Nonprofit news roundup for March 16, 2009

Push for nonprofit newspapers gains momentum

As newspapers across the county contemplate falling revenues, layoffs and bankruptcies, the idea of building endowments and seeking tax-exempt status is gaining momentum, The Associated Press reported March 13 (see newspaper story). Endowments would give newspapers more autonomy and shield them from economic downturns, some say, while others argue the shift would render newspapers beholden to their largest donors and could effectively muzzle their ability to run editorials or endorse political candidates.

U.S. Museums respond to falling revenue

As fundraising dries up, endowments shrink and government aid dwindles, New York and Philadelphia museums are responding with job cuts, store closings and salary cuts, Reuters reported March 13 (see museums story). The Metropolitan Museum of Art has closed 15 of its retail stores and plans to shave 250 jobs by mid-summer, while the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia has instituted a hiring freeze and will cut salaries by 5 percent.

Jewish Federation cuts staff

With fundraising lagging by 10 percent this year, and its endowment off by 25 percent, the UJA-Federation of New York aims to save $8 million by laying off 52 people, or 11 percent of its staff, leaving unfilled 20 open positions and instituting other administrative cuts, Crain’s New York Business reported March 13 (see Jewish Federation story). The group plans to tap its endowment to plug an $8.9 million deficit in 2010.

Obama tax plan could slow giving

While President Barack Obama’s popularity is good for the country, his plan to limit tax deductions for families making more than $250,000 a year could slow giving to U.S. nonprofits, which already are struggling, Sandy Weill, chair of Carnegie Hall and Weill Cornell Medical Center, said in an opinion column in Business Week March 12 (see tax column).

While-collar volunteering in vogue, but tricky

While volunteering may be a good option for many laid-off or job-seeking professionals, finding the right opportunity in a diverse nonprofit sector can be tricky, The New York Times reported March 13 (see pro bono story). To find the right fit, would-be volunteers should treat their quest like a job search, researching nonprofits and taking advantage of online resources and networks.

Knight Foundation invests $25 million to spark journalism
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has launched the Knight News Challenge, a $25 million effort that aims to uncover and shape the future of digital media, The Miami Herald reported March 16 (see journalism story). The initiative encourages experimentation with new technologies to deliver news to local communities.

In Brief:

* The souring economy, coupled with a call to service from political leaders, is causing a spike in volunteering at Seattle-area nonprofits, some of which reported a surge in volunteers of 43 percent to 85 percent last year, the Puget Sound Business Journal reported March 13.

* Kareem Dale, former national disability director for the Obama campaign, will oversee arts and culture for President Obama’s Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs, the New York Times reported March 13.

* Concerts held in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, to benefit victims of bushfires in Victoria and flood in Queensland raised $5 million and drew more than 80,000 attendees, The Sydney Morning Herald reported March 16.

* The seven largest foundations in Indiana lost a combined $3.2 billion in 2008, assets erosion that some say could take as long as a decade to rebuild, reported March 15.

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