Archive for July, 2009

NONPROFIT NEWS: A NOTE ON THE SOURCES

Monday, July 20th, 2009

By Peter Dobkin Hall

The past few weeks have been remarkable eye-openers for me, as I’ve expanded this blog to include global media.

First of all, the huge variations in interest in and attention to Third Sector organizations and issues, already evident in digesting the U.S. press, have are all the more evident in scanning coverage in Europe, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Asia-Pacific regions.

Of the 28 US media I digest, only four — the Boston Globe, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post — devote serious and focused attention to nonprofits as-such and nonprofits/philanthropy “beats,” covered by knowledgeable and experienced reporters. (With the assignment of Phil Rucker to a political beat some months ago, it looked as though the Washington Post had dropped its philanthropy beat. Happily, the slot is now been filled by Susan Kinzie, a reporter with long experience in writing about nonprofits).

The rest of the American press covers nonprofits and related matters randomly, usually in the context of scandal. Papers like the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times can be counted to home in on any scandal involving nonprofits, but they seldom carry any positive or thoughtful accounts of the work that nonprofits do and their role in their communities.

All too frequently, American media coverage of nonprofit, with the exception of a handful of major outlets, fails to recognize them as distinctive types of organizations or areas of organizational activity. Advocacy, education, human services, health care, and religious organizations are treated as-such, with little acknowledgment of their underlying commonalities, which are grounded in their nonprofit status.

Not surprisingly, most American media completely overlook major policy debates relating to nonprofits. The deliberations of the Senate Finance Committee and other bodies about such things as the tax status of hospitals — the outcomes of which will unquestionably affect nonprofits in the localities whose “news” they are supposed to report — fall by the wayside in their eagerness to serve as advertising vehicles.

Surprisingly, USA Today — America’s “Mac-paper” –, while not covering nonprofits consistently, from time-to-time carries insightful investigative pieces, such as the fascinating June series by Fredreka Schouten and Paul Overberg on gifts by special interest groups to nonprofits controlled by powerful members of Congress.

There are other surprises as well: regional papers like California’s San Jose Mercury-News, which feature both national, state, and local stories on nonprofits and whose staff grasp, as most papers do not, the importance of the nonprofit form as an underlying characteristic of organizations that operate in many different industries. The Mercury-News also digests other southern California papers, providing unusually extensive and detailed coverage of organizations and activities on the community level.

The world media, like the US press, varies in the focus and depth of nonprofit/NGO coverage. Some sources, like the Interpress News Service Agency, which covers Latin Americas, offer regular and informed stories on social movements and NGOs, as well as featuring a special section on civil society. Though Reuters carries few stories on NGOs, it does feature a special section of “humanitarian headlines”.

The British press is perhaps the best of the lot. Nearly every issue of The Times of London offers stories and editorials. Some of the more interesting recent pieces have focused on the problem of educational equality in the UK and the plans announced by the Charities Commission to sanction the country’s “public” (i.e., private) schools for failing to meet its new public benefit standard (a requisite for tax exemption). Other important stories have focused on the proliferation of QUANGOs (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations) under the Labour regime — which have come under attack from the Tories as wasteful, inefficient, and unaccountable. The Economist, both in its print edition and on its web page offers regular and informed coverage of nonprofits issues in the US and UK. The BBC website, like the BBC World Service broadcasts, is a first-rate window on the world, with special sections on Africa, the Americas, the Middle East, Europe,, Asia-Pacific, and South Asian regions. Sources like the leftwing Guardian and Independent, in contrast, seldom carry nonprofits stories unless they are scandal or politics-related.

Curiously, it is particularly hard to find English-language coverage of continental European stories. Like the scholarly literature on international NGOs, material on France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and other European countries is far more spotty than the literature on countries like China, Japan, and India. There seems to be no equivalent for Europe of resources like Latin America’s Interpress News Service Agency.

There is a rich array of newspapers and news services covering Asia: Asahi Shimbum (Japan), Xinhua (China), the Times of India, and Asia Times (Thailand). Unfortunately, their coverage of nonprofits issues is inconsistent, idiosyncratic, and scandal and politics-oriented. Sometimes, it’s extremely funny. Recently, Japan’s Asahi Shimbum service reported a scandal involving a bogus religious group, which generated millions in revenues from operating a chain of bawdy houses that allowed clients to claim payments as deductible charitable donations. The religious group, it turned out, was a front organization operated by a vegetable import-export firm!

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to locating stories on nonprofits and related matters is the poor design of web pages and negligence in keeping them current. A few outlets, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and major periodicals like American Prospect, the Atlantic, the Nation, and the New Yorker, and inclusive tables of contents or — in the case of the Times and the Journal — a “Today’s Paper” feature that enables a reader to go through the entire publication page by page and story by story. Most news outlets offer only headlines (with links to stories) organized topically (“state and local,” “politics,” “nation,” “international,” and so on) which may or may not include pertinent material. Essentially, stories of interest can be hidden almost anywhere on a website, subject, evidently, to the whim of the web designer. (My favorite of all such sections is the “Odd News” feature on China’s Xinhua.net news service web page).

The best news outlets maintain their pages scrupulously and up-date them regularly — daily or hourly. All too many, unfortunately, maintain them indifferently. Sources like MSNBC and CNN, which one would expect to be kept current, allow stories to remain unchanged for days. In contrast, magazines like the Nation and the Economist update their pages daily.

I conclude my comments on media coverage of the Third Sector with the observation that reporters who have solid knowledge of nonprofits are far better journalists than those who do not. One wonders how writers like the New York Times‘s Stephanie Strom (philanthropy and nonprofits), Geraldine Fabrikant (education) Robin Pogrebin (arts & Culture), Laurie Goodstein (religion) and Daniel Wakin (arts & culture) and the Wall Street Journal‘s MIke Spector (philanthropy and nonprofits), Shelly Banjo (philanthropy and nonprofits), John Hechinger (education), and Barbara Martinez (hospitals and health care) became so well-versed in the field. Did any of them pass through one of the dozens of nonprofit programs being hosted at universities throughout the country? Or did they learn by doing nonprofits reportage? One thing seems certain: the quality of nonprofits journalism would likely improve significantly if reporters, as a part of their training, had the opportunity to acquire a basic understanding of the nature of the nonprofit universe and the organizations that comprise it, as well as a grasp of the ways in which these organizations interface with business, government, and politics.

One final point: although the economics of the media discourage the assignment of reporters to particular “beats,” it is demonstrably true that beat reporters with special knowledge on issues like nonprofits do an infinitely better job than general assignment reporters with no background in the areas they cover. It is in the interest of nonprofits, as well as readers, that, if media cannot afford the luxury of investing in beat reporters, that they encourage journalism schools to provide their students with the rudiments of knowledge about philanthropy, nonprofits, volunteering, and civil society. Ill-informed reactive journalism that focuses narrowly on scandals is the product of poorly trained journalists, not a true portrayal of the Third Sector and its work.

MAJOR STORIES (7/13 – 19/2009)

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

GENERAL

“Officials worry stimulus could overwhelm groups.” By Matt Kelley. USA Today. July 14, 2009. Community groups and agencies could be overwhelmed as they receive millions of dollars from a $5 billion stimulus program to make low-income households more energy efficient, some state officials and members of Congress warn. Some of the groups have been faulted in the past for mismanaging thousands of dollars a year in federal aid. They are worried about the massive increase for a program whose annual budget was $227 million last year. Auditors in five states have reported management and oversight problems in the past four years with weatherization programs, which provide energy-efficient heating or cooling systems and other improvements to lower utility bills. The Energy Department provides weatherization money to states, which then distribute it to local governments and non-profit social service agencies that screen applicants and hire contractors to perform the work. “When you throw 25 times as much money at this program, you’re going to lose 20% to 30% of it to fraud,” says Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a stimulus critic.

