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Nonprofit news roundup for Aug. 21, 2009

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Colleges consider return to more conservative investments

As U.S. colleges and universities prepare to report fiscal 2009 endowment investment performances in the neighborhood of negative 20 to 30 percent, many may turn away from formerly in-vogue riskier portfolios in favor of more conservative holdings, The Wall Street Journal reported Aug. 21 (see endowment investment story). Some alternative investment strategies like hedge funds and venture capital leave investors with too little liquidity, some say.

Wikipedia lands $500,000 grant from Hewlett Foundation

The nonprofit that operates Wikipedia has received $500,000 from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to expand its work providing free educational content, The Associated Press reported Aug. 20 (see Wikipedia story). Wikipedia will use the funds to make its software more user-friendly, create training materials for new volunteer editors and set up a system to measure organizational impact.

Corporate philanthropy seen a valuable in boom or bust

While the return-on-investment for corporate philanthropy is difficult to measure and particularly hard to justify during a recession, it can be used as a strategic tool to manage a company’s reputation during boom and bust times, Mary E. Donahue wrote in The Financial Post Aug. 19 (see corporate giving story). Corporate philanthropy can generate better public relations, boost internal corporate culture and grow consumer trust in a brand.

University of Texas revamps bonuses for endowment managers

Following a compensation scandal that resulted in the ouster of the school’s endowment-fund manager, the University of Texas will implement a new compensation plan for its money managers, Bloomberg News reported Aug. 20 (See University of Texas story). Bonuses, which in 2008 totaled $3.38 million for fund managers, now are tied to “extraordinary circumstances” of market gains or drops.

Gates Foundation increases grantmaking, renews priorities

During Jeff Raikes’ first year as CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the organization’s assets lost $9 billion in value, but the funder increased its grantmaking by 10 percent, The Seattle Times reported Aug. 20 (see Jeff Raikes story). The foundation also renewed its focus to help eradicate HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other killers of children in third-world countries, Raikes said in the article.

Court clears path for transfer of endowment to Antioch College

Ohio’s Antioch College, which closed about a year ago, is closer to reopening after a court approved the transfer of the college’s $20 million endowment from Antioch University to the college, Yellow Springs News reported Aug. 20 (see Antioch College story). A group of alumni is trying to reopen the liberal-arts college, which will use interest from the endowment to recruit new students.

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