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As reported by ESPN
and the Chronicle of Higher Education, University of Connecticut
donor, Robert G. Burton, has requested that the University return $3-million in
donations. According to the reports, Mr. Burton's request was motivated by
disagreements with the University's Athletic Director. Allegedly, Mr. Burton was
unhappy with the Athletic Director's style of management and, despite his request,
was not kept informed regarding the school's hiring of a new football coach.
A somewhat similar situation occurred in Tenn. Div. of the United Daughters of the
Confederacy v. Vanderbilt Univ., 174 S.W.3d 98 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2005) [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers / unenhanced version available from lexisONE Free Case Law],
in which the Tennessee Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy sued
Vanderbilt University after the University changed a dormitory's name because
of the stigma attached to "Confederate." The case sets out the
possible legal framework for Mr. Burton's revocation of the $3-million in donations.
As stated in the case:
Where a party makes a donation to a
charitable organization accompanied by conditions and a right to reclaim the
donation if the conditions are not met, the law treats the arrangement between
the parties as either a revocable charitable trust or a charitable gift subject
The courts must look to the
intent of the donating party to determine whether a particular transaction involves
the creation of a revocable charitable trust or simply the giving of a
charitable gift subject to conditions. A donating party will be deemed to have
created a trust only if the party has expressed with certainty its intent to
create a trust. Moreover, the expression of trust intent must be definite and
particular, i.e., the donating party must express a particular intent to confer
benefits through the medium of a trust rather than through some related or
similar device. The mere expression of a donative intent, or a statement of the
purpose for which a gift is given, does not constitute an expression of trust
intent. Absent a finding of an intent to create a trust, the transaction will
be analyzed as a gift subject to conditions.
. . . .
Donors often seek to impose
conditions on gifts to charitable organizations. In the case of inter vivos
transfers, the conditions are generally embodied in a gift agreement or a deed
of conveyance. In the case of transfers to take place on the death of the
donor, the conditions are generally contained in the terms of the donor's will.
A conditional gift is enforceable
according to the terms of the document or documents that created the gift. If
the recipient fails or ceases to comply with the conditions, the donor's remedy
is limited to recovery of the gift. Because noncompliance results in a
forfeiture of the gift, the conditions must be created by express terms or by
clear implication and are construed strictly.
Secondary legal of interest:
John K. Eason, Private
Motive and Perpetual Conditions in Charitable Naming Gifts: When Good Names Go
U.C. Davis L. Rev. 375 (2005)
Chris Abbinante, Protecting
"Donor Intent" in Charitable Foundations: Wayward Trusteeship and the
Barnes Foundation, 145
U. Pa. L. Rev. 665 (1997)
Winton C. Smith, Jr., Charitable
Giving Exit Strategies: The Enforcement of Restricted Gifts, in 40-8
Univ of Miami Law Center on Est Planning P 802