“Fenty Proposal Cuts Millions in Earmarks; New Awareness Evident in Revised Budget.” By Nikita Stewart. Washington Post. July 19, 2009. D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has slashed about $12 million in earmarks out of his fiscal 2010 budget to help plug a gaping deficit and calm growing criticism that noncompetitive city grants are out of control. The 60 percent reduction in earmarks — from $20.5 million to $8.3 million — makes up a small percentage of Fenty’s overall cuts, but it could cause the biggest uproar. Major nonprofit organizations and smaller community groups have become more dependent on government dollars as private donors stop writing checks. Groups large and small could take a hit. For example, the National Council of Negro Women and the Phillips Collection were set to receive $1 million each for capital improvements. Under Fenty’s new proposal, each would get $400,000. Dozens of community and neighborhood groups, some slated to receive less than $25,000, also will be affected.

ARTS & CULTURE

“Patrick accuses zoo officials of scare tactics; Rules out killing of animals.” By Matt Collette. Boston Globe. July 13, 2009. In an alarming story published on July 11, officials of its nonprofit operator, Zoo New England, warned that state budget cuts might require the closure of Boston’s two zoos and the euthanizing of their animals. In response, Governor Deval Patrick accused Zoo New England with creating a false and inflammatory scare with their statements. An aid to the Governor emphatically ruled out the killing of any animals. The current problems of Zoo New England, which runs Franklin Park Zoo in Dorchester and Stone Zoo in Stoneham, stem from Patrick’s decision June 29 to veto $4 million in funding from the nonprofit’s annual budget. That reduces the state appropriation by 61 percent, to $2.5 million.
Related Stories
“Leaders push to override zoos’ cuts; Patrick rips statements about impact of his veto.” Boston Globe. July 14, 2009.
“Zoo chief defends stance on closings; Says options to save facilities slim.” Boston Globe. July 15, 2009.
“Caged by financial woes, Boston-area zoos struggle; Visit to R.I. facility offers a study in contrasts” Boston Globe. July 19, 2009.

“Nation’s Scientific Assets Poorly Maintained, Study Finds.” By Ed O’Keefe. Washington Post. July 13, 2009. A survey of nearly 300 collections at 14 federal agencies, including those of the Smithsonian, Agriculture Department and NASA notes the shortage of funds and shrinking pool of qualified support staff to maintain and manage them. The study is considered a big step towards reminding lawmakers and the general public about the practical health and safety benefits of the government’s collections. In recent years, private contributions have played an increasingly important role in supporting these collections.

“Museums Struggle.” Radio broadcast. Maine Public Broadcasting Network (mpbn.net). MaineWatch. July 17, 2009. They are some of Maine’s most precious gems; the state’s diverse collection of museums. But many are facing tough financial and ethical decisions as they try to survive in the 21st century. Jennifer Rooks and the Maine Watch team look at the shifting landscape for museums in Maine as they reinvent themselves. A fine first-hand account of museum survival strategies in tough times — in the words of managers and board members.

“Georgia Music Hall of Fame may close if it doesn’t raise $225,000.” By Jennifer Brett. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. July 17, 2009. The Georgia Music Hall of Fame says it may close if it doesn’t raise $225,000 by Oct. 27. The museum has always relied on state funding for a hefty percentage of its operating budget, and recent budget cuts imperil its future. “The museum cannot be self- sustaining in this market,” the Hall’s executive director said. “We’re a huge, fantastic destination, in a small market.”

“Commentary: The Culture Crash.”
By James Panero. Forbes.com.
The reductions in arts endowments reported over the past year have been significant, raising the question of how they have been managed. If the investment goal of arts endowments is the preservation of capital, how can they now face decreases of 35%. For the answer, look to nonprofit money managers and “managers of managers,” such as the Commonfund, which was started with seed money from the Ford Foundation in 1969 and now manages managers for hundreds of nonprofit institutions, with $40 billion in assets under management as of 2007. These managers, now used throughout the nonprofit world, have encouraged arts organizations to seek “total returns,” including capital appreciation, from their endowments, rather than merely preserving capital and accruing dividend income.
“Big draw: A new building and high-profile shows have attendance soaring at ICA despite economy.” By Geoff Edgers. Boston Globe. July 19, 2009. At a time when cultural organizations struggle to hold onto their audiences, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is Boston’s greatest success story. Since opening in December 2006, attendance has boomed, making it the second most visited museum in the region. And a string of recent high-profile shows has done more than create foot traffic. The shows have changed the way Bostonians, traditionally more attuned to Sargent and Monet, look at contemporary art.

CHARITY

“Will New Charity Rise From Ashes Of Disbanded United Way?” By Diana Stricker and Marcia Chambers. newhavenindependent.org. July 17, 2009. Two years after the United Way of Branford (CT) quietly disintegrated and had its charter revoked by the national board, some of its former leaders are establishing a new organization to raise charitable money in town. After the collapse of the Branford chapter, the United Way of Greater New Haven stepped in last year to fill the void and has made sizeable grants to the community. Local leaders are hoping their separate new organization, the Community Fund of Branford, will open in a few months. That could create competition with the United Way of Greater New Haven for donations at a time when the economy has made fundraising difficult for all charitable organizations. Former Branford United Way officials attribute the organization’s demise to a series of factors, including a lack of volunteers, deficient record keeping and failing to file membership forms. The national office sent a cease and desist letter informing the chapter it should no longer use the Branford United Way name. The cease and desist letter was sent Sept. 11, 2007, the same day the national board revoked the charter because the UWB failed to file membership papers.

EDUCATION

Charter Schools

“Patrick wants more charter schools; Students would nearly double; districts fear huge loss of funds.” By James Vaznis. Boston Globe. July 16, 2009. Governor Deval Patrick will unveil a proposal today to nearly double the number of charter school seats allowed in the state’s worst-performing districts, a move expected to trigger a fierce debate on Beacon Hill and send tremors through local school systems.The proposal, which requires legislative approval, would create an estimated 27,000 new charter school seats in about 30 districts across the state. The governor’s push comes as President Obama is threatening to withhold millions in federal stimulus dollars from states that hinder charter school growth. The legislation was immediately applauded by charter advocates, who trumpet the independent schools as laboratories of innovation that provide an alternative for disadvantaged children seeking refuge from failing schools. But leaders of many of the state’s leading education groups said the proposal would be economically devastating for school districts. Students who leave a public school district to attend a charter school take with them a slice of state aid, generally $9,000 to $15,000 per student.
Related Stories:
“Education reform in Massachusetts; Independent public schools may be getting a chance in the Bay State.” Economist. July 16, 2009.
“Test scores drove charter decision; Patrick denies aid changed his mind.”
Boston Globe. July 17, 2009.
“Charter Schools Gain in Stimulus Scramble; Cash-Strapped States, Districts Signal Expansion of Public-Education Alternative Despite Some Teachers’ Strong Opposition.” By Rob Tomsho. Wall Street Journal. July 17, 2009. S

HOUSING

“Family’s home is group’s 1st in Indy; Fuller Center hopes to build or refurbish more houses in the area by next summer.” By Robert Annis. Indianapolis Star. July 13, 2009. The Fuller Center for Housing, founded by the late Millard Fuller after his falling-out with Habitat for Humanity in 2005, has completed its first Indiana project. The 1,400-square-foot, four-bedroom home was built in nine weeks with the help of more than 100 volunteers, mostly from local churches. The group plans to complete 10 more houses in Indiana by the end of 2010.

