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University monitors donations

Eileen Duffy | Thursday, December 2, 2004

University of Southern California has had one. Yale and Princeton have had a few. Notre Dame? Zero.

And for once, be glad. The aforementioned universities have dealt with a number of lawsuits in recent years from alumni contending their donations were not being used for the designated purposes, according to an article in the New York Times Saturday.

“In my 21 years here, the University has not had to deal with that,” said Dan Reagan, associate vice president for university relations. “We try to be extremely careful in stewarding the contributions.”

Stewarding is the process of keeping the donor informed of the effects his or her contribution is having on the University – and Notre Dame has established an Office of Stewardship within its Development Office for such purposes.

“The Office of Stewardship works day in and day out,” said Reagan, who served 13 years as the executive director of development. “With good stewardship, fewer conflicts arise over the usage of a contribution.”

Since alumni contribute nearly half of all yearly donations, the Office of Stewardship has plenty of responsibility. All involved in stewarding at the University are careful about balancing the University’s needs with the benefactor’s wishes, said Katherine Rosswurm, Senior Director of Development Marketing, Communication and Stewardship.

“We are absolutely committed to accountability,” she said. “We make sure that we are honoring the intentions of the benefactors.”

Rosswurm also touched on the importance of regional directors of Development, who work with benefactors one-on-one at the time of the donation, to find the best fit.

“If a benefactor wanted to donate a $100,000 scholarship fund,” she said, “The University will go in with a general purpose, and maybe the benefactor will say, ‘I’d like this to be for students from New Mexico.'”

But there are times to draw the line, explained Rosswurm.

“The benefactor couldn’t specify, ‘The student must be from New Mexico and have one green eye,'” she said with a laugh. “We wouldn’t want a restriction we wouldn’t be able to follow through with.”

Notre Dame is meticulous in handling alumni donations, because they are so valuable to the University.

“We have a fabulously loyal alumni constituency,” said Reagan. “And as a result, Notre Dame has been able to make great progress through financial support.”