Donor Intent and the Value of Gift Agreements

When you make a charitable gift to support a worthy organization’s work –
whether it be to support your alma mater, your church, or an organization in your community that you want to help in a special way or for a special purpose – it’s important that a match exists between your understanding about the gift, as the donor, and the organization’s understanding, as the beneficiary of your generosity. 

Above all, you want to be certain that there is no doubt about how the gifted funds are to be used by the organization.

Hmmm, sounds simple, huh?  Downight basic, right?  Well, sometimes it is.  Sometimes, this clear mutual understanding of the donor’s intent is accomplished quite easily and with minimal discussion or paperwork. But, often it’s a good idea to talk things over and write things down so that everyone involved is sure of your intent as the donor – and, equally sure that the charitable organization can carry out these intentions.

This is especially true when the amout involved is substantial. Ah, and what is ‘substantial’?

Well, like beauty and works of art, the defining point for ‘substantial’ may best be measured by the eye of the beholders. Whether a gift is for $1,000, $10,000, $100,000 or a million dollars, the degree of detail that goes into the discussion likely depends as much on the donor’s views as on the charitable organization’s size and scope.

One way or another, if you’re making a gift to your alma mater or other charitable cause and you want to know that the gift will be used as you intend, the best way to be sure is to talk about it before you make your gift – and, then look for this plan to be placed in a writing.

This is the role and value of Gift Agreements.  Such a document is the ideal place to describe in clear and complete terms the donor’s intentions and confirm the organization’s commitment to fulfill the donor’s expectations. A Gift Agreement can be as simple or complex as a particular gift plan merits. The key is that it provides you, the donor, with the assurance that your alma mater (or other charitable cause) will use your gift in the manner you expect it to be used.

This is especially important when you intend for your gift to last in perpetuity – that is, for generations to come – as part of an endowment.  A Gift Agreement provides you and your family a confidence that your gift will be making a difference for years to come.

Have a question, want more information – your inquiries are invited.



About ted sudol

Ted Sudol brings a cross-disciplinary perspective to his work in philanthropy & fundraising. Currently Managing Director at CARTER, a professional firm dedicated to advancing philanthropy worldwide, he has nearly four decades as a fundraiser, lawyer, executive, communicator and consultant in the voluntary, public and private sectors. From local to global, his work with educational, healthcare, arts & cultural, and community organizations ranges from designing new ventures, campaign readiness plans, and complex gift strategies for high net worth families to rebuilding and repositioning projects. His specialty is bringing together diverse parties in innovative collaborations. He devises simple approaches for complex matters to achieve successful outcomes. A graduate of Georgetown and Temple Law School, he currently serves on the board for AFP Shenandoah Valley Chapter, the AFP International Education Advisory Council, and the Virginia FundRaising Institute's Planning Committee. He has been a long-time board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County, Virginia.
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