A friend of mine who owns a business recently told me he had contacted an educational organization about making a $50,000 gift. It was to be his first gift to the organization. Now, this was my friend making the contact, not the educational organization making a solicitation call on him. It was kind of out of the blue. Found money for the educational organizaton. My friend had a couple of conditions, neither of which he was told would present a problem:

  1. His gift was to go to support a specific current program of the educational organization chosen by the donor.
  2. His gift was not to result in any diminishment of funds to that program from other sources. In other words his gift was to be additional money in support of the program.

He wanted to make his gift in support of the specific program he chose, because he believed that program was particularly helpful in creating a pool of potential employees for his company.

The head of the educational organization came to visit my friend at his place of business to discuss the gift. You'd think the visit would be to say thanks and make arrangements to receive the money. You'd think the head of the educational organization would be there to stroke my friend and begin to nurture relationship for the additional gifts that could come in the future.

You'd be wrong. The head of the educational organization tried to talk my friend into making the gift as part of a current funding drive to support an entirely different project. A project my friend made it clear he did not agree with.

This project was near and dear to the head of the educational organization's heart. It was to be his signature project, and the funding drive hadn't been progressing as rapidly as he wished. My friend couldn't have cared less about how the fund drive was going. Remember, he was not a supporter of this program and had made that clear. The head of the educational organization persisted in trying to convince my friend to make the gift in support of his pet project. I don't know if he was convinced of his great ability to persuade, or blinded by desire to see his special project come to fruition. But I do know the result of his persistence.

My friend decided he would take his money elsewhere. And by the way, you can imagine his comments on the stupidity of the educational organization and its head as he told me this story. My friend has the ability to make even larger gifts, and his company is growing strongly. Who knows what he will be capable of five or ten years from now. His first gift to the educational organization was to be $50,000. First gifts from a donor are rarely the largest gifts that donor ever makes to the organization. The head of the educational organization, because he wanted to achieve an ambition near and dear to him, lost $50,000 on the spot, and I wonder how much more for the future.

There is a three part lesson to be learned from this story. One we should never forget:

  1. A donor's money is his/hers.
  2. Donors have the right to give in support of that in which they most strongly believe.
  3. A donor's desires should be respected, as long as they provide valid support for the work of that organization and don't conflict with the policies and practices of the organization.

One word of advice to the head of that educational organization should he ever read this and recognize himself–hubris.