Garth Brooks Sues Hospital for Return of $500,000 Gift

The news about country-music superstar Garth Brooks this week was not about his latest appearance on stage. Instead, the big story was about his appearance in a courtroom as jury selection began in his civil lawsuit against Integris Canadian Valley Regional Hospital, Yukon, OK. Brooks is seeking the return of his $500,000 contribution since the Hospital has neglected to name a building after his late mother, as he asserts was the agreement.

Country Music Star Garth Brooks

This news story raises operational and ethical issues for all nonprofit organizations that we can explore now. As time goes on, there will be additional lessons to be learned about both fundraising and public relations. 

Despite many news reports on the subject, many of the details of the case are not clear including the timeline of events. As the trial proceeds, we’ll certainly get more information about what happened.

Here is what we know at this point:

  • Brooks contributed $500,000 to the Integris Canadian Valley Regional Hospital, his hometown hospital, in 2005.
  • Brooks filed his lawsuit in 2009. Brooks alleges breach of contract, revocation of gift/constructive trust, fraud in the inducement, and negligent misrepresentation/constructive fraud.
  • Jury selection for the civil trial began this week.
  • Beginning in late 2003 or early 2004, Brooks says that the Hospital courted his support and often discussed naming a building after his mother, even showing him mock-ups. Brooks asserts that the Hospital ultimately promised to name at least part of the facility after his mother.
  • The Hospital asserts that the gift was unconditional.
  • The Hospital has not named a building after Brooks’ mother.
  • A Hospital official says the Brooks donation has not been spent and remains in a Hospital account.

Here are some questions I have:

  • Is there a written gift agreement?
  • Do any copies of the named-building mock-ups exist?
  • If the gift was made in 2005, why hasn’t the Hospital put it to use?
  • Why didn’t the Hospital return the gift since it’s just been sitting on it for six years?

While we will certainly learn more in the coming weeks, there are already some lessons we can learn from this story: 

Gift Agreements. If Integris and Brooks had a well written gift agreement in place, it’s doubtful that the situation would have ended up in court. When a donor makes a substantial contribution, it’s a great idea to put together a gift agreement that details what is to be given by the donor and when. And, the agreement should also outline what the nonprofit is offering in return and when. In addition, the gift agreement should detail how the donation will be used, for what and when. A solid gift agreement will ensure that both sides understand the nature of the relationship. Getting everyone on the same page is essential. A gift agreement will make it more difficult for either party to deviate from the understanding and it will avoid confusion and disappointment.

Even if Integris and Brooks did not have a written gift agreement, they still might have had a verbal contract. If the existence of a verbal contract can be proven, it is just as binding as a written contract. Brooks’ claims are based either on a written gift agreement or a verbal agreement. A well written gift agreement could have avoided a lot of stress for both parties. In any event, Integris should have done everything possible to avoid a trip to court and the resulting horrible, probably costly, publicity.

Solid Notes. Whether or not a written gift agreement is executed, development staff should maintain a file with detailed notes about interactions with prospective donors. In the Integris situation, the development staff should have provided notes to the file about each interaction with Brooks, what was said by whom, what gift opportunities were discussed, what materials were used,  and how the prospect reacted. Solid notes can help avoid a conflict with a donor by allowing staff to gently refresh a donor’s memory should it become necessary. And, if things end up in court, solid notes can provide a defense.

It will be interesting to see what kind of documentation Integris and Brooks produce during the course of the trial. In the absence of a gift agreement, copies of notes and correspondence will take on greater importance.

Correspondence. Good correspondence can also serve many of the same purposes as solid notes. Sending a prospect a follow-up letter after a meeting is a good idea for three reasons: 1) It’s good manners to thank the prospect for his time. 2) It gives the development professional a chance to summarize what was discussed thereby avoiding confusion. 3) It provides documentation about what has taken place at each point of contact.

As with file notes, correspondence between Intregris and Brooks will likely shed light on the nature of the gift agreement. 

The jurors will ultimately decide whether Integris misled and/or defrauded Brooks. The jurors will decide the case on the evidence and the law. However, nonprofit organizations must adhere to an even higher standard. We rely on the public trust. Therefore, we must adhere to the highest ethical standards and not just hide behind the technicalities of the law.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals Code of Ethical Principles and Standards clearly addresses the core issue raised by the Brooks lawsuit:

Standard 12: Members shall take care to ensure that all solicitation and communication materials are accurate and correctly reflect their organization’s mission and use of solicited funds….

Standard 14: Members shall take care to ensure that contributions are used in accordance with donors’ intentions….

