“What Nonprofits Teach Us About Learning.” By John Baldoni. Bloomberg.com. July 02, 2009. “The recession that has staggered the world economy has leveled the nonprofit world. Endowments have lost significant value, and donations from corporations and private citizens have dwindled. But dealing with hard times is nothing new to many in the nonprofit sector. Well-run nonprofits know how to be frugal as well as creative in how they work with limited resources. A core competency of the nonprofit world is people, men and women who are committed to a cause who know how to get effective results. A virtue of effective nonprofits is their culture; it extends beyond a gathering of like-minded people who want to do good; it is a generative culture that focuses on learning.” The for-profit world has much to learn from nonprofits about establishing the learning culture necessary for adapting to hard times. These points are drawn from Stephen Gill’s recently published book, Developing a Learning Culture in Nonprofit Organizations (Sage Publications, 2010).
“Acorn Role in Census Challenged.” By Jake Sherman. Wall Street Journal. June 29, 2009. Some Republican members of Congress want the U.S. Census Bureau to end a 2010 Census partnership with Acorn (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). Census Bureau officials said Acorn is one of 40,000 participants in its partners program. Other partners include Target Corp., Goodwill Industries and Telemundo, the Spanish-language TV network. The partnerships, Mr. Buckner said, are meant to promote the count and boost the number of responses among traditionally hard-to-count populations. Mr. Buckner said Acorn represents some hard-to-count communities.
“Regulation as Civic Empowerment: The policing of the financial system can’t just be left to bureaucrats. Properly designed, regulation can be a community-organizing strategy.” By Edmund Mierzwinski. American Prospect. June 29, 2009. In 1975, a coalition of more than three dozen consumer groups met with the chair of the Senate Banking Committee lobby for the passage of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). The act requires banks and savings institutions to disclose, by zip code, the number and amount of loans they make in their primary service areas. The activists wanted the information so that they could shame or pressure local banks to stop redlining urban neighborhoods Two years later, the same group lobbied for the enactment of Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Notably, both laws use regulation as an organizing tool. They began as a strategy conceived by community organizers and then became the basis for even more effective organizing. Armed with HMDA and CRA, groups could confront lenders and demand that they change policies. They could provide dossiers to regulators and then become their partners in policing banks. Since 1977, these activities have leveraged over $6 trillion in reinvestment dollars through CRA agreements with banks providing credit for “affordable housing, small businesses, economic development, and community service facilities in minority and low- and moderate-income neighborhoods” in both cities and rural areas. A similar model can be found in the CUB (Citizens Utility Board) movement. CUBs permit utility ratepayers to voluntarily check a box on their utility bill to fund organized advocacy vis-à-vis state utility regulators.Such government-chartered citizen groups balance the power of regulated utilities and keep their regulators from being captured. Both of these methods are more effective and less costly than typical consumer-group fundraising — direct mail, door-to-door canvassing, grass-roots events –, providing the CUBs with a stable low-cost funding base. By giving consumer groups the resources that they need to participate, government obtains better utility regulation than it might by hiring more bureaucrats.
“The Trials of Benjamin Jealous.” By Karen Caldicott. The Nation. July 20, 2009. Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, is to grappling with the purpose and mission of a civil rights organization in the age of Obama, while struggling improving the its membership, finances and stability.For the past two decades, the NAACP has been led by a succession of unsteady leaders: Benjamin Chavis was forced after he was found to have used NAACP funds to settle a sexual harassment suit; Kweisi Mfume’s tenure ended in 2004 amid accusations of sexual impropriety (it was alleged that Mfume rewarded sexual partners with plum jobs). Jealous’s predecessor, Bruce Gordon, lasted just nineteen months. As white supremacy has faded away, blacks have grown more concerned about the achievement gap, violence in their communities and fatherlessness. But the NAACP has remained focused almost entirely on its core civil rights agenda — at times to the chagrin of its membership.
ARTS & CULTURE
“Lincoln Center Rejoins the City.” By Ada Louise Huxtable. Wall Street Journal. July 1, 2009. As New York’s performing arts mecca celebrates its fiftieth anniversay, it up-dates is architecture to make itself more accessible and in line with contemporary tastes.
