Driving home one evening several years ago, listening to “The Story with Dick Jordan” on our local NPR radio station, I was surprised to hear a familiar voice. It was Dorothy Ridings, whom I had met at an In Trust Writer Workshop just a few months prior. She was talking about an editorial she wrote in which she argued that nonprofit boards should refuse to accept money from anonymous donors. (That is to say, when the donor is completely unknown to the board of trustees.)
The donations that launched the discussion were large, made to several colleges and universities across the country. Ridings took up the subject again in the pages of In Trust magazine: “It takes discipline to say 'No' to anonymous gifts.”
As far as I know, no institution refused these particular multimillion-dollar gifts, and given the financial pressures on schools, it’s easy to see how refusing such a donation might not have even been a question for many people. For seminaries and theological institutions, however, how a school fulfills its mission is as important as its financial health. The issues of transparency and accountability at least require the question be asked.
Check out Dot Ridings’ piece in the Spring 2010 issue for a closer look at this issue that remains as important today as it was seven years ago when the article first appeared.