Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Updates on the Smithsonian, non-profit hospitals, web-based philanthropy

Some updates today on non-profit sector stuff that you've read about here....

The Smithsonian Institution's unpopular deal with Showtime was back in the news thanks to, of all people, Oliver North. After North published a fiery op-ed column about his particular complaint, it got resolved. Whether or not the museum's foot-dragging on what seemed to be a perfectly innocuous filming request was due to the Showtime contract isn't clear. At a minimum it reminded people of the smelly commercial arrangement, presumably including people in Congress which must authorize a large fraction of the Smithsonian annual budget.

Illinois is ground zero in the debate about how much free medical care for the indigent a non-profit hospital should have to provide, thanks to the state's ambitious young Attorney General Lisa Madigan. In 2006 Madigan proposed a state law to drastically increase that obligation, but then withdrew it while negotiating with the Illinois Hospital Association. Those negotiations have now apparently broken down (as also reported in Crain's Chicago Business but their text is not available online). That would seem to be rather bad news for the hospitals, since Madigan's father happens to be the longtime top dog of the Illinois House!

Some additional items recently crossed my field of view regarding the rapidly-growing field of web-based donor services. A Slate columnist, it turns out, was an early board member of DonorsChoose and wrote about it this week -- he thinks it represents "the future of American philanthropy." And two business-school professors analyzed some data from eBay's "Giving Works", they conclude that American consumers are typically willing to add about 5% to their purchase of something like an iPod as a "charity premium."

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