Nonprofit news roundup for Feb. 27, 2009

Obama’s tax plan could hurt charitable giving

President Barack Obama’s tax plan, designed to finance a universal health-care system to serve all low-income Americans, could cause more harm than good by removing incentives for many wealthy Americans to give to charity, Forbes reported Feb. 26 (see tax story). The new plan would cut charitable deductions for American families earning more than $250,000 a year, CBS News reported Feb. 26. High-income taxpayers who now deduct $3,500 for making a $10,000 donation would, under the new plan, deduct only $2,800. In another blow to wealthy Americans, Obama plans to extend the estate tax, which was scheduled to expire in 2010, The Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 27.

Amherst takes on new debt to avoid endowment spending

Amherst College is taking on $100 million in debt to keep from making payouts from its beleaguered endowment, The Boston Business Journal reported Feb. 25 (see debt story). The school’s endowment, which stood at $1.7 billion at the end of June 2008, lost nearly a quarter of its value in the following seven months. The new bond will raise the college’s total debt to $320 million.

Immigration, Obama election spark growth in hate groups

The election of the first black U.S. president, along with an influx of Latino immigrants, has fueled the growth of hate groups, CNN reported Feb. 26 (see hate story). The number of hate groups has ballooned by 54 percent since 2000, says a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The website of neo-Nazi David Duke, who was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in the 1980s, gets 40,000 unique visitors daily, up from 15,000 a day before President Barack Obama won the election, Duke says.

In Brief:

* Elie Wiesel, the Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor whose charitable foundation lost more than $15.2 million in Bernard Madoff’s alleged investment scam, says the word “psychopath” is too generous a description of the financier, The New York Times reported Feb. 26.

* Online fundraising startups in the Boston area are seeing a windfall as cash-strapped nonprofits scramble for alternative ways of raising money, Mass High Tech reported Feb. 27.

* Nonprofits can solicit donations and attract new supporters by setting up a “Causes” page on Facebook, The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., reported Feb. 26.

* Brandeis University, suffering from a 25 percent drop in its endowment, faces up to five years of budget shortfalls, university President Jehuda Reinharz says in an e-mail, The Boston Globe reported Feb. 27.

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