“How to Sell a Museum Masterpiece.” By Daniel Grant. Wall Street Journal. July 2, 2009. Controversy erupts as the Orange County Museum of Art secretly sells its collection of California Impressionists to a private collector. While museums are not required by law to sell deaccessioned objects at auction, the Association of Art Museum Directors’ guidebook for members offers the options of “sale through publicly advertised auction, sale to or exchange with another public institution, and sale or exchange to a reputable, established dealer.”
“OCMA’s quiet sale of 18 paintings raises hackles; The sale of the California Impressionist paintings to a private collector is seen as a snub to some in art circles.” By Mike Boehm. Los Angeles Times. July 5, 2009.
“Discord takes root as garden recovers from fire.” By Catherine Saillant. Los Angeles Times. July 5, 2009. “Flowers bloom at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, where about 60 volunteers are staging a strike over perceived financial improprieties and the layoffs of 10 staffers. New growth sprouts from scorched earth, along with disputes over the botanical center’s future.” Garden leaders say that the rebellion reflects growing pains as the state’s largest repository of native plant species seeks to chart a course for the future.
CONSERVATION & ENVIRONMENT
“Chinatown land trust helps low-income .” By Cory Paul. San Francisco Chronicle. June 30, 2009. The San Francisco Community Land Trust is working to keep ownership affordable by retaining ownership of land beneath the building while tenants pay $10,000 to own a unit. The urban land trust movement is growing in areas where the pressures of gentrification threaten to push out long-established low-income residents.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
“What Does Financial Capital Owe Society? Corporate social responsibility is a worthy goal, but it’s no substitute for regulation, subsidy, and government sponsorship of social institutions.” By Barry Zigas. American Prospect. June 29, 2009.
“One College Sidesteps the Crisis; As Many Endowments Suffer, No-Tuition Cooper Union Builds, and Basks.” By John Hechinger. Wall Street Journal. June 30, 2009. One private college is quietly skirting the crunch in higher education: Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, in Manhattan’s East Village. Established in 1859 by New York manufacturer, investor, and political reformer Peter Cooper (1791-1883), Cooper Union offers tuition-free education to a student body of nearly 1,000. The institution’s survival amid the wreckage of other college and university endowments stems from its decision three years ago to reduce the financial risk in its investments. The college renegotiated a lease to lock in a future income stream from its key property, sold another parcel at a favorable price, raised its cash holdings and picked investment managers that hedged against stock-market declines. Cooper’s endowment, valued at $600 million on June 30, 2008, is expected to be about the same — or even up slightly — when the school’s fiscal year ends this month. By contrast, most U.S. colleges are struggling with endowment losses between 20% and 30%.
“Ivy League Endowments Finally ‘Dumb’.” By Craig Karmin. Wall Street Journal. June 30, 2009. In a year when the endowments of the richest private universities suffered catastrophic losses, smaller endowments outperformed Harvard University and Yale University by significant margins. Endowments with less than $1 billion generally held up better by putting more money in fixed income and less in alternative investments like hedge funds. The five largest single-school endowments, which in addition to Harvard and Yale, are Stanford University, Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have said they are planning for declines of 25% to 30% for the fiscal year. By contrast, the median decline for an endowment or foundation for the first 11 months of the fiscal year was 20%. Foundations and endowments with less than $100 million in assets did even better, down 16% for the period.
“Alumni group to pay $6M for Ohio’s Antioch College.” No by-line. USA Today. July 1, 2009. “Ohio: Alumni Group to Buy College.” New York Times/Associated Press. July 1, 2009. Antioch University agreed to transfer the campus of the financially struggling Antioch College to an alumni group that plans to turn it into an independent school. The alumni group has agreed to pay the university $6 million for the campus, located about 15 miles east of Dayton, and the college’s endowment. The transfer of assets cannot occur until a list of conditions have been met, including approval from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and university bond holders. (See also http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/01/education/01brfs-ALUMNIGROUPT_BRF.html?_r=1&ref=us).
