Sports, donors, and give me my money back…

Fundraising and donor relations can be complex – to put it mildly.  Legally, outside of any advisory role contained in a written gift agreement, donors are not supposed to have any say (unless they hold board positions) over operations and activities of nonprofits.

But, once the funds are contributed, with or without a written agreement, there is no way around the fact that fundraisers must keep donors happy. That is their livelihood – keeping donors happy and continued giving.  It is tightrope that few will speak out in public because the lines of control are blurred more often than anyone wants to admit.

Throw in big-time college sports (where team fortunes rise and fall faster than anyone expects), and big-time donors who care greatly about the success or failure of a sports team, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Here is a scary angry donor story that leaves tons of open questions:

Can a donor get his money back?

Even if there was a gift agreement that required the donor’s consultation on running the football team (not that you can actually do that), and it was violated, who says the donated money can EVER be returned to a donor.  Maybe transferred to another charity.

What about this donor’s tax deductions? (assuming he took them)

Maybe the IRS should investigate whether these were really charitable gifts in the first place?  The IRS plays by its own rules and reserves the right to deem something wrong if it smell bad (it’s the truth – I can’t find the site but there is an IRS rule reserving the right to retroactively declare something illegal or improper despite it being legal when done – beware of nouveau tax schemes that aren’t blessed yet by the IRS).

And, my guess is that you won’t find a better IRS RED FLAG than making national news by showing how much power you expected to yield based on your prior giving.

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