Nonprofit news roundup for Feb. 23, 2009

U.S. military charity hoards funds meant for soldiers, AP says

The U.S. military’s biggest charity has been stockpiling millions of dollars meant to help soldiers rebuild their lives as they return from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported Feb. 22 (see soldier story). Between 2003 and 2007, Army Emergency Relief squirreled away $117 million in reserves while spending only $64 million on direct aid. The charity, which says it is reserving funds for future emergency needs, also gives prohibited rewards to donors and cancels promotions for troops who cannot repay their loans, says an investigation by the Associated Press.

Charity founders under fire for hefty salaries

Angel Food Ministries is under scrutiny for paying a total of nearly $2.8 million to founders Joe and Linda Wingo and their two sons between 2005 and 2007, the Associated Press reported Feb. 23. During that period, the nonprofit also loaned $1.4 million to the Wingos, more than $1.4 million to four companies they owned, and $83,000 to a church they founded. Joe Wingo, who served a year in prison for extorting $17,500 from a doctor in 1989, has defended his pay, saying there should be no difference between compensation for nonprofit and for-profit businesses.

MIT cuts budget after endowment tanks

The endowment of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology plummeted 25 percent, to as low as $7.5 billion from $10 billion, in the last six months of 2008, Bloomberg reported Feb. 19. The Cambridge, Mass.-based school plans to freeze executive salary increases, curb hiring and cut academic programs in an effort to slash $50 million from its budget. It also plans to raise undergraduate tuition by 3.8 percent for the coming academic year.

Nonprofit hospital executives rake in dollars

Top executives at U.S. nonprofit hospitals averaged $490,000 in compensation in 2006, says a survey by the IRS, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Feb. 21. Executives at Texas hospitals topped this average, with the president of Texas Health Resources in Arlington earning a total of nearly $1.8 million. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa has considered introducing a bill to cap executive compensation at nonprofit hospitals.

Gates Foundation grant raises child-labor issues

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation raised ethics issues last week when it granted $48 million to help West African cocoa and cashew farmers boost their income, The Seattle Times reported Feb. 22 (see cocoa story). Many of the 70 companies represented by the World Cocoa Foundation, which received $23 million of the grant, do not adhere to policies against child labor, says the International Labor Rights Forum. West African cocoa farmers, including children, earn between $30 and $110 a year, says the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.

Harvard’s endowment manager under pressure

Jane Mendillo, endowment manager at Harvard University, is feeling the heat as the endowment prepares to post its biggest loss in 40 years, The New York Times reported Feb. 20 (see manager story). Since Mendillo took the job on July 1, the endowment has dropped by at least $8 billion to $29 billion. In an effort to raise much-needed cash, Mendillo sold $1 billion in equities and laid off 25 percent of her staff.

In Brief:

* Georgetown University’s endowment investments plunged 26 percent to $833 million last year along with the tanking economy, Bloomberg reported Feb. 20.

* Actor John Travolta established a foundation in memory of his 16-year-old son, Jett, who died Jan. 2 following a seizure, TV Guide reported Feb. 20. The Jett Travolta Foundation aims to help children with special educational and behavioral needs.

* In a move to ensure nonprofits are using their funds to further their missions, Nevada Sen. David Parks has introduced a bill in the state senate that would require nonprofits to register with the Secretary of State’s office, The Las Vegas Sun reported Feb. 21.

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