“Small college’s survival lessons; Financial pressure forces reinvention.” By Tracy Jan. Boston Globe. July 3, 2009. Specialists worry that the financial condition of small religious and liberal arts colleges with tiny endowments and budgets that depend heavily on tuition revenue will deteriorate as the recession lingers, forcing some of them to shut their doors. While none of the colleges on the US Department of Education’s watch list said their schools are on the brink of closure, they are scrambling to cut costs and come up with entrepreneurial ventures to right themselves. Some are marketing non-credit courses to the general public. Others are renting out dorms and athletic facilities to neighboring colleges. Still others are launching new graduate programs and experimenting with distance learning. At the same time, financial pressures are forcing major cuts in areas like the liberal and fine arts. Despite these efforts, education observers warn that tuition-dependent private schools without the prestige or savings to guard against unexpected enrollment drops will be unable to maintain buildings or attract faculty to start new programs, putting them at risk of a downward spiral that’s difficult to break out of.
“Birmingham High’s charter-conversion struggles show difficulty of reform; The Board of Education votes today on whether the Van Nuys campus should secede from L.A. Unified. Pro- and anti-charter forces have been locked in an acrimonious debate for months.” By Mitchell Landsberg. Los Angeles Times. June 30, 2009. Disenchantment with Los Angeles Unified has led a number of schools to explore the possibility of breaking away as charters, and principals and teachers have been keeping an eye on events at Birmingham. If approved, Birmingham would become the fourth large high school in the district to convert to a charter. Few chapters in recent Los Angeles public school history have been uglier than the one that is expected to culminate today with a Board of Education vote on whether to allow Birmingham High School to effectively secede and become a charter school. For months, the San Fernando Valley campus has been torn between pro- and anti-charter forces who have accused each other of, among other things, bullying, vandalism, burglary, racism and fraud.
“Education in America and Britain: Learning lessons from private schools.” No by-line. The Economist. July 2, 2009. In the US and UK, the poor quality of many public schools help to explain explain the prominence in both countries of an elite tier of private schools. Although tuitions have doubled and admissions more competitive, these institutions have proved resilient in the face of recession because of their ability to get applicants into elite universities. Only 7% of British children go to private schools, but they account for more than 40% of the intake at Oxford and Cambridge. Figures are harder to come by for the US, but the independent sector again does disproportionately wel.l [Princeton's incoming freshman class in 2008 drew 45% of its students from private schools]. Systems of elite schools and universities to which the rich have privileged access is neither fair nor efficient, but reform efforts have been less than successful. When the UK abolished elite state grammar schools in the 1960s and 70s, it made it more difficult for less wealthy students to gain admission to top universities. In the US, affirmative action programs produced a major political backlash. The most likely solution to the problem of unequal opportunity lies in improving the quality of public education in both countries.
“Private schools in the recession.” No by-line. The Economist. July 2, 2009. In both America and Britain recession has so far done little to dent the demand for private education. Despite worries that the recession would diminish demand for costly private schools, many report that applications are up. So too are applications for financial aid. No one knows how many children are privately educated worldwide: many private schools are invisible to officialdom. But in countries like the UK and the US, these schools exert an influence out of all proportion to their share of pupils. In Britain only 7% of children are educated privately at any one time. Yet according to the Sutton Trust, an education charity, two-thirds of leading judges and barristers, half of well-known journalists, the chief executives of half the companies in the FTSE. In US, around 11% of children are privately educated. Because the main attraction of the private schools is the edge they provide in admission to elite colleges and universities, their depends less on the government, or even the global economy, than on the universities that are the main reason that they have flourished. That America’s have traveled much further down the road to price differentiation than Britain’s can be seen as a reflection of differences in university admissions. Admissions policies at selective American universities endeavor to create “balanced” classes —with an appropriate mix of races and parental incomes. So in the game of selling past pupils’ university offers to prospective parents, prestigious schools can attract full-price customers by offering a scattering of scholarships to the poor and non-white, non-Asian children whom universities are likely to favur. In Britain, the discussion of diversity in university admissions centers neither on race nor on riches, but on where students went to school. That means any direct attempt to increase diversity in universities poses a direct threat to private schools’ main selling point.