HUMAN SERVICES

“Aurora domestic violence shelter reopens with emergency funds; John C. Dunham Fund and Fox Valley United Way come to aid of Mutual Ground after state money is cut.” By Margaret Ramirez. Chicago Tribune. July 14, 2009. Less than two weeks after state budget cuts forced it to shut its doors, Mutual Ground domestic violence shelter in Aurora reopened Monday with funding from the John C. Dunham Fund and the Fox Valley United Way, which provided $350,000 in emergency funding for several local non-profit agencies, including Mutual Ground. Mutual Ground receives 34 percent of its $1.8 million budget from Illinois. Last month, Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed the portion of the budget that funds social services, leaving Mutual Ground and hundreds of other social services agencies in limbo.

“New community center renews hope for many; Kroc’s $115m gift to fund Uphams Corner program.” By Meghan Irons. Boston Globe. July 15, 2009. . Construction of the $115 million Kroc Corps Community Center will begin later this month after a 3-year capital campaign. The center is a gift from Joan Kroc, whose husband, Ray, founded the McDonald’s Corp. In 2004, she left $1.5 billion to the Salvation Army to establish and maintain first-class educational, athletic, and spiritual centers across the nation. Boston received $80 million.
Related Story:
“Plan for Dozens of Salvation Army Centers Falters.” New York Times. June 15, 2009

INTERNATIONAL

CHINA

“Think-tanks with Chinese characteristics.” By Erdong Chen. Asia Times. July 18, 2009. At the beginning of July, the four-month-old China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE) kicked off its official debut by hosting a three-day Global Think-Tank Summit in Beijing. Being praised as a “super think-tank” by Chinese media, the CCIEE has established a team containing both high-profile retired leaders and nationally pre-eminent scholars and experts. While the concept of think-tanks has prevailed in the West for decades, the development of China-based think-tanks is fairly limited in terms of both scale and influence. In recent years, decision-makers inside the Zhongnanhai Compound in Beijing have become increasingly aware that China’s impressive performances in economic development during the latest three decades do not necessarily lead to a rise in terms of discourse power. The CCIEE, therefore, was created to expand China’s influence in the global market of ideas. Though firmly declaring and highlighting itself as “independent”, the CCIEE still carries many features that could hardly distinct itself from the authority. First of all, it is under the supervision of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), which ranks number two among central government departments following the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Such a background naturally generates a great amount of suspicion over whether the CCIEE will be able to operate truly independently. Furthermore, the CCIEE is headed by Zeng Peiyan, the former vice premier of the People’s Republic of China. In fact, the key element to expand a certain think-tank’s influence is more based on the independence of its research, the qualification and insights of its scholars, the effectiveness of its operations, and its capability of training the next-generation policymakers. China hosts a variety of think tanks. Those in Beijing work for the government and are within the governmental framework. those in Shanghai are comparatively more liberal and open-minded. Though they are not independent either and receive most of their funding from governmental agencies, Shanghai think-tanks are less dependent on the government and have been able to maintain a close partnership with business sectors. Those Xiamen in southeastern China are the front line of conducting academic researches and formulating policy initiatives regarding cross-strait issues. Due to little amount of independence granted, think-tanks in today’s China are more like governmental agencies rather than bridges between the government and academia. Though decision-makers have already realized how important think-tanks could become in assisting the production of high-quality policies, they are still afraid of the risk of letting intellectuals go too far.

“China stresses students’ volunteer service in school performance.” No by-line. Xinhua.net. July 18, 2009. — China plans to incorporate volunteer service into the evaluation of student performances to promote the spirit of selflessness, said the Ministry of Education. High school student volunteer work records will play an important part in university entrance selection, which is usually dominated by exam scores. Excellent volunteer records would also promote the chances of winning scholarships for students in schools and universities.The ministry urged schools to compile teaching materials for volunteer work training, set up special funds for volunteer services and encourage students to take part in social activities during holidays. The Beijing government expected the move to greatly increase the number of volunteers in community work, which involves 1.78 million students in the city.

“Sino-Korean charity to rebuild primary school.” No by-line. Xinhua.net. July 17, 2009. — A Sino-Korean charity program to rebuild a primary school is reviving hopes for a community in Dongxiang, northwestern Gansu province, one of the poorest counties in China. South Korean clothing brand EXR signed a cooperative agreement with China Daily to launch the 400,000 yuan poverty relief program.

INDIA

“Old boys pay back debt’ to alma mater.” By Minati Singha. Times of India. July 19, 2009. The alumni of the Secondary Board High School in Cuttack have come forward to bring back the past glory and excellence of their alma mater, which is not in a good shape, in its golden jubilee year. Worried over the falling performance of the school and deteriorating infrastructure, the old boys’ association of the school has decided to fund for its development. Among major initiatives taken by the association, it has decided to create a corpus fund to sponsor the higher education of several poor and meritorious students. The association has planned to celebrate the golden jubilee through out the year and would organize special events every month. The alumni have also decided to take up several other activities like renovation of the school building, to set up laboratories and hostels during the golden jubilee year of the school. Though a public institution, Secondary Board High School, like many India schools, is receiving growing philanthropic support from graduates.

JAPAN

“Top Unification Church official quits.” No by-line. Asahi Shimbim (Japan). July 14, 2009. The chairman of the Unification Church’s Japan branch resigned over an inkan seal scam that police suspect was run by church members. [An inkan seal is a personalized printing stamps used in lieu of signatures on personal documents, art office, other items requiring acknowledgment or authorship]. The president of a Tokyo-based seal retailer, a sales executive, and give women — all members of the Unification Church — have been arrested and indicted on suspicion of intimidating superstitious customers into buying expensive seals. Investigators dealing with spiritual sales scams suspect that the church was trying to recruit new members through the personal seal swindle.

SRI LANKA

“Charity seeks wide probe of Sri Lanka staff massacre; Warring parties blamed each other for massacre; Charity wants international probe.” By Ranga Sirilal. Reuters. July 18, 2009. A French charity, Action Contre la Faim (ACF), is demanding an international investigation of the massacre of 17 of its aid workers in the northeastern town of Muttur on August 14. Rights watchdogs have reported hundreds of abductions, disappearances and killings, blamed on both the government and the LTTE, throughout the course of Sri Lanka’s 25-year civil war, which ended in May.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

“Make no little plans: John Sexton is determined to transform NYU into the first truly global university – and he’s starting in Abu Dhabi.” No by-line. The National (Dubai). July 17, 2009. Under the leadership of its president, John Sexton, NYU, the largest private university in the US, is planning a major overseas expansion. Sexton is proposing to build an American-style research and liberal arts institution that will attract the world’s most elite students and scholars from day one. Just as grandly, Sexton envisions the Abu Dhabi campus as a kind of network hub that will operate in tandem with NYU in Manhattan to power a new “global university” comprising study sites on five continents. And as if all that were still too modest, Sexton believes these global moves will slingshot NYU into the ranks of the Ivy League. If the Abu Dhabi and New York campuses aren’t both ranked among the world’s top 10 universities in 20 years, he says, he’ll consider the whole undertaking a failure. Many academics regard the offshoring of education as a grubby enterprise, a profit-maximising strategy that is bound to dilute academic standards. But in Sexton’s mind, NYU’s best shot at competing directly with schools like Princeton and Harvard lies overseas. He is betting that the right kind of global presence will actually lure cosmopolitan students and professors away from the old, established Ivies – to the UAE.