Standard 16: Members shall obtain explicit consent by donors before altering the conditions of financial transactions.”

Simply put, it is essential that nonprofit organizations understand a donor’s intentions and, then, honor those intentions once agreement is reached.

The situation with Integris also raises another related issue. If the Hospital needed to raise funds, why has it been sitting on the $500,000 rather than putting the money to good use? Brooks thought the money would go into bricks and mortar. Integris thought the gift was unconditional. Either way, why didn’t they use it? It’s been six years! Either way, they have not honored there version or Brooks’ version of donor intent.

I’m sure that Brooks would much rather support his hometown hospital and honor his mother rather than get his money back. For Integris to let the situation get to this point is shameful. Not only does it reflect poorly on Integris, it has the potential to negatively impact the entire nonprofit sector.

To avoid becoming the next Integris, nonprofit organizations should deal honestly and clearly with prospects. Detailed notes should be maintained and correspondence with the prospect should summarize important points from discussions. Once a gift commitment is agreed to, it should be put into writing. Honesty, clarity, attention to detail, reducing conversations to written documents, and understanding and honoring donor intent are what will keep donors happy.

For more information about this story, here are some helpful links:

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

 

UPDATE (January 25, 2012):

Garth Brooks has been awarded $1 million in his lawsuit against Integris Canadian Valley Regional Hospital. This includes the return of his $500,000 donation as well as $500,000 in punitive damages. The jury decided in favor of Brooks saying the “Hospital defrauded him by accepting a $500,000 donation and failing to honor his request to name a building for his late mother,” according to a report in The Chicago Tribune. It remains to be seen if Integris will appeal the decision and/or if Brooks will donate any or all of the amount awarded to him in the case.

UPDATE (January 25, 2012):

Go to Melinda’s comment below to read the official statement from the INTEGRIS Executive Director. My comments follow the message. I think you’ll find it as terrible as I did.

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45 Responses to “Garth Brooks Sues Hospital for Return of $500,000 Gift”

  1. This case does raise some interesting questions. I don’t know of many charities who wouldn’t have spent that money soon after they received it. For it to still be there 6 years later seems very odd. The cynic in me says perhaps they are going to use it to pay the court fees!

    • Scroobious pip, thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I can’t imagine how the Hospital could have let this situation come to this point. I find it horribly amazing.

      • Michael,
        Good job in posting this. Most charities don’t know this yet, but we are going through a cataclysmic shift in philanthropy. This lawsuit (and others like it) are the early tremors.

        We (nonprofits) still operate as though our good name is enough. If we need money, we ask for it – and people are obligated to give it. We are as transparent as a chunk of granite. In a world where Dominos lets you watch your pizza being made on line and airline seats can be picked and changed on a pocket phone, charities will no longer be able to operate in blissful isolation that the return address on their stationary is enough to satisfy the “we do good” test.

      • Wayne, thank you for sharing your thoughts. While many nonprofits might operate as though their good name is enough, as you’ve suggested, ironically many do not do enough to protect their good names. By so publicly alienating a major donor, Integris may find it more difficult to raise money moving forward. To be successful, nonprofits need to have a strong case for support AND a well-deserved, sterling reputation.

  2. They were probably sitting on it because it was a capital project and they can’t spend the money until the construction is fully funded. The project was unsuccessful and maybe they needed the money to cover a deficit during the downturn in the economy. My big question is: how they could offer to name a building for such a small sum? And, why did he only donate $500K when he is richer than Croesus?

    • Steven, thanks for commenting. Initially, my thinking was similar to yours concerning the fact that Integris is sitting on the $500,000 donated by Brooks. However, they’ve had the money for six years! If they were running an effective campaign, they should have raised the necessary funds by now. In any case, they should have reported to the donor what it is they plan to do with the money. My guess is, based on the follow-up conversations between Integris and Brooks, the Hospital probably suspected they were headed to court; so, they may have been sitting on the money until a definitive resolution is reached. But, that’s all speculation.

      As for the your suggestion that $500,000 is a “small sum” to name a building, that may or may not be the case. First, the building would be in Yukon, OK. While I can’t say for sure, I’m willing to bet it’s probably cheaper to build in Yukon than in downtown Philadelphia. Second, we don’t know what type of building, wing, or facility was discussed. The building discussed might not be a particularly large, expensive one. Third, given that we’re talking about Yukon, OK, the $500,000 gift might actually be one of the largest gifts ever received by the Hospital and, in that context, might justify the naming opportunity. The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia put the donor’s name on the project despite the fact that the donation amount was for a relatively modest percentage of the building budget. The Center’s justification was that while the percentage was relatively modest (though not insignificant), the project was unusually huge, and the dollar value of the gift made it one of the largest to the arts community in Philadelphia. On a different scale, the same might be true in Yukon.

