Nonprofit news roundup for Aug. 7, 2009

Gates Foundation assets up by $2.7 billion last quarter

The Bill & Melinda Gates added $2.7 billion in value and 21 new employees during the quarter ended June 30, The Seattle Times reported Aug. 5 (see Gates Foundation story). The foundation now has 781 employees and an endowment valued at $30.2 billion.

University of Illinois accused of manipulating admissions

Officials at the University of Illinois created a separate but formal admissions process for applicants recommended by donors, politicians and other influential parties, says a state commission charged with investigating the school’s admission process, The New York Times reported Aug. 6 (see University of Illinois story). The commission’s report says the dual admissions process goes back at least a decade and has resulted in a “full-fledged crisis” of the university’s own making.

Illiquid investments may have hurt Harvard and Yale

Before the recent market crash, Harvard and Yale had regularly garnered returns in the neighborhood of 15 percent on their endowments, in large part because of investments in alternative vehicles like real estate, timber and hedge funds, Howard Gold wrote in a column in MoneyShow Aug. 6 (see Harvard and Yale story). While bringing in higher returns, those illiquid investments created a cash crunch when the recession hit and the universities couldn’t sell assets fast enough to cover their operating costs.

Streisand to auction personal items for charity

Entertainer Barbara Streisand will auction off more than 400 personal items in October, with the proceeds benefiting The Streisand Foundation, a charity she started to support women, children, the environment and political causes, The Associated Press reported Aug. 5 (see Barbara Streisand story). Among the items to be sold are a robe from the movie “The Way We Were” and a gold Dior pantsuit Streisand wore to the 1986 Grammys.

Private foundations seen lacking public accountability

While the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wields tremendous funding power worldwide, it operates without a formal governing body, David McCoy wrote in a column in The Guardian Aug. 5 (see charity oversight story). Given that private foundations are publicly subsidized through tax breaks, they should be more publicly accountable, McCoy says.

United Jewish Communities to welcome new leadership

United Jewish Communities, the national umbrella group for North America’s network of United Jewish Federations, welcomes a new CEO and a new board chair this fall, leadership changes that could be “make or break” for the organization, The Jewish Daily Forward reported Aug. 5 (see United Jewish Communities story). Some say the organization is out of touch with the 157 local Jewish Federations, which pay dues to the umbrella organization.

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