UK

“Tax threat could hit hundreds of public schools; £100m of benefit in jeopardy after dramatic Charity Commission ruling.” By Richard Garner. The Independent (UK). July 14, 2009. A year ago, the British Charities Commission, the watchdog and policy-setting agency for nonprofits, adopted a rule that made tax-exempt status contingent on demonstrable public benefit. At the time, the public benefit standard was only vaguely defined. Recent actions by the Commission in regard to the country’s elite endowed “public” (i.e. private) suggest the direction it will be taking. The Commission has ruled that two of the first five schools it has investigated fail to meet tough new standards for retaining their charitable status – worth about £100m in tax breaks across the sector. The leaders of Britain’s 2,500 private schools fear the verdicts could be a foretaste of what is in store for all of them. Most independent schools, including Eton, Harrow and Winchester, have charitable status they say is vital for their survival. The Charity Commission publishes a report setting out the key issues and offering information on how charitable organizations can meet its public-benefit test.
See related stories
“Private schools charity threat.” BBC News. July 14, 2009.
“No faith in the Charity Commission.” Guardian (UK). July15, 2009.
“Dame Suzi Leather at war with private schools; Labour peer and head of the Charity Commission is trying to get the educational establishments in line with policy.”No by-line. Sunday Times. July 19, 2009.

“Capitalism needs to learn from the voluntary sector: If testosterone fuels capitalism, let’s populate boards with women leaders, says Stephen Lloyd.” By Stephen Lloyd. Guardian.com. Joe Public Blog. July 15, 2009. The tsunami that hit the world’s financial systems highlights the need for a new type of capitalism. Despite the implosion of existing business models, the charity sector is constantly exhorted to emulate its systems and processes. However, capitalism needs to learn from the voluntary sector. The remorseless concentration on shareholder value has been to the detriment of society. We need new not-for-profit structures to police the egregious conflicts of interest that lie at the heart of capitalism. All publicly-held companies should be required to have at least one non-executive director with extensive experience of social and environmental charities. Given the number of powerful female leaders in the third sector, this might go some way to tackling the glass ceiling. Twenty two companies in the FTSE 100 have no female directors. The simplest way to de-risk financial markets is to populate boards with women leaders. Testosterone fuels capitalism – women see the bigger picture. Money should not be an end in itself. Charities have always known that. Some simple reforms that draw on voluntary sector strengths could transform the UK’s financial system. If government does not have the courage to implement them, entrenched conflicts of interest will reign supreme.

“Expensive private education? Think again; No wonder demand for state school places is soaring. Many of us can no longer pay big bucks.” Op-ed. By Heather McGregor. London Times. July 16, 2009. Columnist argues that rising costs and declining incomes are pricing the middle class out of the market for private schools in the UK.

“British Museum and Tate plans could be shelved as funds run dry.” By Ben Hoyle. London Times. July 16, 2009. Major institutions, including the Tate and the British Museum, which receive major subsidies from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have been warned that their revenue funding will be cut for 2010-11. It has also warned Arts Council England and the organizations that it funds to expect a possible cut to their agreed grants for the same period. All three institutions are now likely to rely more heavily than they expected on private donors to realize their ambitions. The chair of the British Museum’s trustees said that the institution was happy to throw in naming rights to any of the new wing’s departments to help to flush out big donations.

“Royal Bank Coutts Backs ‘Queen’ Star Mirren, Weighs Art Support.” By Farah Nayeri. Bloomberg.com. July 16, 2009. Coutts & Co., whose clients include Elizabeth II, has sponsored a production of “Phedre” with Helen Mirren, who starred as Britain’s monarch in “The Queen” (2006). Coutts may not be as generous next year. The bank, which in recent years has spent as much as 1 million pounds ($1.65 million) a year on arts patronage, is spending less on arts, though it will not provide figures. That’s after parent Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc posted the biggest loss in U.K. corporate history last year — prompting a government bailout — and announced it was ending its sponsorship of the Williams Formula One racing team next year.

“Learning and Skills Council mismanagement costs hundreds of millions.” By Nicola Woolcock. London Times. July 17, 2009. The Learning and Skills Council (LSC), one of the hundreds of QUANGOs established under the Labour government, presided over catastrophic failures that could end up costing hundreds of millions of pounds. Entrusted with the task of building and refurbishing buildings for colleges and universities, the Council drastically overshot its budget, promising much more cash than it had to give. Said one official, “It really beggars belief that such an excellent programme, which had showed real success in transforming the further education experience, was mismanaged into virtual extinction.”

“How private schools ensure a life of privilege for their pupils.” By Gaby Hinsliff. Guardian (UK). July 19, 2009. From independent schooling it is a short step to a good university and a top job with rich rewards. A new report on social mobility reveals the extent to which privately-educated children go on to dominate the professions.
Related story:
“Education: end the inequity of private schools.” Letters. Guardian. July 26, 2009.
“Show us the money for social investment bank, say charities; Government criticised over three-month consultation.” By Alison Benjamin. Guardian (UK). July 16, 2009. Charity bosses have voiced concerns that government plans for a social investment bank for voluntary organizations makes no mention of how much funding will be involved. The voluntary sector has been calling on the government to create the bank with a minimum £250m funded by unclaimed assets lying in dormant bank accounts. The government’s Office of the Third Sector has announced a three-month consultation on the shape of the bank.

LAW AND REGULATION

“On further review, nonprofits exempt from Palo Alto business tax measure.”
By Will Oremus. San Jose Mercury News/Los Angeles Daily News. July 16, 2009. Palo Alto’s proposed business license tax would not apply to nonprofits, the city has announced. On June 22, the city council on June 22 voted to prepare a business tax for the Nov. 3 ballot that included nonprofits with 100 employees or more. But after some research, city staff found out that the state prohibits cities from imposing business taxes on any nonprofits that are otherwise exempt from income tax. That’s good news for the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Stanford University Medical Center, which would have had to pay some of the highest rates in town.

“Conn. diocese asks Supreme Court to intervene in release of records.” By John Christoffersen. Boston Globe/Associated Press. July 18, 2009. Having exhausted state remedies, embattled diocese takes case to U.S. Supreme Court in effort to prevent release of records of abusive priests.

MUTUAL BENEFIT ORGANIZATIONS

“State Masonic group withdraws charges.” By Peralter C. Paul. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. July 13, 2009. The Grand Lodge of Georgia Free & Accepted Masons has withdrawn formal charges against an Atlanta Mason who claimed that some leaders in the fraternal organization sought to disband his local chapter because it accepted a black man as a member.
Related Story:
“Black Member Tests Message of Masons in Georgia Lodges.” New York Times. July 3, 2009.

“Fraternal Organizations Battle Technology, Declining Membership.” By James Straub. Ellsworth (Maine) American. July 8, 2009. A panel discussion sponsored by the Blue Hill Historical Society focused on the impact — past and present — of service organizations on the life of Blue Hill. Historically, they wove the social tapestry of communities throughout Maine, but today, fraternal organizations like the Odd Fellows, Masons, the Grange and others, are fading into the background as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter provide social networking in the computer age. Though membership is in decline, the organizations continue to support charitable causes on the local, state and national levels.

PHILANTHROPY

“One man’s imperative to give; Move to restore workers’ losses came as little surprise.” By Sean Sposito. Boston Globe. July 18, 2009. Profile of Boston-area philanthropist, Robert I. Lappin.

“How sport can save the world.” By Matt Slater. BBC News. July 15, 2009. Profiles of sports stars turning to philanthropy.

RELIGION

“Lay Catholic group fears demise amid budget woes.” By Denise LaVoie. Washington Post/Associated Press. July 13, 2009. The Voice of the Faithful, a Boston-based lay Catholic group founded in the worst days of the church’s clergy sex abuse scandal said Monday it may be forced to cease operations because of a downturn in donations. Bill Casey, chairman of the group’s board of trustees, said Voice of the Faithful has been hit hard by the economic downturn and is making an “emergency appeal” for donations.
Related Story:

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/07/19/voice_of_the_faithful_is_facing_financial_troubles/

“Voice of the Faithful is facing financial troubles.” Boston Globe. July 19, 2009.


