The wealthy can expect a lot of gratitude when they get their names enshrined by making large donations, but they shouldn’t expect the gifts to buy them influence, according to philanthropy experts.
“The most important thing is the money is a gift,” said Barbara Ciconte, who has written a guide to charitable naming for the Association of Fundraising Professionals. “These people are not buying something. It is hard sometimes for them to realize that. Most donors are used to being in control.” Ciconte and other experts say
Institutions often refuse to accept naming gifts when the donor acts as if the money will entitle him to have a say in what goes on in a building or a program, according to Ciconte and other experts.
Ciconte recalled one academic center that turned down a major gift because the would-be donor thought he was going to be a co-dean, wanted an office in the building the same size as the dean’s and wanted his name on the letterhead.
“He thought he was buying the school,” Ciconte said.
Another thing donors have to accept, she said, is that their names are not going to live in stone forever. If, say, a hospital were to move to a new building in 20 years, it is unlikely the new surgery unit will carry the same name as the old one.
“Nonprofits always need new money,” she said.
When negotiating for the placing of a name on a building or a program, Ciconte said it is important for the donor and the institution to agree in writing on the size and placement of the name and how the name will be used on the institution’s Web site and in marketing materials.
If a donor isn’t satisfied with the way the names of themselves, their parents or other loved ones will appear, the individual may achieve more recognition by having photos and/or a story about themselves placed on the inside of structure, she added.
The document should stipulate when the institution and the donor have the right to remove a name, said Ciconte, noting morals clauses have become increasingly common among nonprofits as a way to protect their image.