Fundraising is a lot like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. We start by developing a full understanding the organization we’re raising money for. This centers primarily around identifying those areas donors can partner with the organization on by providing financial gifts. Then, as we visit with donors we identify their areas of passion. If there’s an overlap (and there often is) we connect the donor with the cause.
But what happens when the intent of the donor isn’t followed? The result can often lead to the courtroom – and the decision is often in the favor of a donor. So not only is there an ethical dilemma, there is very clearly a legal one as well. Here are two articles that speak to specific examples of this as well as a resource from the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) to help provide guidance:
In “Abusing Donor Intent,” Doug White, who teaches fundraising management at Columbia University, gives a detailed, though sometimes overwrought, account of a case that attracted national attention and highlighted the frustrations that donors feel when they see their money being used for purposes they never intended. After six years, the suit resulted in a settlement that left Princeton with much of the money but gave a share of it to a new foundation controlled by the Robertson family. The whole episode shows the potential dangers of philanthropic generosity, for donors and recipients alike.