Nonprofit news roundup for March 3, 2009

Beleaguered newspapers eye nonprofit business model

As the economic crisis threatens newspapers with extinction, some are considering the transition to a nonprofit business model, the Associated Press reported Feb. 28 (see newspaper story). Critics argue that making newspapers reliant on endowments could put them in the pockets of large donors, and that their tax-exempt status could prevent them from endorsing certain political candidates or legislation. Others worry that newspapers face an uphill battle in convincing foundations to invest in a tanking industry, especially during difficult economic times.

Recent developments called ‘assault’ on philanthropy

President Barack Obama’s proposal to increase income taxes on wealthy Americans while reducing their tax deductions for charitable contributions would deal a devastating blow to philanthropy, say Phillip Merrick, a technology entrepreneur, and Peter Wehner, deputy adviser under former President George W. Bush, in an opinion column in the National Review March 3. At the same time, a report by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy advises foundations to ignore donor intent and make grants based only on social considerations such as income, gender and race, says an editorial in The Wall Street Journal March 3.

Nonprofit transfers $1 million before bankruptcy filing

The National Heritage Foundation wired $1 million to an affiliate charity just two days before filing for bankruptcy, Forbes Magazine reported March 2 (see transfer story). The foundation transferred the funds to Congressional District Programs Inc., which shares the foundation’s website, physical address and officers. The Falls Church, Va.-based organization filed for bankruptcy after Texas donors won a $6 million court battle, claiming the organization had misled them.

Arts organizations falter in bleak economy

U.S. arts organizations are laying off staff, canceling performances and even closing their doors as the American public readjusts its spending priorities during the recession, USA Today reported March 1 (see art story). Nearly seven in 10 Americans have cut back on entertainment expenses due to economic concerns, says a December poll by the newspaper. Museums, symphonies and theaters also are struggling to overcome the widespread perception that art is “expendable,” says Lockwood Hoehl, executive director of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra.

Texas private schools trim budgets, boost admissions

Private colleges and universities in Texas, without support from state coffers, are trimming budgets and boosting both tuition and admissions to keep their heads above water, The Houston Chronicle reported March 1 (see college story). Several private schools are investing more in financial aid to keep cash-strapped students from flocking to public colleges.

In Brief:

* An uptick in charitable giving has been marked by a greater emphasis on online donations, local giving spearheaded by community foundations, and a desire to see firsthand the changes that charitable dollars are making, The Boston Herald reported March 1.

* The Twestival, which spurred around 10,000 attendees in 200 cities across the globe to give more than $250,000 total through a microblogging platform, marks a new era in philanthropy, experts say, The Christian Science Monitor reported March 1.

* The University of Washington cut 70 fundraising jobs after its endowment lost 25 percent of its value, the Associated Press reported March 2.

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