Nonprofit news roundup May 14, 2009

Brandeis in another lawsuit over donor intent

In dispute over whether Brandeis University used a gift the way it was intended, the descendant of a donor to the school sued the school, trying to block demolition of a science building named for his great uncle, The Wall Street Journal reported May 13 (see Brandeis donor story).

Cities look to nonprofits to shore up coffers

With cities facing budget shortfalls, declining revenue and a spike in demand for services, local officials are looking to tax-exempt groups like colleges and nonprofit hospitals to bear a larger share of the burden, The Providence Journal reported May 12 (see tax story). A city councilman in Providence, R.I., has proposed taxing dorms and other properties that generate revenue for colleges, and a proposed law in Massachusetts would require hospitals and colleges to pay a quarter of the property taxes they would owe if their properties were not tax-exempt.

Stanford pares fundraising staff

In response to the dismal economy, fundraising powerhouse Stanford University has cut about 20 percent of its development staff, is scaling back events and travel, and is converting publications from print to less-expensive online versions, Mercury News reported May 11 (see Stanford story). The development office raked in $1.61 billion in the last two years, but the school’s endowment is down an estimated 30 percent, or more than $5 billion in one year.

Women giving millions

Three women each donated $1 million to the Women’s Funding Alliance in Seattle, the biggest gifts ever for the foundation, Puget Sound Business Journal reported May 13 (see womens’ gifts story). The Alliance supports the Women Moving Millions campaign sponsored by the Women’s Funding Network. Over 90 women throughout the world each pledged to give over $1 million to one of the 140 members of the Women’s Funding Network, including the Alliance.

Regulation of nonprofit ethics focus on Pennsylvania court

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is considering whether state government officials must excuse themselves from making decisions when grants are made to nonprofits linked to their family members, the Associated Press reported May 12. Gov. Ed Rendell argues businesses but not nonprofits are subject to the state’s Ethics Act. The State Ethics Commission says nonprofits are subject to the ethics law.

Honolulu Symphony looks for cash infusion

The Honolulu Symphony owes its musicians 12 weeks of back pay, totaling about $1.8 million, and faces another $500,000 in expenses, all of which the organization is struggling to address as it implements a long-term business plan, The Honolulu Advertiser reported May 11. The plan includes a fundraising campaign with a goal of $2.3 million a year to cover operating expenses.

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