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Can I get gift back from university?

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Can I get gift back from university?

Is it possible to ask for the return of money given to establish a scholarship fund? I am the only donor and endowed a fund 5 years ago with a gift in excess of $20,000 to honor a friend. I have never been invited to a scholarship banquet where the award is given and never gotten a thank you note from a recipient, even though one has been selected each year! I know I am not one of the "big fish" that my university is always after, but would appreciate a little stewardship for my gift and loyalty to my college.

You can always ask, but the likelihood is not great that you will ever get your money back.  The University would have its own fiduciary duty issue if it considered giving the money back, and you would have reportable income if you got it.

But the very fact that you ask might get the reaction that you want.  Assuming you have not acted in some way that brands you as a “nut case” (and even if you have), it might cause the Development Office to give you the respect that you deserve and include you in the events that you alone made possible.  If talking to the Development Office doesn’t work, consider a letter to the President of the University, or the Chair of the Board, or your class president, or the alumni magazine – or all of them.  If none of it works, just let them know you are leaving your estate to a different charity.

I hope the development officers in this audience can learn from this question and how a probably unintentional slight has undercut the relationship with a meaningful donor.  It could easily be avoided.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Don, maybe the alternative that would avoid the complications with a refund is for the donor to ask the university to transfer the funds to another NPO who is more inline withe the donor's intent. That will also send the message about stewardship to the new organization.

I have had a much more positive experience with an award my wife and I endowed at UC Santa Barbara, but many universities do take their donors for granted, and sometimes misapply their funds. I agree that making one's displeasure known can elicit more appreciative, or at any rate politer behavior.

This is simply good stewardship but I understand how things like this can happen in a busy Development office or an office that has not adopted a formalized stewardship plan. Maybe a more positive approach is for the donor to simply ask if he/she can attend the scholarship banquet and/or meet the recipient. The university should open the lines of communication but since it has not, the donor could choose to do so if they still believe in the mission and goals of the scholarship fund.

Or maybe it's as simple as the university simply not having the proper contact information. I just processed a donation, validated the donor's address (which they entered online), sent a thank you letter (about 2 weeks after the donation) and had it returned as valid address but undeliverable. I've now lost contact now that donor.

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