Recently, it was announced that a college had received a sizeable gift from a generous couple. The gift is to be used for the construction of a new library. This sounds like the institution has been building quality donor- investor relationships. When one reads further, however, the story gets REALLY interesting.
First we’re told that the size of the gift is confidential. OK, that’s not all that unusual. The donor couple is identified by name. Then we’re told that the gift is a bequest-expectancy—that is, the donor couple is still living. As a result, there is no timetable for the new building and no planning—including municipal approvals and environmental studies—anticipated in the near future.
The institution has pinned its plans on a new library on a gift that may—or may not—ever materialize, at least from this gift. Bequests can be revoked at any time. Upon the couples’ passing it’s an open question whether there will even be assets available to fund the bequest. Finally, as there is no date of construction or plans for the new facility, there is no cost estimate for what will really be needed.
This institution is currently in the midst of a capital campaign. Presumably, this gift was announced now to motivate others to be generous. One can only hope that the substantial future of the college isn’t being entrusted to other “gifts” that are of indeterminate date, indeterminate size and indeterminate certainty.
Larry C. Johnson