Nonprofit news roundup for Feb. 16, 2009

Christian charities urged to boost transparency

Donors to Christian nonprofits and churches are demanding greater fundraising transparency in the aftermath of the Wall Street crisis and Bernard Madoff’s alleged investment scam, the Associated Press reported Feb. 14. As donors navigate their own financial minefields, they want to be certain their charitable dollars are being stewarded wisely, says Craig Parshall, senior vice president of National Religious Broadcasters. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa launched an investigation of six Christian broadcast ministries last year to determine if they have misused funds.

Kaiser Foundation loses nearly $800 million in 2008

The Kaiser Foundation’s hospitals and health plan lost a total of $794 million last year in the financial-market mayhem, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Feb. 14 (see hospital story). The Oakland-based health-maintenance organization, which reported a non-operating income loss of $2.3 billion in 2008, lost $996 million in the fourth quarter alone.

Texas universities scramble to cut costs

Texas universities are looking for ways to offset endowment losses and expected state budget cuts, The Houston Chronicle reported Feb. 13 (see budget story). The University of Houston’s decision to draw less money from its endowment, which lost 31 percent of its value in 2008, necessitated a $4.2 million cut in its operating budget for next year. The University of Texas, whose endowment lost 27 percent of its value last year, instituted a system-wide hiring freeze for non-faculty positions and a salary freeze for top management.

Former British prime minister dives into philanthropy

Despite the toll the global economic crisis is taking on charities worldwide, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, have launched philanthropic efforts on an unprecedented scale, The Observer reported Feb. 15 (see minister story). The Blairs have set up several foundations to promote peace in the Middle East, eradicate malaria and encourage women entrepreneurs. Thus far, these foundations have been untouched by widespread fundraising woes, with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation receiving donations of 3.6 million British pounds, or $5.1 million, in the first year since its inception.

University of Texas fund most expensive in state

The endowment of the University of Texas system costs more to manage than any other public state fund, The Austin American-Statesman reported Feb. 16. The University of Texas Investment Management Co. paid a little over $28 million to manage its fund, compared to $21 million paid to run the Teacher Retirement System Pension Trust Fund, which is nearly 10 times the size of the university fund. The bulk of the cost to run the university system’s endowment goes toward external managers, who manage a full 86 percent of the fund’s assets.

Duke University trims budget after endowment tanks

Duke University is trying to trim $100 million from its $2 billion operating budget and use $500 million in new bond debt, which typically is reserved for capital needs, to cover operations, The Triangle Business Journal reported Feb. 13 (see budget story) [subscription only]. The school’s endowment, which normally funds operation costs, tumbled by $1.37 billion in the last six months of 2008.

In Brief:

* Robert Redford was one of many arts supporters who spoke out in favor of the $50 million allotted for the National Endowment for the Arts in the economic-stimulus package, which was approved by both houses of Congress Feb. 13, The New York Times reported Feb. 15.

* More than half of Idaho nonprofits report increased expenses and demand for services, while more than six in 10 are grappling with a drop in revenue, The Fort Mill Times reported Feb. 13.

* A spike in volunteerism is helping U.S. nonprofits deal with surging demand and sagging donations, CNN reported Feb. 13.

* Two Jewish groups in Ukraine plan to establish a center devoted to developing local Jewish communities and fundraising during the economic crisis, JTA reported Feb. 13.

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