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7 Nonprofit Grops to Watch in 2015

American Red Cross

Hammered in joint ProPublica and NPR reports about its relief efforts in recent hurricanes and questionable public relations, and now drawingscrutiny from Capitol Hill, the Red Cross has a huge job ahead to restore its reputation, says Clarke Caywood, who teaches crisis communications at Northwestern University and is a former board member for the nonprofit Aidmatrix Foundation, which provides logistics support to hunger-relief groups. A critical step, he says: Hire an independent accounting firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of salaries, how many employees the group has assigned to each duty, and technological strengths and weaknesses.

Barack Obama Foundation

Sometime soon the charity raising money for Barack Obama’s presidential library will recommend a choice of location from among four finalists: the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University, and the University of Hawaii. Expect a fundraising spree afterward: The foundation will raise money not just for the library and presidential museum but also for whatever Mr. Obama does when he leaves the White House.

Pan-Mass Challenge

The nation’s biggest bike-athon raised a record $41-million for Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in 2014. But with the average age of its riders at 45, the event is looking to its future, reaching out to the under-30 crowd through year-round social events. "It’s another way to deepen their commitment," says Billy Starr, the event’s founder.

Minnesota Orchestra

The beleaguered organization—torn by a contract standoff with musicians that led to a 16-month lockout—will this spring conclude its first full season since 2011-12. Things look bright: Kevin Smith, the retired veteran chief of the Minnesota Opera brought in as the orchestra’s interim CEO this summer, is now signed through the 2017-18 season, and four philanthropists made gifts totaling $13.2 million in a show of renewed faith.


This small, five-year-old group is giving business whiz kids (some from top-drawer companies like J.P. Morgan and Deloitte) yearlong, paid fellowships with nonprofits that let them put their marketing, operations, and finance skills to work right away. Of 2013’s graduating class of fellows, more than 95 percent are working in social services.

Walton Family Foundation

In a rare interview, Carrie Walton Penner, granddaughter of the Walmart founder Sam Walton, told Forbes that the Walton family last fall developed a five-year philanthropy plan with a heavy emphasis on education. The foundation, which backs vouchers and other forms of school choice, has already put up $350-million to start more than 1,600 charter schools.

The ALS Association

The charity dedicated to the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) is expected to announce more grants early this year from its $115-million ice-bucket-challenge windfall. It has already doled out more than $20-million. How it spends the money and talks to donors about its work will be closely watched, especially by first-time donors.

—Drew Lindsay

Rwandan Children
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