Giving to a Large Organization: Are You Talking to the Right Person?

Are you considering a significant gift to a large institution such as a University or Hospital? If so, one of the first and most important steps is to discuss your interests and desired outcomes with the right person within the targeted organization. Your donor intent and possibly your legacy depend on it!

Most donors have a high level of trust when giving to Universities and Health Care Organizations. This trust isn’t completely misguided as many large institutions now have policies and procedures in place for accepting and stewarding philanthropic dollars. However, my experience has shown that failure to communicate charitable goals and desired outcomes with the appropriate organizational leader can increase the risk of misuse or even nonuse of your gifted assets.

Within the organizational structure of any large, non-profit institution, there are multiple leaders with varying degrees of authority and competing priorities. Identifying the leader who can sign off on and take responsibility for delivering on your donor intent can be extremely challenging.

While starting with a member of the development or foundation staff is appropriate for the initial discussion, when you are getting serious about your gift, you need to move up the ladder and involve a senior leader in the institution. A knowledgeable development professional should be able to help you identify the appropriate Executive, Dean, Department Head or Chair with which to discuss the details of your gift.

Once you are confident that the leader with which you’ve discussed your gift understands donor intent, has the authority to deliver desired results and will take responsibility for doing so, it is imperative to engage with your advisors to draft a gift agreement that provides protections and restrictions regarding the use of your gift. Keep an eye out for my next post, which will address important elements of a gift agreement.