ERIC Number: ED497200
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2005
When a Gift Is More Trouble Than It's Worth
Clark, Charles S.
Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, Trusteeship v13 n6 Nov-Dec 2005
In John Steinbeck's classic novel "The Pearl," a poor Mexican fisherman finds a valuable pearl in an oyster. But instead of leading to riches, the "treasure" brings him only envy among his neighbors and violence against his family. He can't even convert the pearl to cash. Comparable drama is familiar fare for today's fund-raising professionals and board members of colleges, universities, and related foundations. The literature they read on development is rich with ironic headlines such as "Gift Horse or Trojan Horse?" (from the summer 2004 "Nonprofit Quarterly") and the advantages of "Looking the Gift Horse in the Mouth," a pamphlet by the National Association of College and University Attorneys. Gifts that wind up more trouble than they're worth come in many varieties. The oft-heard phrase "gifts that eat" refers to such demanding donations as a live herd of cattle or a plot of coastal land slated in perpetuity as a bird sanctuary. Some gifts come with strings attached, the most famous (and disputatious) being the $20 million given to Yale University in 1991 by Texas oil heir Lee Bass, who wished for Yale to expand its offerings in classic studies of Western Civilization. (After four years of faculty disputes centering on Bass's expectation that he would pick the professors to be supported, the eye-popping sum was returned.) There are long-established gift programs that, in the modern parlance, are now "politically incorrect"--scholarships for white males only, for example, or financial aid for undergraduate women conditioned on their remaining virgins. Finally, some gifts start out as promising but become "tainted" when their donor is indicted or when the institution later learns that the money was given merely for tax benefits rather than charity.
Descriptors: Fund Raising, Educational Finance, Colleges, Private Financial Support, Donors, Scholarships, Student Financial Aid
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Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, Washington, DC.