      Finally, you questioned why Brooks gave only $500,000 given his wealth. Your question assumes he should have given more just because he has it to give. I’m afraid I can’t agree with that thinking. First, $500,000 is generous regardless of the source. Second, the money is Brooks’; he can do whatever he wants with it and it’s nobody’s business. Third, it was the responsibility of the Hospital to develop a meaningful case for support, to ask for an appropriate amount, and to provide appropriate recognition. I’m not about to blame Brooks for mistakes the Hospital development staff might have made nor am I going to complain that he should have given more.

  3. Never put information in your donor database that you don’t want aired in court. It should be interesting to see how this plays out. It was bad on Mr. Brooks handlers not to have something in writing. Also you would want to have out clauses in the agreement. Lets hope he does not write a song about it….

    • Patrick, thank you for commenting. I would add that you should not put things in your donor/prospect file that you don’t want your donor/prospect to see. I knew a major donor who always asked to see his file before committing a significant sum to a charity. He wanted to make sure that they a) were not invading his privacy and, conversely, b) that they were being thorough.

  4. Michael, I have a somewhat related strange but true war story:

    When my wife and I were first married, we lived in an apartment building whose superintendent was named Scheisskopf (look it up in a German dictionary, boys and girls). Though harmless, Scheisskopf had a craggy, scarred faced and rotted teeth that made him look like movieland’s stereotypical Nazi interrogator/torturer, with a personality to match. When I became a fundraiser, from time to time I wondered what would happen if someone like a wealthy Mr. Scheisskopf would offer an irresistibly large sum to an institution to name a prominent building after him.

    Shortly before I retired, such an issue actually arose with a client. A wealthy foreign businessman, the English spelling of whose name – when mispronounced in the way that it commonly was – sounded like an obscenity, wanted a prominent naming opportunity. He was someone the university was cultivating for a multiplicity of reasons, so you can imagine how delicate the situation was.

    The result of the campaign leadership’s collective “wisdom” was to suggest naming a building after his then-favorite (and American-born) wife. I learned about the impending solicitation only the day before it was to take place. Small fly in the ointment: no one had taken into account that, in the prospect’s culture, women – even the mother of his adored sons – held a subservient, menial position in society.

    The no-brainer solution (quickly pounced upon) was to name a building on the university’s satellite campus – located in the region of the prospect’s birth – for his father. The new artwork was produced overnight, with the reluctant (plenty of bitching and moaning) assistance of the Chairman of the Art Department.

    Only one of many reasons why I hold committees and conventional wisdom in such disdain.

    I wonder what Garth Brooks’ mother’s name is…

    • Jeff, as always, it was pleasure to read your comments. Regarding the story about Scheisskopf, was that a true story or an obscure Catch-22 reference? As for the name of Mama Brooks, it is Colleen Brooks. By the way, like you, I’ve seen enough committees in action to always be suspicious of group think.

      • Michael, Catch-22 notwithstanding, and short of actually seeing his birth certificate, that was his true name. Prior to a devastating hard drive crash several years ago, I had a file of dozens of such odd names, though I don’t know for the life of me what possessed me to collect them.

        Here’s one quirky example, not as bizarre as Scheisskopf:

        When my wife began teaching school in 1970, in the South Bronx (the famous 41st police precinct nicknamed “Fort Apache”), she had three Hispanic girls named Female (pronounced FEH-MAH’-LAY) during her first two years. As it turns out, the parents had not yet decided on a name at the time of birth, so the hospital merely inserted the gender until the mother and child were discharged. But the parents thought that for some legal or administrative reason, the hospital assigned a legal name, and so their gender became their legal name. My wife later learned that there were actually eight Females in the entire elementary school.

        There were many similar examples of Chinese immigrants who were anxious to assimilate, and took names of business establishments (such as “Toy Store”) that sounded to them like a blend of Chinese and English.

        Footnote: My wife’s Italian parents also delayed in naming her. Her birth certificate reads “Baby Girl DeRoberto” (but they later settled on Lucretia).

        Now aren’t you sorry you asked?

      • Jeff, thank you for sharing your stories. Wow!

