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Guidelines on giving: foundations are pressed to reveal donor names.

Should the names of those who give to universities' foundations be made public to all? Or should their names and gift amounts be kept secret in the spirit of discretion? The answers aren't easy. Sometimes there is fear that those making donations to a foundation have undue influence on a university. There is only one way to find out if they do, and that is to know who they are and what they give.

On the other hand, some donors truly want anonymity. Some foundation directors fear that full disclosure will discourage generosity.

A number of IHEs have grappled with these questions in recent months. Iowa State University Foundation has written a new policy, effective May 1, that calls for disclosure of all donors' names, a range of their dollar gifts, and specifics on whether the gift is designated for certain expenses. The information will be kept confidential only if a donor makes a pointed request that it be so.

The impetus for the policy change was a 2002 Lawsuit filed by two people who wanted the foundation to provide more details about the gift of a 240-acre farm. ISU's foundation sold the land and used the proceeds. The plaintiffs claimed the donor's initial wishes were that the Land be maintained in her late husband's name. This particular Legal issue will be settled in court at a Later date.

The University of Louisville Foundation recently went through a similar situation involving disclosure of its corporate donors List. In this case, court rulings called for the foundation to release its records. The Kentucky State Supreme Court said that foundation records should be disclosed because such institutions perform a government function. The Colorado University Foundation agreed to allow the state auditor to examine its records after it was questioned about its spending. A Legal bill requiring disclosure has since been introduced by a state representative, but no new Legislation was passed by press time.

Meanwhile, several higher education associations are trying to make sense of these controversies. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education ( and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges ( produced a "memorandum of understanding" that gives guidelines on foundations, universities and the type of relationship that should exist between them. While this is not meant to be a document that will cover every contingency, it does delve deeply into proper legal wording on fund raising and management. A free download can be obtained through the CASE website.
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Title Annotation:UPDATE
Publication:University Business
Date:May 1, 2005
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