley, principal of the school.

Flagging oil prices threaten Russian philanthropy

As the global economic crisis strikes Russia’s biggest oil companies, Russian nonprofits fear their corporate funding could tumble by as much as a third this year, The Moscow Times reported Feb. 10. Oil giants Rosneft, LUKoil and TNK-BP have contributed a total of $1.5 billion to charity, a third of all corporate donations in the country, over the past two years. World oil prices have plummeted to $40 per barrel from a high of $143 per barrel last summer.

Charity jacks up laptop prices in down economy

One Laptop Per Child, a Cambridge, Mass.-based charity aiming to provide $100 laptops for children in the developing world, has raised its prices in the face of the global recession, The Boston Globe reported Feb. 11 (see laptop story). Though the nonprofit raised the price of its computers to $204 from $188 last year, it plans to drop the price by $24 soon, says founder Nicholas Negroponte. The nonprofit also is developing a second computer prototype which may sell for as little as $75, Negroponte says.

In Brief:

* Latino nonprofits in New York City are struggling to keep their heads above water as they lose funding from the government, corporations and private donors, The New York Daily News reported Feb. 11.

* The economic meltdown has dealt a severe blow to charitable foundations in Fort Worth, Texas, and area nonprofits are bracing for the fallout, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Feb. 11.

* Advancements in technology are allowing donors to find, and even invent, more creative ways to give, Computerworld reported Feb. 9.

* Charitable lead trusts, which are garnering attention for their historically low “hurdle” rates, give donors the chance to help charities, receive tax benefits and pass assets on to their heirs, The Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 10.

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