Protecting Donor Intent in Higher Education Grantmaking
Higher education can be among the most rewarding and meaningful areas for one's donor dollars, yet it is the most challenging sector for donor intent and grant compliance. Unless one is careful, college and university administrations may ignore, creatively interpret, disregard, or directly violate your donor intent.
In 2001, Michael Moritz and Ohio State University entered into an endowment agreement under which Michael provided $30.3 million designated for 30 full scholarships to law students each year in perpetuity. Nine months later, Michael was killed by a hit-and-run driver. OSU never provided the 30 annual scholarships, but rather spent the endowment dollars on salaries and expenses to entertain wealthy alumni. Now Jeffrey Moritz is trying to find a way to enforce the endowment agreement between OSU and his father. He moved the probate court to reopen Michael’s estate for that purpose. He sued no one, but OSU and the Ohio Attorney General suddenly appeared at a hearing to oppose reopening the estate, and three years of litigation ensued. The result: The probate court declined to reopen the estate, and the court of appeals affirmed. Jeffrey is deciding whether to seek review in the Ohio Supreme Court.