“Shriners hope LSU partnership can save hospital.” No by-line. USA Today. July 1, 2009. Members of the board that oversees Shriners Hospital in Shreveport are discussing a partnership with LSU Health Sciences Center in hopes of keeping the Shriners facility open. The Shriners’ endowment for hospitals has been dwindling during the recession and the fate of six of the fraternal organizations’ hospitals is uncertain.
“Korean School Preps Students For Ivy League.” By Anthony Kuhn. All Things Considered/National Public Radio. July 2, 2009. As admissions get more competitive, spots at top American colleges are becoming a globally coveted commodity. In Seoul, one elite South Korean prep school has become the envy of many upper-crust U.S. prep schools with its success at getting its students into Ivy League colleges. The Korean school’s formula is simple: Select the country’s brightest and most ambitious students and work them extremely hard. This year’s graduates include students at Cornell, Stanford, Swarthmore, Amherst, and Williams. Historically, Koreans hoping to get into U.S. colleges would usually start out at an American prep school. Now, increasing numbers apply directly from a handful of elite Korean schools, including Daewon.
“Russia loosens clasp on NGOs ahead of Obama visit.” By Amie Ferris-Rotman. Reuters. Jul 3, 2009. The Kremlin eased some restrictions on Russian NGOs on Friday ahead of a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama, in the first major move to strengthen civil society since President Dmitry Medvedev took office. The move was applauded by human rights activists, who said that the reforms cover only a third of NGOs and a lot more remains to be done to improve Russia’s human rights record. The changes will restrict the bulk of paperwork state structures are allowed to demand from NGOs and will mean NGOs will be inspected once every three years instead of annually. Also the reasons behind rejecting registrations will now be explained instead of being turned down with no explanation. The reforms do not mean that state control over NGOs has ended, activists said.
“Treasury announces ‘bonfire of quangos’ to save taxpayer millions.” By Jill Sherman, Chris Smyth and Fran Yeoman. London Times. July 4, 2009. The Treasury has called for a crackdown on quangos, which are costing taxpayers billions each year. Analysis by The Times of 33 quangos shows that direct government spending on them jumped by more than £1 billion, from £16.1 billion to £17.2 billion, between 2006-07 and 2007-08. The survey also shows that more than 100 board members or executives were paid at least £100,000 last year, with five earning more than £300,000. Despite government claims that the number of quangos is falling, at least 40 new bodies have been created since Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister in June 2007. Quango critics say that the Government has little idea of the amount that it spends on these bodies. Although the Cabinet Office compiles an annual report nearly 18 months out of date, this captures only the 790 non-departmental spending bodies, which are entirely funded by the Government and are effectively doing work outsourced from Whitehall.
“Indulge your selfishness. Go and help someone; Even hard-nosed City types are discovering the benefits of volunteering. So how can we harness the itch to be altruistic?” By Janice Turner. London Times. July 4, 2009. ” Shifting the levers of the economy, channelling the money rivers into the driest places, has transformed untold lives. But it has left others merely as clients of the State, miserable, disempowered, lacking the confidence to make the smallest improvements. Moreover, it ignores the huge wellspring of desire to be useful, to connect with those around us, to do good. It is evident from the 15 British people who last year endured fear and pain to donate a kidney to a total stranger to the millions of teenagers shoving on a plastic bracelet to Make Poverty History. US President Obama “understands . . . that volunteering has a two-way benefit. ‘I wasn’t just helping other people,’ he has said. “Through service, I found a community that embraced me; citizenship that was meaningful . . . how my own improbable story fit into the larger story of America.’” We need to explain to the young, experience-hungry and self-centred, by what volunteering can do for them — as much as what they can do for society.
LAW & REGULATION
“Blumenthal Sides With Catholic Church.” By Christine Stuart. ctnewsjunkie.com. June 30, 2009. After being asked to defend them in a federal lawsuit, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal advised officials at the Office of State Ethics Tuesday that they cannot force the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport to register as a lobbyist. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport filed a federal lawsuit against the Office of State Ethics in May after officials told the church it needs to register as a lobbyist to hold rallies at the state Capitol and use its Web site to oppose legislation. “There are serious and significant potential chilling effects on protected First Amendment, free expression rights for any group under these circumstances,” Blumenthal said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.Blumenthal concluded that the definition of lobbying is “extraordinarily broad” and “unclear.”
