Press Releases | Philanthropy

American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) Releases Intelligent Donor’s Guide

Second edition advises philanthropist; future of higher education and donor intent at stake
May 4, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC—Giving to higher education is in the news. $100 million and $200 million gifts to UCLA. $200 million to USC. A majority of Bose stock to MIT. And so on: Nearly half of all philanthropic gifts over $5 million go to higher education.

That’s why the American Council of Trustees and Alumni has published a tool for donors and trustees, the 2nd edition of the Intelligent Donors’ Guide.

As the guide explains, universities don’t always steward the money as philanthropists intend. And donors should proceed cautiously. As a recent piece in Smart Money noted, there are lots of things colleges don’t say to donors. Colleges are likely to put money into a general operating fund, or even sit on it for years in the endowment: Another recent study and article showed how gifts are funneled into scholarships and buildings—while the traditional undergraduate curriculum is nearly ignored.

Stephen Friess recently wrote in Investors’ Business Daily about the “hard lesson” he and his family learned: “Wise giving to higher education requires as much care as any other purchase or investment. It’s essential that donors clarify their intentions and communicate clearly—before their gifts are made.” That’s why, he wrote, “Intelligent donors have a valuable ally in a group called the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. ACTA recently published a ‘how-to’ called ‘The Intelligent Donors Guide to College Giving,’ which is just that.”

With tax revenues low and endowments still suffering, both public and private colleges and universities will turn to donors to make up the lost revenue.

Never has savvy philanthropy to higher education been so important. The story of donor intent in higher education is hot and getting hotter.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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