April 13, 2007

University Presidents Praise April 15

by PG

OK, so it's just a coincidence that the two educational institutions with which I'm most closely associated both received enormous gifts this week -- after all, you can't count a gift given after December 31 for your 2006 return.

On Thursday, the University of Virginia announced a $100 million gift to establish the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. "Batten's is the largest single gift in the history of the University and brings the total raised in the current $3 billion Campaign for the University of Virginia to $1.290 billion."

But that looks paltry in comparison to Columbia's Wednesday announcement that "92-year-old alumnus John W. Kluge has made a $400 million pledge to the University, all designated for financial aid to undergraduate and graduate students. The Kluge gift is the largest ever devoted exclusively to student aid and the fourth largest ever to any single institution of higher education in the United States, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education."

Not having been well-suited to federal income tax class, I'm not clear on how such large gifts get deducted; presumably you have to report how much you've actually given in a particular year, and cannot simply get the deductions based on the pledge. Given the rescission of large pledges at more unfortunate schools, this is a necessary policy. Take Florida International University:

A Miami entrepreneur has withdrawn a $20-million pledge to Florida International University's new College of Medicine, university officials have announced.
Herbert Wertheim, who is chairman and chief executive of a company that manufactures optical instruments and chemicals and who was also a trustee of the university until he resigned in November, said he had asked Modesto A. Maidique, president of Florida International, to allow him to defer the payments of his pledge. He wanted to make the payments over the next three years, instead of in an immediate lump-sum payment, to save up to $6 million in tax deductions.
University officials rejected the request. In a letter to Mr. Wertheim, Mr. Maidique said that the institution needed the $20-million payment now, so that it could qualify for a $20-million matching grant from the state. The money was to be used to construct a new building for the College of Medicine, as well as for scholarships and professorships. Mr. Wertheim then withdrew his pledge.

April 13, 2007 12:38 AM | TrackBack

And here I thought I was getting all that cash because of my birthday. I should have been suspicious of cards that read, "Happy Birthday to the Armen Foundation."

Posted by: Armen at April 13, 2007 04:53 AM

PG, I imagine some of these very large gifts are planned gifts. (The Florida gift being an exception, motivated by the state's matching program.) Most likely, the schools will receive some of the money now, but the bulk of it is probably disposed of in the donor's will. I believe that was the case with John Jackson's very large gifts to the University of Texas.

As I understand it, from my very limited exposure to fundraising in my prior career, the value in pledges is not so much having the hard cash in hand as it is being able to advertise that someone has made such a pledge. Money begets money, and these two gifts--or Batten's, at least--will make it easier for the universities to entice other donors to make pledges to these funds as well.

Posted by: k at April 13, 2007 08:48 AM
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