The most effective donor-intent safeguards are internal: Creating a strong mission statement, picking the right timeframe and appropriate vehicle for your giving, and choosing the right people for your board, to name a few. But some donors have also created external safeguards for their intent. Here are three options:
• Give standing to outside parties: One option is to pick one or several organizations aligned with your values to serve as “watchdogs” of your philanthropy in the future.
• Incorporate sympathetic organizations into your board: A second option is to specify in your bylaws or founding documents that certain organizations that share your values should be represented on your board. Under this scenario, board representatives from third-party organizations can ensure that the philanthropy is abiding by the donor’s intentions as outlined in the mission statement.
• Institute donor-intent audits: With this option, you may select an organization to conduct a periodic audit to measure how well your foundation is adhering to your intent.
Keep these two caveats in mind when it comes to external safeguards:
• Few of these options have been put to a legal test, so their ultimate effectiveness is yet to be determined.
• It is generally wise to avoid putting too much stock in the willingness of your state’s attorney general to step in and defend your intent. Even though your attorney general has the statutory authority to oversee all charitable organizations, the process of weighing donor intent against the perceived public interest has resulted in a mixed legal and judicial record.