“Their Separate Ways.”
By Philip Jenkins. Wall Street Journal. July 17, 2009. For a decade, the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) has been bitterly divided over the issue of ordaining openly gay clergy. The matter reached a new intensity this past week when the church’s triennial convention ended the ban on gay candidates serving in ordained ministry. After years of protesting ECUSA’s liberal policies and doctrines, seceding conservatives have now organized a rival church — the Anglican Church in North America, or ACNA — which claims 100,000 believers, compared with two million in ECUSA. This week’s dramatic decision is sure to widen the rift even further, causing what church historians might officially label a “schism.”

“Obama’s Faithful Flock.” By Sarah Posner. Nation. July 15, 2009. For progressives, secularists and feminists, the appointment of of Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG), to lead the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has many progressive activists alarmed. During his campaign, the President had promised to end the constitutional violations of Bush’s faith-based programs by requiring that federal dollars that go to churches, temples and mosques “only be used on secular programs” and by forbidding programs that accept federal money from proselytizing or discriminating against people in hiring on the basis of religion. Since he has taken office, however, Obama has backtracked or stalled on these pledges and the program continues to be plagued by a lack of transparency and accountability and is being exploited as a tool for rewarding religious constituencies with government jobs.

“Interfaith Internet: Religious groups call for more access.” By Adelle M. Banks. USA Today. July 17, 2009. An interfaith coalition of groups concerned about equal access to the Internet launched a campaign Tuesday to expand high-speed Internet access in rural and poor communities. The campaign is an effort of “So We Might See,” a coalition that includes the National Council of Churches, the Islamic Society of North America and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Pared-Down Episcopal Church Is Looking to Grow Through ‘Inclusivity’.” By Laurie Goodstein. New York Times. July 19, 2009. As it makes controversial decisions about the role of women and gays which threaten to split the denomination, Episcopalians hopes they can can regenerate a church based on youth and “inclusivity.” But a church study shows that membership fell about 6 percent from 2003 to 2007. The church’s contributions are declining, though church experts say it is hard to know how much of that drop is attributable to the economic downturn. The convention voted last week to cut the budget by $23 million over three years and eliminate about 30 out of 180 staff positions at church headquarters in New York and other locations.

SCANDAL

“Brouhaha over bonuses at Fresno nonprofit.” By Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross. San Francisco Chronicle. July 13, 2009. Despite more than $300 million in cuts to the state Department of Developmental Services budget and in the face of government programs are being slashed across California, a Fresno nonprofit for the developmentally disabled, Central Valley Regional Center, handed out $500,000 in bonuses to its 350 administrative employees. As word of the bonuses got around, the state Senate’s Majority Leader called on Riddick to provide a full explanation or return the money. After initially defending the bonuses, the center’s board announced that it was rescinding them.

“2 Atlanta groups that help homeless being investigated.” By Christopher Quinn. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. July 13, 2009. The Social Security Administration is investigating two Atlanta organizations, Potter’s Fund and Help Group Services, that were assisting about 500 homeless and disabled people by receiving their Social Security checks and helping them manage their finances. Atlanta regional office of the Social Security Administration declined to provide any details other than to confirm the investigations were under way.

“U.S. Chess Federation Lawsuit Becomes Criminal Issue.” By Dylan Loeb McClain. New York Times. July 18, 2009. A dispute among board members of the United States Chess Federation that has prompted several lawsuits has now become a criminal matter. A member of the federation was arraigned Friday in Federal District Court in San Jose, Calif., and charged with identity theft and breaking into the e-mail account of a federation board member. The federation has alleged in a lawsuit that Mr. Alexander read messages between Mr. Hough and an outside counsel hired by the federation, the governing body of chess. The counsel, Karl S. Kronenberger, had been hired to investigate accusations that two federation members posted thousands of obscene and defamatory messages on Internet bulletin boards under the name of a board member in order to get themselves elected to the board.

“Conservative group offers support for $2M.” By Mike Allen. Politico.com. July 17, 2009. The American Conservative Union asked FedEx for a check for $2 million to $3 million in return for the group’s support in a bitter legislative dispute, then the group’s chairman flipped and sided with UPS after FedEx refused to pay. For the $2 million plus, ACU offered a range of services that included: “Producing op-eds and articles written by ACU’s Chairman David Keene and/or other members of the ACU’s board of directorsMaury Lane, FedEx’s director of corporate communications, said: “Clearly, the ACU shopped their beliefs and UPS bought.” FedEx and UPS, fierce competitors in the package delivery business, are at war over a provision under consideration in Congress that would expand union power at FedEx. The American Conservative Union calls itself “the nation’s oldest and largest grass-roots conservative lobbying organization.”
Related Story:
“Conservative nonprofit offered clout to FedEx — for millions; The American Conservative Union asked for up to $3.4 million to support the carrier in a legislative battle. When the firm refused, the group’s president backed rival UPS’ position and blasted FedEx.” Los Angeles Times. July 19, 2009.

TECHNOLOGY

“Silicon Valley nonprofit in spotlight after trip to White House.” By Mike Cassidy. San Jose Mercury-News. July 15, 2009. HopeLab, a nonprofit technology incubator in Redwood City, has been recognized by the White House at a ceremony encouraging businesses, philanthropies and government to work together to find new ways to solve old problems. Founded in 2001 by philanthropist Pam Omidyar, who’s married to eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, HopeLab seeks innovative uses of information technology to address such health problems as childhood obesity and cancer treatment.

MAJOR STORIES (July 6 -12, 2009)

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

ADVOCACY

“100 Years Old, NAACP Debates Its Current Role.”
By Krissah Thompson. Washington Post. July 12, 2009. At its founding a century ago, the purpose of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization was well defined: to achieve equal justice under the law for black Americans. Today, as 5,000 members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gathered in Washington to set an agenda, little is so clear-cut. The NAACP faces a slew of questions: Has the election of the first black U.S. president marked the end of the civil rights agenda? Must an organization traditionally focused on the plight of black Americans expand its mission? What should a black civil rights organization do in 2009? The association’s new president, Benjamin Todd Jealous, who at 36 is the youngest person to ever lead the organization, envisions an NAACP primarily serving a black constituency but with a broader outlook, responding to modern times by recalibrating the its approach to issues of race. To this end, the association will host conversations on the impact of racial disparities in the criminal justice system on African American and Latino communities and on the meaning of recent Supreme Court decisions as they relate to affirmative action. It will also host a diverse panel of youth activists who are working with people of various races, ethnicities and backgrounds to deal with national and global human rights issues.

ARTS & CULTURE

“Maryhill Museum of Art finds extra money in leasing land to wind farm.” By Abby Haight, Oregonian. July 7, 2009. The Maryhill Museum of Art, located on a rural hilltop high above the Columbia River, is the first in the country to use wind-produced electricity to generate income, leasing land to one of the biggest wind farms in the country. At a time when museums around the country are struggling with declining donations and attendance, Maryhill has guaranteed itself at least $100,000 a year by leasing land for 15 turbines that are part of Cannon Power Group’s Windy Point/Windy Flats project.

“Passing the Baton; A new conductor inherits a changed New York Philharmonic.” By Juliet Chung. Wall Street Journal. July 10, 2009. The New York Philharmonic the country’s oldest orchestra, is passing the baton to Alan Gilbert, one of the youngest conductors to hold the post. Making music will only be part of Mr. Gilbert’s job: increasingly, conductors must take a more active role in fund-raising, and as music director Mr. Gilbert will be expected to court new donors along with new audiences. That aspect has grown more important since the onset of the recession. Orchestras around the country are cutting musicians’ salaries and canceling expensive European tours. The value of the Philharmonic’s endowment fell by around 30% as the markets plunged, to around $142 million, though orchestra officials say it has been recovering since. The number of subscriptions this season fell several percentage points, though strong single-ticket sales kept attendance at slightly more than 90%, unchanged from last season. For its $66 million budget this season, the orchestra faces a $3 million shortfall and an estimated $3 million deficit next season.

