Q: For many years we have listed all the foundations that have made grants to us, by name, in our annual report. In addition, we have included the amounts they have contributed. We have a new board director who is a CPA, and he strongly suggested that we discontinue this practice. I was under the impression that funders wanted to see their contributions listed. What is your opinion of this?
A: Interesting… As is so often the case, there is no one “right” way to handle such donations, but there is nothing inherently wrong with listing your funders and the amount of their gifts. Have you asked the new board director why he feels this way?
It is true, as the CPA I consulted on this matter clarified, that such donations, while recorded on Form 990, are not part of the public disclosure. So, foundations could expect that their contributions would remain anonymous or, at the very least, that the amount of their contributions left unspecified.
It is also always proper etiquette to ask donors – and this would include foundations – if they are comfortable with being named; and, if so, if they are comfortable with the amount of their contribution – or at least the range within which that contribution falls – being made public. Conceivably, some foundations might want to remain under the radar. I would imagine that others would welcome the opportunity to be associated with your success. The only way to know how any individual foundation feels is to raise the issue specifically – if the answer isn’t already found in your grant agreement.
I’m assuming that you send your annual report to the contributing foundations. The fact that you’ve had no complaints to-date seems to indicate tacit support of your policy by your current funders. I see no reason to discontinue this strategy going forward assuming two things. First, that you are, in fact, getting permission to include them, as well as direction on how to do that – e.g., listing name only, listing name and specific amount, or listing name within an amount category. Two, that your new board director doesn’t have a compelling reason for not listing them, that neither you, I, nor my consulting CPA considered. If that is the case, I’d love to hear back!
Thanks, as always, to Christine Manor, CPA for her added insights.