“Lobbying Probe Of Bridgeport Diocese Loses Momentum.” By Josh Kovner. Hartford Courant. July 1, 2009.
MUTUAL BENEFIT ORGANIZATIONS
“Portland’s neighborhoods associations flex their muscles.” By Fredrick D. Joe. Oregonian. July 3, 2009. Portland’s neighborhood associations’ are displaying their willingness to flex their political muscles on public or private projects proposed for their communities. It is part of a quiet transformation under way among the 95 associations, one that leaders say bodes well for the future of civic involvement. Although the groups vary widely, membership is generally becoming more diverse. Meeting attendance has increased by nearly 30 percent in the past five years. Associations are forming alliances with business groups, PTAs and cultural organizations. Last year, the budget for the associations and coalition offices was $2.18 million, with about $192,552 in small grants for 92 organizations. The article goes on to provide profiles of the leaders and activities of 5 associations.
“Black Member Tests Message of Masons in Georgia Lodges.” By Shaila Dewan and Robbie Brown. New York Times. July 3, 2009. The Masonic fraternity has historically prided itself on its inclusiveness. Hispanics, Asians, and other ethnicities are well-represented in its membership. But the admission of an African-American to membership in an Atlanta lodge has stirred controversy in the organization. When the Grand Master of Georgia decreed that the complaints be heard in a Masonic trial that could result in expulsion of a lodge or members of it, the Atlanta filed a lawsuit in state court seeking an injunction to prevent its charter from being revoked. Freemasonry in the US has historically been divided between so-called mainstream Masons and traditionally black Prince Hall Masons. The mainstream Masons did not recognize the Prince Hall group until about 1990, when a thaw began in Connecticut and spread to all but 10 states. Mutual recognition does not alter the structure of either organization, each of which has a grand lodge in every state, but it does allow members to visit one another’s lodges. The main holdouts are the former Confederate states, including Georgia.
“Kobe’s Next Conquest: China; NBA Star Starts Charity in Bid to Raise Profile; ‘One-Man State Department’.” By Alan Paul. Wall Street Journal. June 30, 2009. In an attempt to tap into the Chinese government’s growing interest in promoting charity, NBA star Kobe Bryant is establishing the Kobe Bryant China Fund. The organization will partner with the Soong Ching Ling Foundation, a charity backed by the Chinese government, to raise money within China earmarked for education and health programs. Mr. Bryant’s existing fund, the Kobe Bryant Family Foundation, will also work to strengthen ties between the two countries by teaching middle-school students in the U.S. about Chinese language and culture. Mr. Bryant declined to say how much he is donating to the fund.
“Philanthropist With a Sense of Timing Raises Her Profile.” By Robin Pogrebin. New York Times. June 30, 2009. Profile of Lisa Maria Falcone, a rising star on New York’s cultural philanthropy scene.
“Foundation stymied in tackling street crime.” By Maria Cramer. Boston Globe. July 1, 2009. The Boston Foundation’s ambitious $26 million proposal to fight crime by focusing on the city’s most dangerous gang members has become mired in early fund-raising problems and growing discontent among community leaders who believe they are being denied a role in the effort. Announced with great fanfare last December, the foundation’s StreetSafe Boston program was envisioned as a way to fight crime in five of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods, primarily along the Blue Hill Avenue corridor, by targeting about 2,000 young criminals who police believe drive more than three quarters of the city’s violence. The goal of the initiative, dubbed StreetSafe Boston, is to identify and work with the 16- to 24-year-olds who are considered so-called impact players. StreetSafe’s goals are to fund a five-year program that would eventually hire 25 street workers, who are charged with forming relationships with gang members, former offenders, and others actively involved in crime. Through the program, they would have access to jobs, counseling, family support, and education opportunities, which foundation officials say would keep them off the street. So far, the foundation has raised $8.8 million, he said, a sign of the program’s strength when other cities have been forced to cut street worker programs.
