Ideas to Impact Blog

Ensuring Your Donor Intent is Honored: Approaches for Giving to Universities

Giving to your alma mater and ensuring your gift will not support ideas and initiatives antithetical to your principles is not easy. In larger institutions, internal dynamics can influence how, where, and when gifts to a college’s general fund are directed. Your support might be directed to a fellowship, speaker or program that is at the least not what you intended. Or worse: contrary to your values.

One strategic starting approach to this issue is using a customized gift agreement in place of a university’s standard form. A gift agreement documents the specific purpose of your gift. It can also contain specific restrictions necessary to prevent its use for purposes to which you do not agree.

It is essential to include an enforcement mechanism within the gift agreement. This language puts the law on the side of donors and their heirs in acting to ensure the terms of the agreement are followed. Another approach is to include language stating that if the university does not abide by the agreement, it will make the funds available to another organization, such as a donor-advised fund. Additionally, giving on an annual basis as opposed to endowments can help hold gift recipients accountable to your intent.

Expert Resources and Tools

The Fund for Academic Renewal is a program of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) dedicated to helping alumni and college donors protect their donor intent. The Fund offers individualized guidance in crafting gift agreements at no cost to donors. It also offers a wealth of resources and tools, including The Intelligent Donor’s Guide, at

Putting a gift agreement in place should be a necessary safeguard for support to your alma mater or any institution of higher learning.

The mission of The Fund For Academic Renewal is to help college donors make transformative gifts that help institutions live up to their highest ideals.

Ensuring Your Donor Intent is Honored