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Nonprofit news roundup for March 2, 2009

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Obama’s tax plan won’t affect giving, some say

Though President Barack Obama’s tax plan has drawn fire for lessening incentives for Americans earning more than $250,000 a year to give to charity, tax experts say wealthier U.S. donors do not make charitable donations because of the tax benefits, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Feb. 27. More than three in 10 U.S. donors cited tax benefits as a reason for giving to charities, while nearly nine in 10 cited a desire to give back to society, says the 2007 Survey of Affluent Americans. In an effort to pay for health-care expansion, Obama plans to drop top-tier tax-deduction rates to 28 percent from a high of 35 percent. Some point to the tax change as part of a growing trend of privatizing social functions that used to belong to philanthropists, The Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 27.

Endowments off-limits for many cash-strapped nonprofits

Laws in 24 states are preventing weary nonprofits from tapping into their endowments to meet rising demand, the Associated Press reported March 2. Most states adopted a uniform law in the 1970s that prohibits withdrawing money from endowments that fall below their original value. The District of Columbia and 26 states have passed laws that give nonprofits more freedom to dip into battered endowments, and 12 other states are considering such laws as a result of the recession, says the National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws.

Worst yet to come for San Francisco nonprofits

The San Francisco Bay area, with the highest concentration of nonprofits in the U.S., may be the hardest hit as the recession stretches into 2010, The San Francisco Chronicle reported March 1 (see recession story). Though many of the 25,000 nonprofits in the region are living on funds raised before the economic crisis, next year may bring devastating effects from reduced state funding, dropping donations and skyrocketing community need.

Colorado foundations step up despite tanking endowments

While some of Colorado’s largest foundations are cutting grantmaking after losing hundreds of millions of dollars each in assets, others are stepping up by paying more from their beleaguered endowments, The Denver Post reported March 1 (see foundation story). Despite a 34 percent drop in the value of its endowment, the Colorado Trust has decided to boost grants to $26.8 million this year, up from $22.3 million in 2008. Some foundations are sidelining grants for new projects in favor of funding basic-needs programs.

University of Virginia endowment shows signs of recovery

Though the University of Virginia’s endowment lost $14 million in January 2009, the decline is a significant step forward in comparison to the $30 million lost in December 2008, The Charlottesville Daily Progress reported Feb. 27. The endowment has lost about $1.3 billion since July of last year, putting its current value at $3.8 billion.

Indianapolis museum plans layoffs

The Indianapolis Museum of Art plans to cut one in 10 staff members after the value of its endowment tumbled to $281 million from $382 million since last fall, the Associated Press reported Feb. 27. The museum aims to slash 15 full-time and six part-time positions in an effort to cut $2.5 million from its current budget of $28 million.

In Brief:

* Harvard University should harken back to the strategies that sustained it through the Great Depression by investing conservatively and bolstering its academic reputation, says Charlotte Allen, contributing editor of Minding the Campus, in an opinion column in Forbes Magazine Feb. 27.

* S.C. Jamir, governor of Maharashtra in Western India, called for a widespread movement to revive philanthropy in an effort to bridge the country’s vast wealth gap, Indopia reported Feb. 28.

* U.S. universities should overcome their addiction to bloated endowments and begin operating like for-profit businesses that serve students, says an editorial in BusinessWeek March 1.

* Most Americans have the will, but not the way, to contribute to community initiatives, says Jill Howard Church, resident of Peachtree City, Ga., in an opinion column in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Feb. 28.

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