Nonprofit Newswire | October 29, 2009

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Hechinger announces new nonprofit to cover education
Oct 27, 2009; Nieman Journalism Lab | There is a new member in the ever-expanding ranks of foundation-supported nonprofits aimed at filling the niches newspapers are all to quickly leaving behind. The Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media—which is attached to Columbia’s Teachers College — announced this week the new The Hechinger Report. The Report will focus on in-depth reporting on education issues. Initial funding of $1 million comes from the Lumina Foundation for Education and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It’s good to see journalists funded for covering important issues like education. It’s also interesting to see how the growing number of nonprofit news organizations affects existing nonprofits, all vying for a piece of the same pie.—Aaron Lester

Saving ShoreBank
Oct 28, 2009;
Crain’s Chicago Business | We couldn’t have been more surprised to stumble across the news that ShoreBank was in financial trouble, but why should ShoreBank have been able to steer clear of the nation’s banking crisis? ShoreBank is the nation’s flagship for-profit community development lender, founded by Ron Grzywinski and Mary Houghton, among others, nearly four decades ago. Most of us in community development knew ShoreBank for its creative lending to nonprofit and for-profit housing developers and rehabbers, but in the 1990s, as savings and loans tanked across the nation, ShoreBank stood out as a great local lender, recognized by foundations and government (particularly President Clinton). The Chicago-based ShoreBank established affiliates or spin-offs in Detroit, Cleveland, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the coastal Oregon/Washington area, the Mid-South Delta, and even went international. But according to Crain’s Chicago, ShoreBank was hit just like other for-profit banks with delinquencies and foreclosures, with a sizable proportion of the bank’s loans running 90 days or more delinquent. According to Crain’s, “bank regulators” slapped ShoreBank with a “cease and desist” order, apparently telling it to stop lending until it raised some $40-50 million. Gryzwinski and Houghton are apparently going to foundations to help them recapitalize and survive. That could be a hard sell at a time when many foundations are cutting back their grantmaking due to market-depleted endowments. One suspects that a number of forces are hitting ShoreBank at a time when it needs money. For example, ShoreBank is foreclosing on the Harold Washington Cultural Center, giving the Center’s operators until October 28th to come up with $1.3 or $1.4 million (depending on the press account). This center was promoted by former Chicago Alderwoman Dorothy Tillman, whose daughter apparently is the executive director (the mother-daughter combo a solid warning sign that perhaps ShoreBank should have steered clear of this deal). The ex-Alderwoman has charged that the Center only owed something less than $50,000 in back payments when ShoreBank doubled the interest rate on the loan and announced its intention to foreclose. It’s entirely possible that the need to find $40 million has made ShoreBank a little less patient with loan recipients like the Cultural Center. We suspect that ShoreBank, given its history, is being much more supportive of the homeowners and nonprofit housing developers that have borrowed money over the years. In the field of community development lending, ShoreBank has carved a path for many other for-profit and nonprofit lenders to follow. We can only hope that those beneficiaries of the insights of Gryzwinski and Houghton will step up to be advocates within philanthropy for the needed capital infusion to help ShoreBank weather this financial crisis.—Rick Cohen

Issa: ‘Let’s Not Pretend ACORN Is Gone’
Oct 26, 2009;
TPM | ACORN’s most vehement attacker seems to be Darrell Issa (R-CA) abetted perhaps by his Republican colleague from Minnesota, Michele Bachman. This brief article on Issa’s comments are worth quoting at length: “‘Let’s not pretend ACORN is gone,’ Issa, the ranking member on the House Government Oversight Committee said at a press conference in D.C. this afternoon. ‘With over 300 organizations inside their umbrella, they’re going to change their names’ and re-apply for government money.’ We have to find out if they’ve changed their name and their M.O.,’ he continued. Issa said that ACORN’s ‘infiltration’ into government housing and other programs was do (sic) to a ‘failure’ of ‘transparency.’ Issa said that if groups like the YMCA were allowed to compete for the contracts ACORN obtained, it was ‘likely’ ACORN ‘would have gotten less’ government money.The press conference was hosted by Judicial Watch, the self-described ‘conservative non-partisan watchdog.’” Nothing prevented the Y from competition, Mr. Issa is completely wrong. This is more off-the-wall paranoia about ACORN, but used as a stalking horse to debilitate or kill other government programs.—Rick Cohen


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