Philanthropy Notes: December 2011

Although giving increased slightly in 2010, donations to social services dropped by 6.6 percent, the New York Times reports. Many high-dollar donors are focusing their giving on public policy, political campaigns, museums, and hospitals. Philanthropy has been “silent about the depths of the problems of homelessness, joblessness, foreclosure, hunger,” said Emmett D. Carson, CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. “People are starting to believe that philanthropy is irrelevant to the core needs of their communities.”

D.C. Central Kitchen president Robert Egger started a new 501c4 group that endorses political candidates seeking to strengthen nonprofits in their communities. The group, called CForward, wants to turn people who volunteer or work at nonprofits into a “powerful political force.” “It will allow candidates to see there’s an army being activated,” Egger said. CForward plans to launch a political action committee early in the new year.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has sponsored legislation that would keep postage rates low for charities. Charities currently pay 26 percent less than businesses when they mail fund-raising letters and other documents en masse to their donors. Anthony Conway of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers said the bill’s chances in an election year “are not great.”

Endowments at colleges and universities gained 19.8 percent on average in 2011 but it will still take them years to make up for the credit crisis of 2008, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports. The figures were in a report by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the Commonfund Institute. Endowments have been growing since 2009 when the average endowment lost 18.7 percent. “We’re still nowhere near where we need to be to recoup the losses from the downturn,” Commonfund Institute managing director William F. Jarvis said.

Celebrities such as rap artist Kanye West and actor Ashton Kutcher aren’t much of a plus when it comes to charitable fundraising, according to a new report released by PayPal and the consulting firm Zoetica Media. But a celebrity willing to spend time interacting online with potential donors can be effective in raising money, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports. “Unlike a personal appearance, photo op, or scripted [public-service announcement], where just showing up will get it done, social fund raising requires an active, authentic, and continued involvement [from the fund raiser] … even if only for a short time,” the report said.

 

GOLDMAN SACHS WATCH

Goldman Sachs disclosed in a regulatory filing that it may now be facing close to $16 billion in lawsuits related to its handling of mortgage securities transactions, according to reports.  Observers criticized Goldman for pushing the mortgage investments while at the same time promoting short-selling of mortgage securities.  Just three months ago Goldman said it expected to be sued for just $485 million.  Goldman expects to be ordered to pay plaintiffs in the lawsuit as much as $2.6 billion.  The total liability has risen because those investors who purchased mortgage-backed securities are now bumping up against statutes of limitations that are expiring.  Plaintiff institutions that may sue include American International Group Inc. (AIG), Manulife Financial Corp’s John Hancock unit, HSH Nordbank, Norges Bank Investment Management and IKB Deutsche Industriebank AG.

 

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