Agift to your department can seem so straightforward, like the first time a donor told me, “I want to endow a scholarship for a student.” Easy enough, I thought. Then a development officer explained that in accepting this seemingly simple gift, we had to satisfy tax laws, foundation rules, departmental mission and priority, and “donor intent.”

That last criterion was the one that needed the most pains­taking definition. What did the donor mean by “student”? An undergraduate, a graduate student, or either? A student already in good standing in our major or a first-year recruit? Could the student be a double major or just minoring in our field? Would requirements include a certain GPA in high school or college? Was there a geographic condition on the gift—that the recipient come from a particular high school or the donor’s home state? Would the scholarship rest on objective academic merit, faculty recommendation, or “need”? How would each of those be defined? [Read more…]