“Franklin Park Zoo may have to close; Patrick budget cuts also threaten Stone Zoo Some animals might have to be euthanized.” By Matt Viser. Boston Globe. July 11, 2009. The Boston area’s nonprofit zoos are threatened by state budget cuts. Government operated until 1991, the zoos converted to nonprofit ownership under the name Zoo New England. Founded in 1913, the zoo has faced closure numerous times in the past because of a lack of funding, including recently in 2002 when State House lawmakers cut its funding from $6 million to $3.5 million. The total operations budget for the zoos last year was $11 million, about 60 percent of which came from state funding. The remainder came through admissions, food and gift shop sales, membership, and fund-raising.

EDUCATION

Higher Education

“Rich Harvard, Poor Harvard.” By Nina Munk. Vanity Fair. June 30, 2009. An investigative piece explores the scope and scale of Harvard’s financial problems in the wake of the crash and seeks to assign blame for the university’s unusually poor performance. Asked to assess Harvard’s finances and assess the extent to which its endowment will be able to keep pace with its immovable costs, one hedge fund manager’s concluded: “They are completely fucked.” The university’s financial difficulties involve not only losses in the value of its endowment and lack of liquidity due to risky and exotic investments, but also significant indebtedness due to commitments to pay out endowment for major projects. In December, the university sold $2.5 billion worth of bonds to meet short-term obligations (like payroll), increasing its total debt to just over $6 billion. Servicing that debt alone will cost Harvard an average of $517 million a year through 2038, according to Standard & Poor’s. Overall, the article sets forth a panorama of greed and incompetence in the stewardship of funds that are, because of the extent to which they are subsidized by tax privileges, public assets.

“The Sad, Suffering Ivy League.” By Thomas Kaplan. Vanity Fair. July 1, 2009. Vanity Fair assesses the impact of the crash on a range of elite private colleges and universities, taking account not only of the extent of losses, but institutional responses to the financial crisis.

Charter Schools

“Menino files charter school bill; Would let districts make conversions.” By James Vaznis. Boston Globe. July 8, 2009. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino filed a bill in the Legislature that would enable local school districts to convert underperforming schools into in-district charter schools free of teacher unions. If approved, 10 of Boston’s approximately 140 public schools could undergo such a change. In-district charters run much like the state’s charter school program, which promotes education innovation by loosening the regulations under which the schools operate. The key difference between the two school types is that local school committees, rather than the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, would have the power to establish the in-district charters.

Private Schools

“Private school’s fate uncertain amid financial allegations.” By Kristina Torres and Gracie Bond Staples. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. July 6, 2009. Atlanta’s New Century School faces an uncertain future. The school, which opened in 1995 with 22 students, had by 2006 grown to 90 students in preschool through sixth grade. Last year, it moved to a new facility that “wound up being more expensive than anticipated.” The school has followed an unconventional path since it opened, offering multiage classes that allow children to move at their own pace. The following day, it was announced the Atlanta New Century School would be restructured with a new name and “new leadership [but] the same great teachers, curriculum and location.” [For related stories, see "Atlanta New Century School open for now, parents told" and "Leadership of New Century School in question."

HEALTH CARE

"Health Co-op Offers Model for Overhaul." By Kevin Sack. New York Times. July 7, 2009. Seattle's Group Health, one of the few surviving health insurance cooperatives,may serve as a prototype for a political compromise that could facilitate a bipartisan Senate deal on health reform. The cooperative, which owns a network of clinics and specialty care centers, pays its physicians salaries and bonuses rather than by visit or procedure, giving them little incentive to churn patients through and order unnecessary tests and operations. This enables the organization to deliver health care at lower cost. The use of technology has significantly increased coops' efficiency: all medical records are digitized; doctors are rewarded for consulting by telephone and secure e-mail, which allows for longer appointments; practitioners who are responsible for patients' well-being work collaboratively as primary care teams. According to company officials, Group Health’s ability to directly manage its doctors drives innovation. The cooperative structure’s primary contribution is creating a consumerist ethos that keeps the company focused on patient care. Group Health Cooperative was was founded by trade unionists and Grange members in 1947. Structured as a not-for-profit corporation, its revenues ($2.6 billion last year) are reinvested rather than distributed among members. But it is governed like a cooperative — and calls itself one — because its board consists of and is elected by members.

HUMAN SERVICES

"Detroit's Food Banks Strain to Serve Middle Class; Charities in the Region Struggle to Cope With a Surge in Demand as Once-Stable Families Seek Assistance." By Alex P. Kellogg. Wall Street Journal. July 10, 2009. State agencies and nonprofit groups serving the poor in southeast Michigan say they are seeing an unprecedented rise in demand for food assistance across the region as massive layoffs, home foreclosures and nearly a decade of economic decline, are affecting residents of Detroit's middle-class suburbs. The problem is likely to get worse in coming months as Michigan, whose 14.1% unemployment rate is the highest in the nation, faces still more layoffs in its principal industries: auto manufacturing, which is in the midst of a sweeping restructuring, and the health-care business, which is reeling from the auto makers' benefit cuts.

INTERNATIONAL

Chile

"Alternative Media Have Their Network." By Daniela Estrada. Inter Press Service News Agency. July 11, 2009. The recently created People's Media Network of Chile seeks to forge links that will strengthen newspapers, web sites and radio and TV stations that give a voice to those who are basically ignored by the mainstream media. "We want to raise the voices of Chilean social organisations to the realm of public debate, working together as people's media," said the young Chilean journalist. Currently the Chilean media are dominated by two consortiums, El Mercurio, which owns 22 newspapers, and Copesa, which owns three papers, a magazine and three radio stations, which receive the lion's share of government advertising contracts. "We believe in communication as a political tool for securing rights that are restricted by the current constitution; we believe in the strength of a broad movement aimed at bringing about change which, using both new and traditional communication technologies, exerts its influence as a third sector, a force that presents an alternative to the dominant private sector-government model," says the Network's founding document. , "The umbrella linking these media is rejection of the neoliberal (free market) model of development" and a focus on issues like political reform, citizen participation, defence of indigenous peoples and natural resources, and the protection of the rights of workers, teachers, students, women, children, immigrants and sexual minorities."

Mexico

"X-Ray of Civil Society." By Emilio Godoy. Inter Press Service News Agency. July 11, 2009. A new edition of the CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI), based on surveys of civil society organizations, external stakeholders like government, donors and academics, and the public at large, reveals what kinds of work do Mexico's civil society organizations do, how are they structured, and where do they obtain their financing. There are 9,000 officially registered civil society organizations in Mexico, although the number could be higher as registration is voluntary. They work in a broad range of areas, from care for the elderly and the fight against poverty to education, health and the promotion of human rights. According to CEMEFI (Mexican Centre for Philanthropy) statistics, there are around 15,000 social associations in Mexico providing services to third parties, most of which are involved in the areas of health and social work. These numbers lag behind countries like Argentina, Chile or the United States, which have 105,000, 300,000 and 2 million civil society organizations, respectively.A 2008 National Survey on Philanthropy and Civil Society conducted by the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM) revealed that 7 out of 10 respondents expressed some degree of confidence in the country's NGOs. The survey, which touched on questions like donations, volunteer work and the social capital of NGOs, found a low level of public involvement with organized civil society. "Civil society is still in its early stages of development. There are very few NGOs, taking into account the size of the country," said José Piña, head of the Fundación Nuevo Milenio (New Millennium Foundation), which is devoted to promoting civic culture. This may be changing: A 2004 federal law to support activities carried out by civil society organizations established mechanisms to help them gain access to government funds. In 2007, the Mexican government provided NGOs with 142 million dollars in financing, representing eight percent of their total funding, 85 percent of which came from the provision of services and advice and sales of products, and only seven percent from donations. But private support for NGOs remains weak, with only 125 donor foundations mainly business foundations, family, and independent foundations.

