Nonprofit news roundup for April 3, 2009

Ex-Harvard worker says she was fired for endowment warning

A former employee of the company that manages Harvard University’s endowment says she was fired in 2002 less than two months after writing a letter to Larry Summers, then Harvard’s president, saying she feared the endowment was taking on too much risk in derivatives investments, and that she suspected some of her colleagues were engaged in insider trading, The Boston Globe reported April 3 (see Harvard endowment story). The former employee says she asked Summers, now director of the National Economic Council in the White House, to keep her communications confidential. Last summer, the kinds of investments she allegedly warned about hurt Harvard when  its endowment plunged 22 percent, in part due to the collapse of the credit markets. A Harvard spokesman declined to comment.

Kansas state Senate targets third-party fundraisers

The Kansas State Senate unanimously passed a bill mandating third-party fundraisers disclose who they are, the charity they work for and the percentage of donations they pocket as fees, The Wichita Eagle reported April 2. The so-called “truth-in-fundraising bill,” which is aimed at professional solicitors that work on behalf of charities and keep as much as 90 percent of the funds they raise, is expected to pass the state House as well.

Credit downgrade for bank has nonprofits scrambling

A downgrade in the credit rating of Citizens Financial Group has Massachusetts nonprofits scrambling to cover big increases in interest payments on hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds backed by the bank, the Boston Business Journal reported April 3 (see nonprofit bonds story). Interest payments for some nonprofits grew by tens of thousands of dollars a week, a cost likely to continue until either the bank boosts its standing with rating agencies or the nonprofits find new bankers.

Gates Foundation aims to spur innovative research on diseases

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will give $100,000 grants for innovative research ideas to fight diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, the Associated Press reported April 2. Applications for the latest round of the $100 million grant initiative will be accepted online through May 28.

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