To Take Or Not to Take … (A Scandalous Donation)

DonationsAmerica’s historically black colleges and universities are facing a hard choice: continue struggling for much needed funds or accept a donation from David and Charles Koch.

From one perspective, this is a win-win scenario. The colleges get funding in the face of decreases in government funding and aid and the Koch brothers will perhaps attract more black voters. But some insist that the Kochs are pursuing a racist political agenda that stands in the face of everything historically black colleges and universities stand for. A spokesperson for the Kochs counters that the Kochs “have devoted their lives to advancing tolerance and a free society – where every individual is judged on his or her individual merits and they are free to make decisions about their lives.”

Regardless, a $25 million gift to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) was too good to pass up. Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation for State, County and Municipal Employees Union has criticized UNCF for accepting the gift and for speaking at a Koch conference. But other black colleges have also accepted gifts from the Kochs. President of Dillard University, Walter Kimbrough, reasons “I can take their money and use it for good.” Dillard has already accepted about $50,000 from the Kochs.

Eric Walters, past president of the faculty senate at Howard University, proposed that the UNCF and historically black colleges and universities use some of the funds received from the Kochs to research the influence of money on politics and to generate dialogue about the impact of the Koch agenda on black Americans. But in some cases money received may be restricted for specific programs or activities.

It was only a few months ago that many charities in Los Angeles faced a similar dilemma about accepting money from Donald Sterling. Since then, has your organization done anything to put a gift acceptance policy in place to deal with these types of situations? Better to think it through now than when faced with a $25 million grant.

NOTE: The information contained herein is not intended to be legal advice and the reader should know that no Attorney-Client relationship or privilege is formed by the posting or reading of this article which is also not intended to solicit business.

Casey Summar, Partner, The Law Firm for Non-Profits, 4705 Laurel Canyon Blvd, #306, Studio City, CA 91607

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