“Pastor at Riverside Church Ends Stormy Tenure With Unexpected Resignation.” By Paul Vitello. New York Times. July 1, 2009. After less than a year, Rev. Dr. Brad R. Braxton, pastor of liberal Riverside Church has abruptly resigned. Dissidents complained about his theology, as well as his salary and benefits package, which was reported to be $600,000.
“U.S. Nuns Facing Vatican Scrutiny.” By Laurie Goodstein. New York Times. July 2, 2009. The Vatican is quietly conducting two sweeping investigations of American nuns, a development that has startled and dismayed nuns who fear they are the targets of a doctrinal inquisition. In the last four decades since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, many American nuns stopped wearing religious habits, left convents to live independently and went into new lines of work: academia and other professions, social and political advocacy and grass-roots organizations that serve the poor or promote spirituality. A few nuns have also been active in organizations that advocate changes in the church like ordaining women and married men as priests. Some sisters surmise that the Vatican and even some American bishops are trying to shift them back into living in convents, wearing habits or at least identifiable religious garb, ordering their schedules around daily prayers and working primarily in Roman Catholic institutions, like schools and hospitals. Church historians said that the Vatican usually ordered an apostolic visitation when a particular institution had gone seriously astray. But the investigation of American nuns surprised many because there was no obvious precipitating cause.
“Riverside Church Divided — A Pastor Loses His Flock.” By Ari L. Goldman. Wall Street Journal. July 3, 2009.
“In Political Ads, Christian Left Mounts Sermonic Campaigns.” By Stephanie Simon. Wall Street Journal. July 3, 2009. A coalition of politically moderate evangelical churches, the American Values Network has spent $200,000 for ads on Christian and country-music stations across 10 states, urging support for congressional legislation to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and framing the issue as an urgent matter of Biblical morality. It plans to spend an addition $150,000 to enlist pastors in Nevada, Arizona and Colorado to rally support in the pews as climate-change legislation moves through the Senate. Another group, which includes Faith in Public Life, Sojourners and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, is airing scripture-citing radio ads in key congressional districts this weekend, calling for legislation to make health insurance more affordable. One expert calls this reemergence of a vocal and well-funded Christian Left as a “seismic shift.” These Christian groups have started to attract funding from secular donors who share their political goals and who see Biblical appeals as a promising way to broaden public support.
“Lead Us to Tweet, and Forgive the Trespassers.” By Paul Vitello. New York Times.
July 5, 2009. ” Religious groups from Episcopalians to Orthodox Jews have signed up for Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks with the same gusto that celebrities and politicians have, and for some of the same reasons — to gain a global platform and to appeal to young people. . . . In online debates and private discussions, leaders of all faiths have been weighing pros and cons and diagramming the boundaries of acceptable interactions: Should the congregation have a Facebook page, or should it be the imam’s or priest’s? Should there be limited access? Censoring? Is it appropriate for a clergy member to “friend” a minor?” Religious groups are answering many such questions for themselves — and, for the most part, signing up for interactive media, though each uses them in ways consistent with their own doctrines and practices.
“CEO of ministry building $4 million lakefront home; Inspiration Networks’ Cerullo is constructing one of the priciest houses in western S.C”. By Ames Alexander. Charlotte Observer (NC). June 29, 2009. At a time when Inspiration Networks has been cutting jobs, freezing wages and even adjusting the office thermostat to save money, its CEO, David Cerullo, has invested about $4million in a lakefront home under construction in South Carolina. Cerullo’s fast-growing religious network is drawing scrutiny for the money it collects from donors and the incentives it won from the state of South Carolina to move from Charlotte. As the nonprofit network has grown – with revenues expected to approach $100 million this year – so has Cerullo’s salary. With compensation exceeding $1.5 million a year, Cerullo is the best-paid leader of any religious charity tracked by watchdog groups. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, who is investigating the finances of six other televangelists, told the Observer that leaders of religious nonprofits should be careful not to use viewers’ donations to adopt extravagant lifestyles. IRS rules prohibit nonprofits from paying “unreasonable compensation” to officials. Grassley wants reforms to ensure those rules are better enforced.
