Gifts with Strings and Friends in Low Places

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Garth Brooks sings about his less-than-reputable buddies in his popular country song, “Friends in Low Places.” It is hard to determine whose reputation appeared more sullied in Mr. Brooks’ recent headlining activities – himself or the nonprofit hospital which he sued for apparently not following his wishes.

Recently, a jury in Oklahoma ordered the Integris Canadian Valley Hospital, to which Garth Brooks had made a $500,000 donation, to refund his contribution plus punitive damages because the medical center apparently did not comply with Mr. Brooks’ wishes to place his mother’s name on a new women’s center.

The medical center insisted that there were no conditions on the donation and that it was initially offered as an anonymous gift.

Ouch. Garth Brooks looks bad.  The medical center looks bad. How could this situation have been avoided?

The Standards for Excellence clearly states that “Nonprofits must honor the known intentions of a donor regarding the use of donated funds.”  In a situation like this, it would have been more than prudent for the recipient of the half million dollar gift to have a paper trail describing restrictions (if any) placed on the gift.  That way, any misunderstandings about restrictions or lack thereof could have been cleared up at the front end instead of in a court of law and on the front pages of the newspaper, tabloids, and television news programs.

For more information on donor relations, you may be interested in checking out the Standards for Excellence educational resource packet, Fundraising Practices, available free of charge to members of the Standards for Excellence Institute.

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