Give it Back, Jack: Asking for a donation to be returned

February 15, 2012

Posted in Fundraising.

The short version: The Ray Charles Foundation isn’t happy. They donated $3 million back in 2001 and 2002 to build a performing arts center at Albany State University, and it hasn’t been built (the total project will cost $23 million). The university claims the gift was never restricted, and they spent $2 million of it on scholarships. It was the largest donation the school had ever received.

And now the foundation wants the money back. This is bad news for Albany State’s development efforts.

This raises a lot of questions, naturally.

How did they get to this point? How have they managed their donors’ expectations throughout the process? Was there appropriate documentation? Did the school agree to do a project it couldn’t successfully finish? Did the donor fail to express their wishes clearly? Did the school forget about the history and restrictions (through turnover or attrition in staff)?

If this is the biggest donation in their history, how in the world did this go so wrong?

What could have been done to ensure that this didn’t fall apart?

Want to comment? Send me a note on Twitter or email me.