August 31, 2008
Why Governments Decline Donations
The Boston Globe reports on the unusual but perhaps more common than expected situation of a local school board declining a donation because it would have given the appearance of allowing the donors to dictate school budgetary priorities. In this case, the donors wanted to contribute a little over $4,500 to eliminate new annual fees for band and chorus members. The Carlisle Public Schools' School Committee rejected the donation, however, because it would have required the Committee to rescind the fees in their entirety instead of simply indicating they had been paid for by the donation and so would have given, in the words of the Committee's chairman, "the semblance that a School Committee decision can be bought." The donors were in fact unapologetic about their intention to force the rescission of the fees so that they would be not be automatically accepted as part of the budget baseline for the next academic year. The Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees recalled at least one other time in recent years that another School Committee had made a similar decision. While private nonprofits certainly decline donations on occasion, as this story indicates government entities are probably more sensitive to the appearance that they are allowing their priorities to be directed by donors than are private organizations.
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