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Beggars and choosers

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By Todd Cohen

You can’t always get what you want.

At a time of fierce competition for dollars, charities can find themselves at odds with donors over controversial causes.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and WUNC-FM both have been hung up with donors over values.

Talks between UNC and the Pope Foundation about funding a Western Culture minor have irked students and faculty because the Raleigh foundation backs conservative groups like the John Locke Foundation, which has been a tough critic of the school.

And Chapel Hill nonprofit Ipas, an advocate of “reproductive health and rights,” withdrew its underwriting of WUNC after the station asked it to drop the word “rights” from its on-air sponsorship tagline.

Charities depend on donors, philanthropies and corporations whose policies, practices, social stands and source of wealth may be out of sync with their own values or draw public criticism.

Charities are free to reject gifts or donors they do not like.

But to restore donor trust that has eroded because of bad behavior, charities must clearly and openly spell out the kind of support they will and will not accept, then apply their rules equally to all donors, and honestly explain exceptions.


Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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