Why Donor Intent Protections Are Critical for Philanthropic Freedom

Philanthropy Roundtable’s Free to Give campaign elevates the voices of everyday Americans who have dedicated their careers to supporting those in need. Their work is made possible by the freedom of all Americans to give to the causes and communities they care about. 

When a philanthropist sets up a foundation with a specific purpose in mind, those wishes must be respected. But decades later, after the original donor has passed away, how does the foundation’s leadership ensure they are respecting the donor’s intent? 

In a new Philanthropy Roundtable video, Mason Rummel, president and CEO of the James Graham Brown Foundation in Louisville, Kentucky, explains why donor intent matters and the steps she takes to respect it. 

“I am now the institutional memory, so it is highly, highly important to me to communicate the background, to communicate the history, to educate my staff and to educate the board, so that they can make good and sound decisions that we can all have a shared sense of the intent that Mr. Brown laid out in his will,” said Rummel. 

Ultimately, she says donor intent is critical to philanthropic freedom, or the freedom of all Americans to give to the causes and communities they care about most. Without knowing that their intent will be respected, donors will be less likely to commit to making long-term gifts.  

“Donor intent is directly related to philanthropic freedom,” Rummel said. “Donors have the right, it’s a fundamental right, to support causes that mean something to them. So, donors who make long-term gifts, long-term impact, are expecting that… will continue to be valued and not diluted or lost over time.” 

Philanthropy Roundtable supports commonsense policies that would protect donor intent and will share more resources for donors and policymakers throughout the year.  

View more stories about the importance of philanthropic freedom at FreeToGive.org. 

Mentioned on this page

Get the Latest News on the Freedom to Give

Sign up today for our Philanthropic Freedom Newsletter, and each month we’ll send you the latest public policy news from around the country, plus policy research, analysis and more.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.