Nonprofit news roundup for March 19, 2009

House approves expansion of community-service positions

The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that would more than triple the number of service positions by expanding AmeriCorps and creating  a variety of volunteer programs, The New York Times reported March 18 (see service story). The law would mark the largest expansion of government-sponsored service programs since 1963, when President John F. Kennedy called for the creation of a national community-service corps. The expansion, which would cost nearly $6 billion over the next five years, would bring the total number of AmeriCorps positions to 250,000 from 75,000.

Habitat for Humanity adds demolition to services

Several Habitat for Humanity chapters throughout the U.S. are shifting focus to demolition as the sagging economy creates thousands of uninhabited and condemned houses, The Saginaw Journal reported March 18 (see demolition story). The chapter in Saginaw, Mich., has received $500,000 in state and federal funding to tear down two vacant and dilapidated houses every week for two years. City leaders argue the move will support Habitat’s mission, provide the organization access to reusable housing materials and create jobs for homeless and unemployed people.

Museums shelve ‘shovel-ready’ construction projects

The economic downturn is putting many “shovel-ready” construction projects on the back burner at U.S. museums, The New York Times reported March 11 (see construction story). A third of museum directors said they plan to postpone, cancel or scale back a capital project because of financial concerns, says a survey by the American Association of Museums.

Economy not so sweet for Girl Scout cookie sales

Even Girl Scouts are not immune to economic concerns, as cookie sales dwindle and higher prices on flour, oil and cocoa make cookie production more expensive, The New York Times reported March 18 (see cookie story). Wild Freeborn, a Girl Scout from Asheville, N.C., sparked a national outcry when she tried to boost sales by advertising on the Internet, a move forbidden by the national organization. Freeborn’s efforts may lead to new rules regarding online cookie sales, says Michelle Tompkins, national spokeswoman for the organization.

In Brief:

* Arts organizations are finding creative ways to draw in patrons as the economic crisis puts a damper on admissions, private donations and state funding, The New York Times reported March 12.

* The worst aspect of the Bernard Madoff investment scam is perhaps not the misdeed itself, but the vast reserves of lost capital that endowments and foundations chose to stockpile rather than devote to worthy causes, says Noam Neusner, principal of Neusner Communications, in an opinion column in The Jewish Journal March 18.

* The Russian government has tapped five nonprofit organizations to allocate 1.2 billion rubles, or $36 million, in government grants to nonprofits this year, The Moscow Times reported March 19. Critics argue that the process lacks transparency, since all five of the organizations are led by members of an advisory committee set up by former Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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