2 min read
Giving to higher education is in the news. $100 million and $200 million gifts to UCLA. $200 million to USC. A majority of Bose stock to MIT. And so on: Nearly half of all philanthropic gifts over $5 million go to higher education.

That’s why the American Council of Trustees and Alumni has published a tool for donors and trustees, the 2nd edition of the Intelligent Donor's Guide. Over the next few days, we’ll excerpt passages of the Guide for Philanthropy Daily readers.

As the Intelligent Donor's Guide explains, universities don’t always steward the money as philanthropists intend. And donors should proceed cautiously.  As a recent piece in Smart Money noted, there are lots of things colleges don’t say to donors.  Colleges are likely to put money into a general operating fund, or even sit on it for years in the endowment: Another recent study and article showed how gifts are funneled into scholarships and buildings—while the traditional undergraduate curriculum is nearly ignored.

Stephen Friess recently wrote in Investors’ Business Daily about the “hard lesson” he and his family learned: Wise giving to higher education requires as much care as any other purchase or investment. It's essential that donors clarify their intentions and communicate clearly — before their gifts are made.” That’s why, he wrote, “Intelligent donors have a valuable ally in a group called the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. ACTA recently published a ‘how-to’ called ‘The Intelligent Donor's Guide to College Giving,’ which is just that.”

Here’s our first excerpt. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section!

The Prime Directive: It's Your Money

Principle number one—what Captain Kirk would have called the Prime Directive—is that your money is your money. You have a right to do with it what you want. Do not let your college or university convince you that it’s their money. Do not let them tell you what to do with it. It’s your money. You get to decide.

When you give to a college or university, you do not expect a material return. You are investing in values. You want to see a return on your investment, how- ever, and you have a right to expect that. If you were to invest in a commercial project, you would expect to see it completed—fully, on schedule, and to the level of quality promised. As an intelligent donor, you should expect no less of your investment in higher education. Informed consumers lead to better products. As the late Yale provost Frank Turner explained, “Donor restrictions can call institutions of higher education to fulfill their highest ideals.” Today, colleges and universities face serious challenges with regard to academic quality, intellectual openness, and fiscal responsibility. Careful giving has never been more needed.