June 2010

(CNN)  More than $1.8 million has been raised to help victims of the Gulf Coast oil spill, thanks to Larry King’s celebrity telethon.  Proceeds are distributed to the United Way, the National Wildlife Federation, or the Nature Conservatory according to donors’ discretion and are intended to provide immediate relief to victims of the spill.

(The Telegraph)  Fairsharemusic, a new UK-based music downloading site, features 8.5 million jams for sale but with a twist–purchases are made for a good cause.  “Welcome to the home of feelgood downloads,” the website promises, and indeed, every tune purchased contributes 50% of net profit to partner charities.  Customers choose the charities they wish to support, and suggestions for new charities are welcomed.


(The New York Times)  When it comes to consumer freedom, president of Berman and Company Richard B. Berman is not afraid to advocate.  His recent posters accusing the Humane Society of the United States of inappropriate money spending have been plastered on billboards and bus stops, catching significant attention.  But it seems his true issue with the Humane Society is their campaign toward better living conditions for livestock.  “The Humane Society wants to force us all to be vegetarians,” said Mr. Berman, quoted in the New York Times, “–or vegans.”  He also objected to Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine because they wanted ignition systems installed that prevent inebriated individuals from starting their vehicles.   “De facto Prohibition,” Mr. Berman called it.  For the last 20 years, Mr. Berman has founded several nonprofits, including Center for Consumer Freedom and others with similarly harmless names, but his tactics are questionable.  Many critics say that his nonprofits are a means for profit for his firm.  His industry donors include large restaurant chains that could lose money by supporting healthier living conditions for livestock, not to mention liquor stores that lose sales if MADD is successful.  Former lawyer for the IRS Jack Reilly said that arguably, the nonprofits were created for the commercial benefit of Mr. Berman’s firm.  Mr. Reilly cited a similar case involving EST in Hawaii, saying “You’re just operating your business under a charity guise, and therefore are getting paid with pretax money.”

(NPR)  A nonprofit gym in the Boston area is helping low-income communities get the exercise they need.  Because fear of crime and traffic prevents people from exercising outside, Healthworks provides a way to prevent obesity and promote healthy living.  The gym is for women only, and it has already drastically improved lives.  Tamica Toney, 36, said that before joining Healthworks, she “was obese.”  “I was 252 pounds,” she said.  “No health problems, thank God for that. No sugar, no diabetes, no high cholesterol. But that was not healthy because eventually those problems would have came on. Now I am a total of 170 even.”  Ms. Toney, who was never a runner before, now runs three miles a day.  Members pay no more than $30 per month, and membership fees are based on salaries.  People like 51-year-old Mary Shaw, who lost her job cleaning Amtrak trains, can afford a healthy lifestyle without worrying about crime-ridden streets; she pays only $10 a month.  Bill Walczak helped establish the gym by raising funds through his work as CEO of the Codman Square Health Center.  The gym is funded by five for-profit Healthworks gyms in the area .

(BBC)  Hubert Ballaman, a Swiss aid worker who was kidnapped in Chad 10 days ago, has now been released and is in good health, authorities say.  Prime Minister Emmanuel Nadingar said, “At the moment, the freed hostage and his abductors are in the hands of the forces of defence and security in the east of the country.”

(CNN)  Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are conducting what is said to be the biggest philanthropic project in history.  About a year ago, the two men, along with several other well known billionaires, organized a private dinner in New York to discuss philanthropy.  Now, the specifics from the meeting are becoming clear.  Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett propose that billionaires donate half of their net worth–either at death or in their lifetimes–to charity.  Though they are targeting billionaires in this cause, anybody is encouraged to donate.

(The Guardian)  According to the Red Cross, some 20,000 people hoping for asylum in the UK are living solely on charities and suffering from malnutrition and poverty.  The Red Cross calls the UK’s asylum system as “inhumane” and “shameful.”  The charity suggests that asylum seekers should be supported throughout the application process, and if that application is denied, they should be aided in leaving the country.  Joseph Nibizi, who is in charge of the Red Cross food distribution for asylum seekers in Birmingham, said, “You can remove people back to their home country, or you can keep them here. But you have to give people food. You cannot starve people out of the country.”  The government insists that it is making an effort toward progress in this issue; minister of immigration Damian Green said that asylum seekers who are denied will be assisted by the government as needed.

