Nonprofit news roundup for June 1, 2009

U.S. colleges see bond ratings dip

Already financially weakened by declining endowments, many colleges and universities are suffering credit-rating downgrades, which raise the price of borrowing money, The Wall Street Journal reported May 29 (see college bond story). Dartmouth recently lost its triple-A bond rating, Moody’s Investors Service is worried about the ratings outlook for 55 schools and already has downgraded 20 so far this year.

Teach For America sees huge applicant spike

About 35,000 college graduates, including about 11 percent of those from Ivy-League schools, applied for Teach For America’s teaching corps for the 2009 school year, a 42 percent jump over last year, CNN’s American Morning reported May 29 (see Teach For America story). About 4,100 new teachers will be deployed to rural and inner-city schools across the country this fall by the nonprofit, which has placed about 20,000 teachers since its inception in 1990.

Harvard, Yale may have to cut ‘hard-to-sell’ assets

Harvard and Yale may have to reduce their investments in hedge funds and private equities because the risks of holding such assets, which can be difficult to unload, outweigh the returns, says Bill Gross, co-chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co., Bloomberg reported May 28 (see Harvard, Yale story). As of June 30 of last year, both universities had more than half their endowments invested in such vehicles.

Harvard’s budget woes may impact research, teaching

With its endowment down $11 billion to a current $25 billion, and another $11 billion in capital commitments, Harvard is “very overleveraged,” The Atlantic Monthly reported May 28 (see Harvard management story). The school’s president says Harvard may consider doing “less – less research, less teaching, at a lesser level of quality.”

Downturn spurring many to update bequest plans

Reduced incomes and fortunes are causing many would-be philanthropists to reexamine their wills and adjust charitable bequests, Forbes reported May 29 (see estate giving story). Such updates are long overdue for many, given that interests and intent often change over time.

Nonprofits seen as source for innovation

Given that nonprofits operate in a world where cash perpetually is short supply, the sector has plenty to teach the business world about how to operate in a financial crisis, Chris O’Brien said in an opinion column in the Silicon Valley Mercury News May 29 (see nonprofit innovation story). At the TechSoup’s recent NetSquared conference, three lessons emerged: A lack of resources can spur innovation; innovation goes beyond technology; and understanding one’s audience is key to innovation.

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