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Nonprofit news roundup for March 13, 2009

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U.S. household wealth plunges 18 percent

The wealth of American households plummeted $11 trillion, nearly 18 percent, last year, The Wall Street Journal reported March 13 (see wealth story). The decline, which equals the combined annual output of Germany, Japan and Britain, marks the biggest loss since the Federal Reserve began tracking the net worth of U.S. families after World War II. The drop comes on the heels of an economic boom, with household wealth doubling between 1990 and 2000 and rising by nearly a half until the market meltdown.  

Baltimore Opera closes after 58 years

Because of tanking ticket sales and donations, the Baltimore Opera Company is shutting its doors after 58 years in operation, The Baltimore Sun reported March 13 (see opera story). The opera declared bankruptcy and canceled the remainder of its 2008-09 season three months ago. The situation had grown so dire that a board member had to guarantee cast salaries for what turned out to be the company’s final production in November 2008.

Metropolitan art museum sheds quarter of merchandising staff

The Metropolitan Museum of Art plans to lay off 74 employees, a quarter of its merchandising staff, as the souring economy wreaks havoc on revenue, The New York Times reported March 12 (see museum story). The museum, which laid off 53 employees last year, may cast off as many as 250 jobs before the summer. The museum’s endowment lost about $800 million, or 28 percent of its value, in the last six months of 2008.

Annenberg death may leave Philadelphia nonprofits in lurch

Following the death of longtime steward Leonore Annenberg, the Radnor, Pa.-based Annenberg Foundation is moving to Los Angeles, the home of Annenberg’s step-daughter and grandchildren, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported March 13 (see foundation story). The move has left Philadelphia-area nonprofits, which received hundreds of millions of dollars in grants from the foundation, wondering whether they can count on future support.

UC-San Francisco medical center gets $125 million pledge

The medical center at the University of California, San Francisco, may receive $125 million to help build a complex to provide treatment for women, children and cancer patients, The New York Times reported March 12 (see challenge story). The donation, given by the foundation of businessman Charles Feeney, is contingent on the university’s ability to raise a matching amount from other donors. The gift would be the first nine-figure donation since last fall, says the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Boston College cuts expenses, dodges layoffs

Boston College is struggling to avoid layoffs after its endowment lost a quarter of its value in the last six months, The Boston Herald reported March 13 (see cutback story). The Jesuit school plans to freeze salaries over $75,000 and cut non-salary operating expenses by 2 percent. The school also plans to hike tuition for next year by 3 percent, the lowest increase in 35 years.

Lawmakers would redirect $70M from North Carolina foundation

Pending North Carolina legislation would redirect $70 million meant for the Golden LEAF Foundation back to the state to help address a $3 billion budget crunch, The News & Observer in Raleigh reported March 12 (see fund story). Siphoning funds from the foundation, which was established by the state legislature to receive funds from a settlement between states and the tobacco industry and would be used to help rural communities dependent on tobacco farming, would deal another blow to struggling North Carolinians, says Dan Gerlach, president of the foundation. Golden LEAF’s holdings already have fallen to $400 million from more than $700 million since June 2008.

In Brief:

* “Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits” by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant is a must-read for nonprofits that are trying to maximize results, says Tracey Myers-Preston in a book review in The San Francisco Examiner March 12.

* David Swensen, investment manager for Yale University, says low market prices should inspire enthusiasm rather than fear, says David Leonhardt in a blog in The New York Times March 12.

* The Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment has given $5.8 million for a new program to help veterans attending Indiana colleges, the Associated Press reported March 13.

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