Peru

"Three Days of Anti-Government Protests." By Ángel Páez. Inter Press Service News Agency. July 09, 2009. Trade unions and social movements in Peru have led a three-day strike to protest the economic policies of President Alan García. Activities around the country in support of the strike included roadblocks and street marches and protests. The strike and protests were called by the National Front for Life and Sovereignty, an umbrella group that has brought together the main trade union federations, small farmers' associations, the teachers union, the national association of local communities affected by the mining industry, the largest coalitions of indigenous organisations, regional leaders and left-wing political parties.

UK

"Quangos 'to be more accountable' under Tories." By Martha Linden and Joe Churcher. Independent (UK). July 6, 2009. In the wake of the scandal of elected officials excessive and sometimes fraudulent expense accounts, Britain's Labour Party has come under attack by Conservatives for permitting the proliferation of QUANGOs (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations). In a speech detailing his intention to slash the number of quangos, or "quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations", and publish the salaries of their highly paid bosses, Conservative leader David Cameron charged that their growth has been fuelled by Labour's attempts to use the bodies to insulate it from unpopular decisions. Major QUANGOs include such bodies as the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA), responsible for developing the national curriculum, Ofcom, Britain's telecoms industry regulator, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, and the National Policing Improvement Agency.

"Costly, inefficient failures. Who needs them? Too many quangos are draining the public purse. They need to be made to account for themselves or be abolished." By Andrew Haldenby. Op-ed. London Times. July 6, 2009. Despite efforts to cut government spending, charges columnist Andrew Haldenby," one part of government appears immune from the new reality": "quangos — those strange, shadowy, secretive parts of British public life — are growing much faster than the rest of government. The most influential quangos, those with actual executive powers, such as the regional development agencies, employ an average of 500 people each, and each of those people spends £370,000 in public money on average each year." "Most organisations can be held to account, however imperfectly," Haldenby writes, but not quangos. "This is supposed to be their unique advantage, that they are completely independent organisations free from political or commercial interest. In practice, they are a law unto themselves. This might be an nitpicking constitutional point were it not for their cost — £35 billion to taxpayers last year, which amounts to £1,400 for every family in the country." In addition to their costliness and lack of accountability, quangos "have been responsible for some of the biggest failures in our politics." "What is needed," he suggests, "is not so much a review of these organisations but a radical change in their nature. The quango experiment can be put in the dustbin of history. Each of the 790 current quangos can then be turned into a properly accountable body — either part of government (accountable to Parliament and voters) or part of society (answerable to trustees or shareholders)."

"Poorest pupils may be guaranteed a university place by age of 15; Students at Leeds University campus; Poor but able pupils will be guaranteed a place at universities such as Leeds in the Sutton Trust scheme." By Nicola Woolcock. London Times. July 11, 2009. Bright but poor teenagers living close to elite universities would have a place there guaranteed from the age of 15 under a new scheme. Talented pupils from disadvantaged homes would benefit from the radical proposals drawn up by the Sutton Trust, an education charity that is discussing the proposals with a handful of leading universities. The Sutton Trust’s research shows that four out of five disadvantaged young people live in the vicinity of a highly selective university, such as Oxford, Leeds or Bristol, but only one in 25 of these children goes on to attend such a university. Under the plan, the Trust will identify clever children who live near prestigious universities but are unlikely to progress to higher education because they would struggle financially. They would have to achieve the minimum A-level grades for the course and agree to attend advice and support sessions. If these conditions were met they would be guaranteed a place. Evidence from similar schemes worldwide suggests that such students do at least as well academically as their classmates and prosper in life after graduation. The Trust's plan has its origins in an American programme called the “Percent” scheme, which sends a percentage of students from poorer backgrounds to their local elite university.

"The essential guide for parents. What you need to know about education and what's being talked about at the school gate." No by-line. London Times. July 10, 2009. Over the past decade, there has been the complete overhaul of scholarship criteria at the country’s most famous public [i.e. private] schools. “Bullied by the Charity Commission – and led by schools like Eton, Rugby and St Paul’s are now means testing all their scholarships. Long symbols of privilege, England’s elite private boarding schools “have in effect thrown down the drawbridge and opened their doors open to any child clever or talented enough to excel on the entrance criteria.” These changes raise the question of who will attend these schools in the future. “Will they end up as bipolar communities peopled on the one extreme by wealthy foreigners and “super-rich” British for whom fees are no object, and at the other by children on bursaries? While the central core of private school parents herd themselves into lesser known schools where means testing of scholars has not (yet) arrived?”

Uruguay


“Stitching a Future Together.”
By Luis Alberto Carro. Inter Press Service News Agency. July 06, 2009. The group of women cross this Uruguayan town every morning, some on bike and some on foot, on their way to CODEMUR, a women’s cooperative that resurrected a garment factory abandoned by its owners. The women are former employees of the once vibrant textile firm Sirfil y Drymar. After the companies closed the local plant without paying the employees the back wages and holiday and severance pay they were owed, some of the women created CODEMUR (Rosario Women’s Cooperative). The coop began to operate in January. Located two blocks from the main street in this town of 9,500 people in southwestern Uruguay, the factory was rented to them by local businessman Jaime Goldansky, who gave the women their first order, of work uniforms. The women’s biggest supporters and advisers were trade unionists Luis Romero of the Funsa tire manufacturing company and Daniel Placeres of Envidrio, which produces glass bottles. Funsa closed its doors in 2002 and reopened as a worker-run factory in 2006, in partnership with a private investor. Envidrio is a workers cooperative whose members – former employees of the Cristalerías del Uruguay company – occupied the plant when it went under in 1999 and began to produce again six years later with the aid of an agreement with the Venezuelan government.

LAW & REGULATION

“Records On Priests Sex Abuse Cases Could Be Released This Month.” By Edmund H. Mahony. Hartford Courant. July 6, 2009. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport is considering a dwindling number of legal options, including a U.S. Supreme Court appeal, after the state’s high court refused to reconsider a ruling that would make public thousands of pages of documents that detail alleged sexual abuse by priests. The state Supreme Court released an order Monday denying a diocese request for an opportunity to restate its arguments against unsealing more than 12,000 pages of court records involving lawsuits against its priests.

“Hudgens foundation sues SunTrust over $8M investment.” By Paul Donsky. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. July 08, 2009. An Atlanta area foundation is suing SunTrust, charging that failed to properly disclose the risks when it invested $8 million of the charity’s money in a complex type of security, auction-rate securities, a kind of debt long billed by the financial industry as a safe place to park money while earning interest — cash with benefits, so to speak. When the market for these securities collapsed during the global financial crisis, groups like the Hudgens Family Foundation were to sell their holdings. The $8 million remains locked up, not maturing for about 35 years, said one of the foundation’s attorneys. Although regulators have cracked down on many of the financial firms that sold auction-rate securities, including SunTrust, the bank said it did nothing wrong. Last September, SunTrust paid nearly $2 million in fines and agreed to buy back some securities it had sold.

