We believe that respect for donor intent is essential to philanthropic integrity. All voluntary giving is based on an act of trust, the shared understanding that the gift will be disbursed in a mutually acceptable fashion. If that trust is compromised, it undermines the very condition that makes philanthropy possible.
We believe that it is a core responsibility of all philanthropists to define as clearly as possible what they intend their charitable giving to achieve—particularly if the disbursement is to occur after their lifetimes. Insufficient planning can lead to catastrophic consequences. Philanthropists have left fortunes to charity, only to have their money go to causes they would have opposed. In some cases, their assets were put to uses that would have made them sick.
We likewise believe that it is a core responsibility of those entrusted with disbursing charitable assets to dispose of them in a manner consistent with the wishes of the original benefactor. Fidelity to donor intent requires humility and self-discipline, a vigilant willingness to subordinate the interests and enthusiasms of succeeding boards and staff to the broad mission laid out by the founding donor.
The Philanthropy Roundtable is committed to preserving, strengthening, and celebrating the principle of donor intent. To that end, we publish a range of materials, from practical, how-to guides for living donors to principled justifications of donor intent. We also host meetings where successful individuals can discuss with peers their thinking about donor intent. In many cases, we provide customized individual consultation. Uniting all of these efforts is our conviction that a proper regard for donor intent is essential for philanthropic integrity.