Letter and drawing taken from Olivia Bouler's AOL artist profile, http://www.aolartists.com/profiles/olivia-bouler/

(The New York Times)  It is no news that the Gulf oil spill is doing a number on wildlife, but 11-year-old Olivia Bouler of Islip, N.Y., has decided to take action.  A lover of birds, she wrote to the National Audubon Society and offered her drawing skills in an effort to protect wildlife suffering from the spill.  Every person who donates to the Audubon Society in hopes of alleviating oil spill damages will receive one of Ms. Bouler’s drawings.  She has helped raise over $70,000 for the cause, giving over 150 original drawings and counting.  AOL has also supported her, donating $25,000 in her name and setting up a website to showcase her work and mission.  Ms. Bouler hopes to attend Cornell and eventually become an ornithologist.

(The Wall Street Journal)  Ebay’s 11th annual charity auction offered lunch with Berkshire Hathaway Inc. CEO Warren Buffet, and the winning bid totaled $2.6 million.  The money will aid the Glide Foundation, a nonprofit focused on eradicating poverty and serving the needy in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.  Glide is also where Mr. Buffet’s late wife, Susan, volunteered, which is why he ultimately decided to volunteer his time for the cause.  Glide’s founder, Rev. Cecil Williams, is very appreciative of the donation, citing a decrease in donations and other struggles after the economic downturn.  “I’m very excited,” he said. “I think there is a groundswell talking [sic] place for people to be more concerned with nonprofit groups.”  Previous winners of the lunch with Mr. Buffet said the investment advice has proven useful.  This year’s winner wishes to remain anonymous.

(The Wall Street Journal)  Tough economic times are lately of consequence in the nonprofit world.  The Giving USA Foundation, an organization that has monitored philanthropy since 1956, noted that charitable giving is in its sharpest decline for the second year in a row, taking an overall plunge of 3.6%.  Religious organizations, education, arts, culture, and humanities–which usually enjoy strong philanthropic support–experienced significant neglect this year whereas human services and health increased by 2.3% and 3.8%, respectively.  Fortunately, an eventual increase in giving, akin to the increase after the Great Depression, is expected.

(The Florida Times-Union)  Nonprofits in the state of Florida could be strongly affected by a recent case being heard in the Georgia Supreme Court.  The Nuci Phillips Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit that benefits people suffering from mental disorders, is fighting the Athens-Clarke County Tax Assessors, who denied tax-exemption to the nonprofit because of money-raising tactics.  The Nuci Phillips Memorial Foundation owns a structure called “Nuci’s Space” especially designed for musicians and people with mental illness.  Because Nuci’s Space rents rooms to bands and serves as a venue for private weddings and birthdays in order to raise funds, the Athens-Clarke County Tax Assessors decided against tax-exemption for the charity.  A Clarke County court ruled in favor of the nonprofit, but the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the ruling, citing that the space is not ‘purely public’ as described by the law.  Justices will continue to debate over this decision in the coming months.



Photo taken from The New York Times; Mustafa Ozer/Agence France-Presse--Getty Images

(New York Times)  Though we recently wrote about the Americans who returned safely after the flotilla attack near Gaza, one American was unfortunately not so lucky.  A Troy, New York native with dual Turkish citizenship, 19-year-old Furkan Dogan was among the nine killed in the raid.  All of those dead suffered bullet wounds.  Mr. Dogan’s brother, Mustafa, remembers Mr. Dogan as “clean-hearted with a happy face.”  “We didn’t expect him to come back like this,” he said. “However, we were not sorry to hear that he fell like a martyr.”  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed sympathies to the family and reported that two other Americans have been wounded in the raid.  Thousands in Turkey are mourning.

(BBC)  Chris Highnam, a sailor, will travel for two weeks by boat from Plymouth to London in hopes of raising £20,000 for  Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion.  One soldier who was injured in Afghanistan, Mark Stonelake, will join Mr. Highnam’s team.  Mr. Stonelake expressed his gratitude:  “It means a lot… it’s just everyone doing their bit to try and raise as much as possible.”  Other injured soldiers will join Mr. Highnam as the journey progresses.  Mr. Highnam will begin his voyage on July 8.

(Press Release) Hockey is not the only thing on the minds of the Grand Rapids Michigan Griffins; it seems charitable giving is also a high priority.  The team will be giving some $330,000 to various charities and nonprofits in West Michigan this season, with the Griffins Youth Foundation receiving the highest amount.  The team also donated hundreds of tickets to unemployed families through their Give-Back Program and Michigan Works.  Over the past eight seasons, they have given over $2.5 million in charitable money for West Michigan.

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