Robert G. Burton, the chief executive of Burton Capital Management in Greenwich, Connecticut, is vying for the title of "Worst Donor Ever."

Over the last several years, Burton has given $7 million to the football program at the University of Connecticut. But in January, he wrote to the university's athletic director, saying that he wanted $3 million back. His reason? He wasn't consulted sufficiently when the new football coach was hired.

"I am fed up with you as a manager because you did not let the hiring process take place in an open manner," Burton wrote in his letter to athletic director Jeff Hathaway. "You and your committee of three talked to some coaches and made a critical decision about who you were going to hire without input from knowledgeable people who care about the program."

The news was covered by university's Daily Campus newspaper and the Hartford Courant. But New York Times writer William C. Rhoden took a thoughtful (if slightly jaded) angle. "Criticize him all you like, but Burton is the face of UConn's new reality," Rhoden wrote in a January 29 article. "The question raised by Burton is whether large donors have the right to call the shots."

Theological schools get nowhere near the donations that big-time college football programs garner. But they still do receive donations -- and sometimes there is confusion about the relationship between the donor and the school. That means it's smart to have a gift acceptance policy.

Dorothy S. Ridings wrote about gift acceptance policies in the New Year 2010 issue of In Trust and included links to sample policies at two seminaries and one university. (People affiliated with In Trust member schools can read her article here. To read it, you must be logged in.)

Meanwhile, if Burton is dissatisfied with UConn football, perhaps he'd like to start supporting one of theological education's top gridiron contests -- the Luther Bowl

 

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