A Double Standard For Donations

Larry Price
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Wednesday - February 08, 2006
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The double standard in reporting money received by special donors is interesting.

Not too many years ago, the University of Hawaii was using every rationalization it could generate to explain why the university shouldn’t be required to reveal the names of public individuals who donated large sums of money specifically to fund the salary demands of high-profile athletic coaches.

Of course, there is good reason those donors don’t want their names released. Once the word gets out that you gave a large sum to one effort, others will make a similar request.

In the competitive world of fund-raising, anything that will help an organization raise money is considered acceptable. Like one great collegiate fund-raiser told me, “It all starts with asking them for monetary assistance.” The worst that can happen is they say no. The suggested remedy for a negative answer is simple: Ask again.

One of the biggest questions is whom to ask for the donation. The easiest way to come up with a database of potential donors is to collect programs of successful fund-raising efforts. The Heart Association and American Cancer Society are expert fund-raisers.

The University of Hawaii Foundation is another fund-raising organization to model your organization after. Of course, the UH Foundation has a database of community leaders, graduates and faculty members. It is interesting to note that faculty members are generally not inclined to donate substantial amounts of money. But it may happen if the school names a building after the professor.

In many cases, a college or university will have a shopping list of students, staff and administrators who have a desire to have part of the school named after them. Stanford and the University of Southern California have a price list of what it would cost to name a building in someone’s honor. This is given to all the students as a means to inspire them.

And while a lot of this is kept secret from the general public, it does demand to know how much money the governor raised to underwrite trade missions in the last two years. The amount given and donors who gave are specifically listed: $120,000 given by DFS Hawaii, Ko Olina Resort and Marina, and NCL America.

It was one of the few instant approvals from both Democratic and Republican legislators. I would imagine that people from the private sector who enter the world of government must find it difficult to tell everyone where their money is coming from. The disclosure is much appreciated by the public, but must be strange for those in the private sector.

Maybe we are entering a new period in government where the financial disclosures are filed without a request for the information based on the Freedom of Information Act. The double standard is almost comical when you think about it. If you are in the private sector and lied to a congressional panel, you most certainly would go to jail.

If they lied to the public, however, they could say it was a matter of national security.

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