  5. I believe that Brooks may have wanted some type of elaborate recognition for his money in his mothers name, but to expect or demand anything in exchange for his DONATION makes it cheap. It was a tax write off. I could see if it was a few million but face it $500,000 in the medical field is chump change, yes it’s a sizeable donation but not to merit a building. I’ve read a few dozen articles and seems a wing or unit wasn’t good enough. If Brooks wanted a Shrine he should have built it himself. Yea Yea I know it’s not the money it’s the principle.
    Let it be Brooks.

    • Simon, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’m sure there are many folks who share your view. But, I’m not one of them. First, we don’t have all the facts. So, judging anyone’s behavior in this particular case is premature at this point. Second, most major donors appreciate some type of significant recognition. Let’s not be naive here. Many major donors are even motivated to some degree by the nature of the recognition they will receive. And, yes, some major donors actually “negotiate” the recognition they will receive. By the way, Brooks is asserting that it was the Hospital’s idea to honor his mother; that was their hook; they are the folks who, according to Brooks, produced the mock-ups. Third, if your nonprofit needs to raise money, you are dependent on the donor; it’s not the other way around. That means it is essential to be donor-centered. Suggesting that Brooks should have kept his money rather than contributing to the hospital is not exactly a smart fundraising strategy. A development professional’s job is to match the organization’s needs with the donor’s philanthropic aspirations while ensuring the donor’s other needs are reasonably met. And, it is completely necessary that the nonprofit behave ethically and legally. If Brooks was wronged, he should have his day in court. If a jury finds the hospital did wrong, it should be held accountable. To suggest otherwise merely opens the door to wrong-doing throughout the nonprofit sector.

  6. Michael, if Brooks used the tax deduction in a previous year and gets his money back from the hospital now, what is the process of refunding the IRS? Is it simply filing an adjusted tax return for the year he took the deduction or is it more elaborate? I realize it”s likely an it-depends-argument.

    I just can’t believe he made such a large gift without getting anything in writing related to the naming.

    Dave

    BTW my mom is a public school teacher in Pittsburgh and has a student named Female, too.

    • Dave, thank you for your comments, including your mention of your mom’s experience. I’ve never had to advise a donor about how to hanlde a returned donation that crosses tax years. So, I really don’t know how it would be handled. I’d rely upon a good CPA. However, I suspect you are correct and that the matter would involve filing an adjusted return. Any CPAs reading this that care to weigh-in?

      I, too, am amazed that Brooks appears to not have a gift agreement with the Hospital. You would think either Brooks or his advisors would have required one. This just goes to show that we, as development professionals, cannot make assumptions regarding a donor’s level of philanthropic sophistication. We should know better. Taking a donor-centered approach means we’ll look out for the donor’s interests and help them avoid potentially disasterous mistakes when it comes to philanthropy. At the very least, it appears that the Hospital fell-down on this count.

  7. My understanding was that there was no written agreement. If that is the case, shame on the hospital and they should give the money back. However, I agree that $500,000 seems kind of puny for a hospital wing, and VERY PUNY compared to what he earns, probably nets that and then some for one performance! I do know he has given a lot to his alma mater (I think OK State) and wonder if there were any problems there.

    • Linda, thanks for commenting. As I’ve mentioned previously, $500,000 might be a “puny” amount for a big naming opportunity in a big city. But, in the Brooks case, we have to remember we’re talking about Yukon, OK. I suspect things cost less there than in New York. And, I suspect they don’t see many six or seven or eight figure charitable donations there. In any event, that’s on the Hospital. If they offered the naming opportunity for that amount, that’s on them not Brooks. By the way, in addition to the cash gift, there are also reports that Brooks promised to appear at a benefit for the Hospital. That likely would have brought in contributions that might not otherwise be secured thereby enhancing the value of his involvement.

  8. I’m not a CPA, but I believe the IRS would require Brooks to contribute the returned $500,000 to another charity during the tax year he receives them. That’s how it works with private foundations, but I’m not sure about individual donors. Especially when litigation is involved. As you suggest, Michael — best to check with an expert on this one!

    The tax issue is yet another argument to have a solid agreement in place. It’s so important for everyone involved.

  9. I work for a major UK organisation and, since joining, I have been shocked how few agreements with donors we have on file. I am waiting for just such a day when a donor demands their money back. It is especially worrying because there is no one in the department who has been there for more than two years and so many of the verbal agreements are long lost on our side.

    I think senior management have been in denial because the previous Head of Department was seen as creating the whole department and growing our fundraising from nothing to quite a few million. The problem is, I think he may have promised the Earth and not delivered. He has since gone on to a bigger and more prestigious organsiation, and I fear for them, too. I have managed to get agreements in as standard, but I fear we have locked the door long after the horse has bolted.

