Nonprofit news roundup for Feb. 18, 2009

Foundations aim to fight disease, poverty with cell phones

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is teaming with telecommunications companies to fight poverty in developing countries through the use of cell phones, The Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 18 (see cell story). The foundation plans to make a $12.5 million grant to fund 20 new mobile-banking projects, which will give people in the developing world access to financial services. At the same time, the United Nations and the mHealth Alliance at the Rockefeller Foundation are launching efforts to improve global health, such as equipping pill bottles with SIM cards to notify health-care workers when patients do not take their tuberculosis medicine, reported Feb. 17.

Pittsburgh expects less funding from area nonprofits

The Pittsburgh Public Service Fund, an umbrella group of medical, educational and cultural nonprofits, plans to give less money to the city in the next three years than it did from 2005 to 2007, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Feb. 16 (see city story). Though an exact amount has not been determined, it will fall below the nearly $14 million contributed in the last three-year period. An agreement reached in 2005 bars the city of Pittsburgh from taxing nonprofits that are making voluntary contributions to the city.

Gates Foundation buys more Coca-Cola stock

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust has increased its stake in Coca-Cola Co. and its subsidiary, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Feb. 17. The trust added three million shares of Coca-Cola stock in the last quarter of 2008, bringing its total shares in the world’s largest beverage company to 5.68 million. The trust also bought one million shares of Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Enterprises, the company’s largest bottler.

Historically black colleges battered by recession

Historically black colleges and universities, whose students usually rely more heavily on financial aid than most college students, have been particularly hard-hit by the economic crisis, The Philadelphia Examiner reported Feb. 16. Their endowments, typically smaller than those of other universities, have lost much of their value in the sliding economy. Spelman College in Atlanta, faced with reduced state funding and a 20 percent endowment loss, plans to eliminate 35 positions and close campus for the week after graduation in May.

In Brief:

* The floundering economy is taking a toll on the $500 million fundraising drive to build the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, says Paul Bedard in a blog in U.S. News & World Report Feb. 14.

* The endowments of Virginia colleges and universities have plummeted in the economic turmoil, threatening construction projects, faculty positions and the arts, The Virginian-Pilot reported Feb. 17.

* Nonprofits in Shreveport, La., are under increasing pressure as more people request help and fewer people open their wallets, The Shreveport Times reported Feb. 18.

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