“Ex-pastor sought in Ind. multimillion-dollar fraud.” By Charles Wilson. Washington Post/Associated Press. June 30, 2009. A former pastor and his sons were charged with securities fraud in Indiana on Tuesday in what officials said was a multimillion-dollar scheme aimed at church members who thought they were helping build churches but were actually buying the men planes and sports cars. The men are accused of duping about 11,000 church members into buying bonds worth $120 million by urging them to fulfill their “Christian responsibility” to support church construction projects. Investigators believe that the men assembled teams of church members to sell bonds to other church members. They were given training materials that instructed them to open sales calls with a prayer and to quote scripture. As the scheme progressed over about five years, the Reeveses shuffled incoming money between various accounts to hide defaults by churches and their own thefts so they could make scheduled interest payments to investors.
“Study suggests no foul play in funds for priests; Archdiocese seeks to calm mismanagement concerns.” By Michael Paulson. Boston Globe. July 1, 2009. The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, trying to assuage suspicions among some priests and laypeople that its troubled trusts for ailing and elderly priests have been mishandled, is releasing a lengthy accounting study that finds no evidence of theft or mismanagement in the 37-year history of the funds. The study raises several potential red flags, pointing out that accounting controls were not tight enough to prevent theft and asserting that there are not enough records to determine how much money was used before 2000 to support priests accused of abuse. But the accounting firm said there is no indication that money is missing. The study was released yesterday, as the archdiocese was in the midst of overhauling its policies for providing assistance to retired priests. It has warned that, even though the funds have taken in $336 million in contributions and investment income over the last 37 years, they will run out of money in 2011 unless expenses are cut and fund-raising is increased.
“Banks as Heroes: Community-development banks show what financial institutions can do when they have the right motivation and the right mission.” By Adam Serwer. American Prospect. June 29, 2009. Led by Chicago’s Shorebank, community development banks have provided loans to low-income residents of neighborhoods devastated by redlining, racial discrimination, and the fallout of the riots of the late 1960s — and have made profits while doing so. Located in the same communities as their lenders, CDFIs have an incentive to help their neighborhood improve rather than simply collect on residents’ loans. ShoreBank in particular highlights its “triple bottom line,” which focuses not just on profitability but on raising the value of the homes in the community and making them environmentally sustainable. Since its creation, ShoreBank has become a model for CDFIs across the country. While devoting more than 80 percent of its loans to low- and moderate-income communities, its loan losses in 2008 were less than 1 percent of its outstanding loans. While many of the most prominent CDFIs began prior to 1994, the Community Development and Regulatory Improvement Act established the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, which provides capital for and helps train CDFIs. Over 800 CDFIs are now licensed by the CDFI Fund. Now, working with a coalition of groups including the NAACP and the AARP, CDFIs are helping to clean up the mortgage mess left by less scrupulous lenders.
“FreeFest concert tickets come with a price: Volunteerism.” By Korina Lopez, USA Today. June 29, 2009. In an unusual charity-benefit twist, promoters for the day-long music festival Aug. 30 at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., set aside 3,000 more tickets as rewards to fans willing to volunteer time for the homeless. Thirteen hours of service at select homeless organizations gets a VIP pass; eight hours earns general admission.
“The Extraordinaries: Will Microvolunteering Work?” By Linton Weeks. National Public Radio. June 29, 2009. The microvolunteering movement aims to convince those with big hearts and little time to use their spare moments for the common good. The idea is among a slew of do-good efforts popping up on the Web, including The Extraordinaries, Kiva.org, DonorsChoose.org, GlobalGiving, Causecast, and Amazee. The Extraordinaries is one of a number of newly hatched social-media enterprises that champion speedy cooperation, delivering microvolunteer opportunities to mobile phones that can be done on-demand and on-the-spot. Kiva.org, a microlending site, allows people to easily lend money to the working poor. So far, some 520,000 people have loaned more than $80 million to people in 184 countries. New cause-oriented sites include Causecast, which helps people find causes to support, and Amazee, which showcases various social-advocacy projects. Some of these organizations are nonprofits. Others, like The ExtrorinairIes, Extraordinaries is in the process of becoming a B Corp., a social entrepreneurial enterprise. The company plans to make money by charging organizations a per-task fee.