Nonprofit news roundup for April 6, 2009

Economy prompting foundation to rethink how it operates

Carl Shramm, president of the Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation, says economic downturn, which led to a $722 million decline in the foundation’s endowment since the end of 2007, will challenge Kauffman to “think about how we can do our work better, like every business,” The Wall Street Journal reported April 4. Schramm, whose foundation focuses on entrepreneurship, also says the “only people immune from thinking hard in moments like this are in government.”

Cuts in works at WGBH public radio

WGBH public radio in Boston aims to impose a one-week employee work furlough and compensation cuts, and suspend the public-radio-station’s match on employee retirement plans to close a projected $3 million shortfall for fiscal 2009, the Boston Business Journal reported April 3 (see public radio story). In a memo to staff, Jon Abbott, the station’s president and CEO, cited declines in public and corporate contributions and in endowment income.

Head of Philadelphia nonprofit charged with theft

A grand jury charged the head of a Philadelphia nonprofit organization with using over $400,000 in state taxpayer funds intended to poor children and elderly residents to finance a lavish lifestyle, the Associated Press reported April 3. The grand jury recommended the charges against Tyron B. Ali of the Logan Child Care Resource Center after hearing testimony that he spent the funds on Caribbean travel, fancy clothes and more.

Despite financial stress, museum attendance still strong

While museums are implementing draconian cost-cutting measures to help them weather the recession, many museums are reporting a rise in attendance, The Associated Press reported April 5 (see museums story). The Las Vegas Art Museum cut its budget by 30 percent, the Art Institute of Chicago raised admission fees by half and the Detroit Institute of Art laid off a fifth of its employees, but in general, museums are still seeing heavy traffic and are continuing to present major exhibitions.

U.S. orchestras may be forced to update operations

The recession’s pummeling of U.S. endowments is forcing orchestras to implement pay cuts, but that may not be enough to stave off extinction, the music critic of The Philadelphia Inquirer said in an article April 5. Unless the economy makes a dramatic turnaround quickly, orchestras will need to invent a new business plan, one that may involve an “equalization between expenses and income” that is likely to take a larger toll on the expense side of the house.

Struggling museums consider selling artworks to plug budget gaps

As museums across the U.S. struggle to survive the loss of endowment income, government support and individual donations, some institutions are considering selling portions of their collections to plug budget gaps, the art critic for the Tribune-Review reported said in an article April 6. However, given that museum collections in the U.S. “are ostensibly the property of the people,” lawmakers should prohibit such sales, the article said.

Madoff scandal rocks Israeli charities

Israel is feeling the effects of Bernard Madoff’s $65 billion investing scam, with several Israeli charities reeling and at least three foundations that supported Israeli causes now defunct, The New York Times reported April 4 (see Israeli story). Some say the damage, which may total hundreds of millions of dollars and has led to pay cuts for Hadassah’s hospital employees, stems in part from the country’s dependence on the U.S. for philanthropic resources.

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