A million dollars for YOUR organization…

Since I learn more from listening than from talking, today I’m going to ask another question.

The question is, what would your church or your favorite non-profit do with one million dollars?


I’m interested in specifics. Do you have a policy in place for accepting and putting to use unrestricted gifts of this size? Do you NOT have a policy, but feel like there would be a consensus around one need or one approach?

In fact, let’s make this a little more concrete by doing some role-playing. What would you do if the church or non-profit you represent was approached by an attorney for an anonymous donor, who informed you that she was doing research for her client as he prepared his will. He’s thinking about some significant bequests, and you’re on the list for consideration. He wants to know, though — what would your organization do if it got an unexpected, unrestricted gift of a million dollars?

While you’re thinking about your answer, I’m going to write next about a question that I was asked off-line here.

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About J. Ronald Newlin

Non-profit consultant, museum developer, historian, Episcopalian, blues/punk bassist
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1 Response to A million dollars for YOUR organization…

  1. Just as an example, especially for my Episcopalian friends: at Trinity Indy, we don’t have a formal policy, but we have a formalized practice. Traditionally, we’ve kept the corpus of our original multi-million dollar bequest from Mr. Eli Lilly discreet, and treated it as if it were a perpetual endowment (although it isn’t; it was an unrestricted gift). All other bequests, unless the donor specifies that they are to be treated as perpetual endowment (we’ve only had one of those in thirty years), are treated as Temporarily Restricted and placed in what we call the Memorial Fund. So bequests are never used for annual operating expenses. We allow and honor donor restrictions as to purposes (music fund, education fund, outreach, etc.) but we don’t create lots of little five-figure mini-endowments — we spend them as appropriate initiatives arise. However, we’ve had members tell us that they don’t consider putting us in their will in a significant way because we’ve already got such a large endowment, and they know that at other organizations, they can make an estate gift that can really make a difference.


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