In case you missed it, anyone interested in philanthropy will find Christopher Caldwell’s March 12 The Wall Street Journal essay, Donor Beware, a lucid summary of two important issues. First, he reviews the problems associated with major gifts that name a building or an institution. (The Avery Fisher Hall incident has been documented in this blog.) Caldwell’s point is that the political climate of the future may well reject a naming that today seems harmless. He cites as an example the current rejection of Cecile Rhodes by South African activists that includes the demand that a statue of Rhodes at Oxford University be removed.
In our work, we remind our clients that perpetuity turns out to be a long time and that a naming opportunity with a perpetual lifespan often turns out poorly. Most donors can achieve their goals with a 50-year naming gift.
Caldwell also dips his toe into a much more controversial pool: the taxpayer subsidy of major gifts that often benefit the elite.
This is quite a thoughtful essay and I was more than a little surprised to find it in the WSJ, especially given its length and prominent placement.
If you’re interested, call me and I’ll send you a copy, or click on this link to the essay.