Nonprofit Newswire | November 19, 2009

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The Nonprofit QuarterlyNonprofit Sues U.S. Bank For Lost Investments
Nov 16, 2009; Avvo | At first glance, this article reports a very interesting development. On face value, it is a story about a “nonprofit financial services organization” suing a bank for revenues it lost due to, allegedly that is, a commercial bank’s investments. “Woodmen of the World” filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Omaha against U.S. Bank for “breach of contract, gross negligence, breach of fiduciary duly, fraudulent misrepresentation, and fraudulent concealment” for the loss of $29.7 million in investments. It’s litigation that probably every reader here might want to file against the investment firms handling 401(k)s and other vanishing investments. Of course, Woodmen isn’t your typical nonprofit. According to the article, the lost $29.7 million represented 0.5 percent of Woodmen’s $8 billion in assets. Woodmen’s provides insurance coverage for 8000,000 fraternal members. Woodmen lodges are known for a variety of youth and community services, most notably for donating flagpoles and U.S. flags to schools, fire departments, and parks. As a “fraternal beneficiary society”, Woodmen’s is a 501(c)(8) organization, a tax exempt but not a 501(c)(3) public charity. Nonetheless, it will be important for typical nonprofits to watch the progress of this case. The nonprofit sector may have much to learn from this case even if their assets are only a microspeck compared to the assets of the Woodmen’s lodge’s insurance fund.—Rick Cohen

The Nonprofit QuarterlyWhite House goes open source
Nov 16, 2009; | Doubtless your nonprofit has given thought to its Web presence, and muddled its way through the dense language and new concepts. Since President Obama took office, the White House has been doing the same, and they’ve ditched the old, proprietary system for a new one called Drupal. Now, that’s big news to techies, because Drupal is open source—anybody with the know-how can tinker with its code, add, subtract, and change pieces of it at will. That’s how the software evolves, through a process of (sometimes anonymous) collaboration. The White House is set to join that community of developers, and plans to create new additions to the Drupal project, as they describe in the video below:

Now, in light of the recent fiasco with, and amid the sea of excitement about the shift, it’s prudent to ask how they arrived at Drupal, and whether it’s the right choice. originally ran Drupal, but the administration changed horses mid-roundup, and hired the contractor at the center of the $18 million controversy. Why is Drupal not good enough for, but well-suited for Not everybody’s convinced it is, and here is where nonprofits can glean lessons from the administration’s decision-making. Drupal is one of several popular open source systems used to run Web sites.  One alternative, Joomla!, runs This article details, in plain language, the reasons why Drupal mightn’t have been the wisest decision for I will add to those reasons a point that’s not relevant to the White House, but is to our constrained budgets: Drupal gets expensive. The basic software is cost-free, but developers who work to extend Drupal’s capacities (through plugins and other software) charge for it. That line-item you looked to save on will end up costing more than you thought. Don’t get me wrong. I think Drupal is going to do just fine by, and it’s hard to downplay what a boon this is for the open source community.—James David Morgan

The Nonprofit QuarterlyDetroit nonprofit CEO fired
Nov 17, 2009; Free Press | It cannot be more distressing to read stories of a nonprofit executive handling weatherization and home heating resources in Detroit displaced for what seems to be financial misdeeds. Read here, here, and here. The nature of the “scandal” is not clear from these articles, but the sensitivity of the concern is all too obvious. Detroiters need assistance and need the nonprofit sector to deliver on what it has been given resources to do. Those who undermine nonprofit activities in recession-devastated places should be disgorged fast, and at the same time, those groups that are doing yeoman work on these issues should be supported and bolstered as viable alternatives.—Rick Cohen



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