“Senators Consider Curtailing Hospitals’ Tax Breaks; Exemptions, Historically Tied to Charity Care, Expected to Fall in an Overhaul; Industry Says It’s Already Taking Hits.” By Barbara Martinez. Wall Street Journal. July 10, 2009. Senators working on health-care legislation are considering provisions to pare back the billions of dollars in tax breaks enjoyed by U.S. hospitals. More than half of the 5,482 hospitals in the U.S. are nonprofits that don’t pay federal, state or local taxes. One change being floated by Senate Finance Committee leaders Max Baucus (D., Mont.) and Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) is that hospitals would be required to offer a minimum amount of charity care, limit charges to the uninsured and tame their collection practices — or face an excise tax. Hospitals have a great deal rising on the outcome of this debate: the Congressional Budget Office estimates nonprofit hospitals were spared $12.6 billion in taxes annually, on top of the $32 billion in federal, state and local subsidies the hospital industry as a whole received each year. Moves are also afoot on the state level to curtail nonprofit hospitals’ privileges: nonprofit hospitals are among the biggest beneficiaries of the services provided by local governments, such as law enforcement, fire service and snow removal.


MUTUAL BENEFIT ORGANIZATIONS

“No retreat from uproar over Bohemian Club woods.” By Jane Kay. San Francisco Chronicle. July 6, 2009. San Francisco’s Bohemian Grove club has long been controversial for its exclusive men’s only membership policies and its secretive meetings which bring together some of the wealthiest and most powerful figures in American life. Now the club is under fire from environmentalists critical of its plans to log one of the largest remaining private redwood forests, which is part of a 2,700 acre tract, Bohemian Grove. The club claims that it can log the area without government permission because of its small size. Opponents argue that environmental impact reviews are necessary for every cut. Much to the club’s embarrassment, the fight has attracted the attention of national media, including Vanity Fair, which have turned it into a cause celebre over questions of environmental stewardship. Members, who pay annual dues of $25,000, include directors of the nation’s biggest companies, musicians, political leaders and celebrities.

“Elks club members serve as an economic stimulus in Portland.” By Molly Hottle. Oregonian. July 6, 2009. An estimated 10,000 members of the fraternal organization, the Elks, poured into Portland for their 145th annual convention, giving the city’s beleaguered economy a much-needed boost.

“National union seizes health care local.” By Jonathan Brinckman. Oregonian. July 07, 2009. The health care division of the American Federation of Teachers has seized control of the union local representing about 3,000 workers at the Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center in Clackamas and other facilities of Kaiser Permanente NW in Oregon and Southwest Washington. When the seizure occurred, local officials stated that members had been discussing withdrawal from the national organization. This is only the fourth time in the AFT’s 93-year history that it has placed a local union under temporary administratorship.

PHILANTHROPY

“Fresh Faces of Philanthropy: A Fla. Boy, 11, Helps Fight Homelessness Through Walk To D.C., Part Of a Growing Trend of Youths Who Reach Out.” By Susan Kinzie. Washington Post. July 12, 2009. Profile of 11 year-old Zach Bonner, a youthful philanthropic activist. Four years ago, Zach started his own nonprofit organization four years ago after a hurricane hit Florida. He asked his mother if they could donate their water bottles, and he gathered more from neighbors, an earnest little redheaded boy pulling his red wagon behind him. By the end, they had 27 truckloads of aid. This was the beginning of The Little Red Wagon Foundation. More recently, Zach led a 650 walk from his home in Florida to Washington to raise money to aid the homeless. The walk has raised about $50,000 for local groups. Zach is representative of a cohort of very young people who have become high-profile CEOs of their own nonprofit groups. What they are doing goes far beyond the kind of volunteering that an increasing number of young people engage in. Young philanthropists devote hundreds of hours to their causes, making appeals many donors find irresistible even in tough economic times.

“Struggling school gets a boost; Through Chaka Khan’s education foundation, low-achievers at Drew Middle School in Compton receive help from people who care about their future.” By Sandy Banks. Los Angeles Times. July 12, 2009. Profile of entertainer Chaka Khan’s foundation and its work with troubled inner city schools.

RELIGION

“‘Hugging saint’ embraces vendors too: Indian spiritual leader Amma.” Marketplace. National Public Radio. July 6, 2009. For the past 22 years an Indian spiritual leader named Amma has been touring the world preaching love and compassion and the healing power of a good hug. At 55 years old, Amma has hugged more than 28 million people since she gave her first hug in her native India, as a young girl. Amma and her retinue carry on a brisk trade in clothing and other souvenirs, as well as accepting donations. Signs at the boutique claim that 100 percent of net revenues go to her humanitarian projects in India. Her Web site says she sponsors orphanages, schools, hospitals for the poor, soup kitchens, disaster relief programs. But Amma’s volunteers refuse to discuss how much money she makes. All of her organizations are registered as nonprofit religious groups, so they’re not required to file tax returns. But the San Jose Mercury News puts her total worth in the hundreds of millions.

“Massachusetts Bible Society Commemorates Its Past, Looks to Online Future.” By Michael Paulson. Boston Globe. July 7, 2009. Massachusetts Bible Society celebrates 200 years of handing out millions of Bibles to the poor and the imprisoned in prisons, hospitals, through programs for the homeless, and on collage campuses. The society has downsized in recent years, selling its downtown Boston headquarters and closing its bookstores. Its endowment, $6.4 million before the crash has been reduced to $3.3 million. But the organization is trying to reinvent itself for the Internet Age, increasingly emphasizing its website and offering a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, and a Twitter feed. It recently spent $500,000 to construct a media center at Andover Newton to help train clergy and congregations on the use of technology.


“Church camps closing amid declining use, economy.”
By Jay Reeves. Washington Post/Associated Press. July 8, 2009. The president of the Christian Camp and Conference Association, whose organization has about 950 member camps. said dozens of camps nationwide ceased operating in the last three years, and that, by the end of the summer, 10 to 15 percent of camps may decide they no longer can continue operating.” There are currently about 3,000 church-affiliated camps nationwide.

“Months to Live; Sisters Face Death With Dignity and Reverence.” By Jane Gross. New York Times. July 9, 2009. Profile of the Sisters of St. Joseph Mother House in Rochester, New York, which cares for aged and infirm sisters in their final years. The facility cares for 150 residents in assisted living studios and nursing home and Alzheimer’s units. Its activities are funded by the proceeds of the sale of the order’s old Mother House and by Social Security payments of the retired and salaries of those still working.

“50 Methodist bishops agree to pay cut.”
No by-line. Boston Globe/Associated Press. July 9, 2009. Fifty United Methodist Church bishops in the United States will roll back their salaries by 4 percent next year in what Bishop Gregory Palmer of Springfield, Ill., president of the Council of Bishops, says is a gesture of solidarity with others hurt by the global economic downturn. It is also a response to the church’s financial troubles: of 63 regional Methodist conferences, only 17 paid their full share of the denomination-wide expenses last year, down from 23 in 2007.

“The City Life: What the Sisters Are Up To.” Editorial. By Francis X. Clines. New York Times. July 12, 2009. “U.S. Nuns Facing Vatican Scrutiny.”“>The Times on July 2 reported that the Vatican was investigating the activities of women’s religious orders in the U.S.
Such Vatican investigations called “visitations” usually focus on serious flaws like the pedophilia scandal. So, what are nuns doing wrong? That is the question being asked by the sisters and legions of Catholic laypeople. Tom Fox, editor of The National Catholic Reporter, suspects the inquiries are steeped in patriarchy and male chauvinism. “Next time, let’s have our women religious study the quality of life of our male clerics,” is Mr. Fox’s advice.

MAJOR STORIES (6/29 – 7/5/09)

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

GENERAL

“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).

ADVOCACY

“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.

EDUCATION

Higher Education
“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.

Charter Schools

“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.

Private Schools

“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.

HEALTH CARE

“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.

INTERNATIONAL

Korea

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106121695

“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

“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.

UK

“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.

PHILANTHROPY

“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.

RELIGION

“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.

SCANDAL

“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.

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE

“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.

VOLUNTEERING

“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.

http://www.virginmobilefestival.com

“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.