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Nonprofit news roundup for March 9, 2009

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Angel Food Ministries reaches settlement

The leaders of Monroe, Ga.-based Angel Food Ministries have reached a settlement to keep them from losing control of the charity’s operations for alleged financial misdeeds, the Associated Press reported March 6. Two of the charity’s board members accused founder Joe Wingo, his wife and two sons of awarding themselves a total of at least $2.7 million and directing $600,000 of the charity’s funds to their church. The settlement requires the Wingos to allow an audit of the charity and stop using corporate credit cards for personal expenses, says Thomas Rogers, an attorney for the board members.

Nonprofits new channel for political advertising

Nonprofits may be taking the place of congressional campaign committees as the main vehicle for pre-election political advertising, CQ Politics reported March 8 (see election story). Nonprofit groups spent a total of nearly $200 million in the 2008 campaign cycle, tripling the amount they spent four years earlier, says a study by the Campaign Finance Institute. As long as nonprofit groups spend half their revenue on a “major purpose,” they are allowed to raise and spend an unlimited amount of money from anonymous donors.

Cornell scales back as deficits loom

Cornell University plans to combat budget shortfalls by cutting endowment spending by 15 percent and raising as much as $500 million from bond sales, David Skorton, the school’s president, says in a statement, Bloomberg reported March 7 (see budget story). The Ivy-League school, battered by a deficit of more than $200 million, is stalling construction projects, hiking tuition and offering buyouts to older non-faculty employees who have worked for the school at least 10 years.

Stanford freezes salaries, stalls construction to cut costs

Stanford University plans to freeze salaries in a move to cut $100 million, or 13 percent, from its budget beginning in September, Bloomberg reported March 7 (see freeze story). The Palo Alto, Calif.-based university also has stalled $1.3 billion in construction, laid off staff and frozen hiring. Stanford’s endowment, which ranked third-largest in the U.S. last year, tumbled by as much as 30 percent following the market meltdown.

Many New York nonprofits boost staff pay

Despite the economic crunch, many nonprofits in New York City plan to boost employee salaries this year, Crain’s New York Business reported March 6 (see salary story). More than half of nonprofits plan to increase salaries in 2009, and more than three in 10 plan to leave pay at the same level. Though fewer than one in 10 New York nonprofits plan to cut salaries, nearly a quarter expect to lay off program staff.

In Brief:

* To comply with tax laws, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has sold more than 36,000 shares of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. so far this year, the Associated Press reported March 6. Warren Buffett, the company’s chairman and CEO, plans to give 10 million shares to the foundation in a series of annual gifts.

* Struggling newspapers are keeping a close eye on San Francisco-based magazine Mother Jones to see how nonprofit media fare during an economic recession, The New York Times reported March 6.

* The endowment at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem dropped to just under $13 million from $17.2 million, putting scholarships on the chopping block, News 14 Carolina reported March 6.

* Researchers from four universities in the United Kingdom are joining forces to form a center on charitable giving and philanthropy, The Edinburgh Journal reported March 9.

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