Philanthropists, do you know where your money is?
I spent my professional life as a faculty member at the University of Virginia, and I watched what fundraising became at my school over 25 years. Today, I am a professor emeritus at UVA, and I still wonder if donors have any idea what they are giving their money to support. I have toyed with the idea of writing a book about the problem. I've even come up with a tentative title: Pimps, Whores, and Johns: Fundraising in Academia.
Today's Washington Post has an interesting article titled "Hopkins lawsuit highlights questions about schools' obligations to donors." Prospective donors should read it carefully because once they write their checks, the deed is done. When school administrators take control of your money, they spend it the way they want, and if you don't like it, you can take them to court. Few donors are willing to do that, but universities don't want that kind of publicity so they should consider legal action if schools misuse their gifts. Restricting your gifts is key, but even if you place restrictions on how your money is used, you should still watch it carefully -- very carefully.
I said that I'm thinking about writing a book about this issue and I am, but I have already written a novel in which I allude to it. The title is Stand! It's about the global warming hoax, but I decided to address the fundraising issue because it takes place in a university setting; I think it is important; and it's an interesting part of the story. Below is a brief excerpt from Stand! I hope it resonates with people who are considering making major gifts to universities:
"I never liked Kahn," Natalie said, "but I had no idea he was such a lowlife. When he became dean, you stopped going to the school parties. You never told me why, but I figured you had your reasons."
"I didn't want to be near him. He loves suck ups, and our school is loaded with them. Kahn was in his element when he was surrounded by sycophants. That's not my style. I couldn't avoid being near him at school, but I didn't have to go to those parties."
Natalie nodded her head. "Around the faculty, he's standoffish, but when he spots potential big donors, he locks in on them like a laser-guided missile. I always wondered if those rich people had any idea what a hypocrite he is."
"They may be rich, but the quality of thinking that got them to where they are isn't evident while they're being targeted for major gifts. Their egos must grow along with their net worth. Some of them are full of themselves."
Neil Snyder is a chaired professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. His blog, SnyderTalk.com, is posted daily.