    As for other posters comments on the size of the donation and the return Brooks seems to have expected, I’d happily name bits of buildings for $500k for one project I’m working on but I work outside of London where things are cheaper. If I was working for a major London based organisation, I’d charge more or would have worked with the donor to find the best solution for both of us.
    Finally, as for $500k being nothing to Garth Brooks, it may be. However, he also may (like many donors) be donating to lots of other organisations or he might be spending the rest on champagne and Stetsons. He can do that, it’s his money. If he was offered naming rights for only $500k, that’s not his fault. Even if he asked for them at $500k, it appears that was what was agreed to so, again, not his fault.

    • UK Fundraiser, thank you for your comments and for being willing to so openly share your story. Your situation is certainly a bit scary. Fortunately, donors seldom ask for their money back. If a donor does make such a request of your organization, you’ll have an opportunity to handle the situation better than Integris appears to be handling things with Garth Brooks. One way to avoid problems with past donors is to exercise solid stewardship. You can’t change the past, but you can make sure things are done correctly now. You seem to have a good grasp of the situation, so I’m hopeful for your organization. I wish you well.

  10. Reblogged this on The Planned Giving Blog and commented:
    Check out this post by Michael Rosen. There are too many details of this story that are still missing but with a trial getting underway, the nonprofit world may be getting treated to the full details of how badly a gift can go (guessing there must have been many missteps by the hospital on this one).

    • Jonathan, thank you for reblogging my post. Excellent stewardship makes donors happy. In the process, it secures existing gifts and encourages future ones. My wife has said, “If you can’t serve as a good example, you can at least serve as a horrible warning.” The Integris story is certainly a loud warning for all nonprofits. Thanks for recognizing that!

  11. Someone gifts you a half a million dollars, why wouldn’t you want to be more donor-friendly? Name something after the guy’s mother. What’s the problem?

    • Greg, thank you for your common-sense comment. Rather than addressing the donor’s concerns, the Hospital continues to make matters worse. Part of their defense of the lawsuit is to rely on a technical legal argument about venue. It would seem to me that Integris should want to have the case heard sooner so that a just jury decision can be made. Instead, they’re playing legal games. Once the jury verdict is decided, it will be very interesting to see how Integris handles it. If the decision goes against the Hospital, will they appeal or do the right thing?

  12. Well, Brooks won, got his money back AND $500k in damages. You can find the news story here: http://ht.ly/8FNSL.

    Let’s hope the Hospital has learnt how to deal with donors.

    • UK Fundraiser, thank you for sharing the link to the update on the Brooks lawsuit story. The amount of the award should send a very clear message to charities everywhere. It will be interesting to see if Integris appeals the decision and/or if Brooks donates any of the cash award.

  13. This situation reminds me of something I learned when working in the retail field, which shares many aspects with development/fundraising. A good retailer knows that success is not built on one time sales, but rather it relies on continued business by building a relationship with the customer. If the product is good and the service provided, the customer returns over and over, and shares the experience with others by recommending the business to others. If the customer is not pleased, not only will they stop doing business with the retailer, but they tell even more about the bad experience they have had with the business with even more people that they have contact. More people in the development field need to understand this, as I have seen the results where the donors feel they were misled or not fully informed and donor relationships which could have grown to greater future gifts were lost.

    • Richard, thank you for sharing your insight. You’re correct. The nonprofit sector can learn some things from the for-profit world. In my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, I adapt the L.L. Bean customer service principles and apply them to development work. It makes perfect sense.

  14. I really enjoyed everyone’s comments. Did you see this – not sure what time it was posted on their website http://integrisok.com/foundation.

    INTEGRIS Foundations

    A Letter from the Executive Director

    January 25, 2012

    INTEGRIS Health friends,

    No doubt you have seen significant media attention centered on the Garth Brooks vs. INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital trial these past several days. There has been much speculation into the details of this gift, many of which have cast INTEGRIS and our philanthropic practices into an unfavorable light. With the trial behind us and in the interest of transparency, we are now at liberty to share those details with those closest to us and the general public.

    We acknowledge that Mr. Brooks made a generous gift, which was an appropriate way to honor his mother in his hometown. We are confident that INTEGRIS not only followed the law throughout this process, but also made every effort to meet Mr. Brooks’ expectations. After we received the anonymous, unrestricted donation, we began formative discussions about how to make best use of the gift. We presented ideas and nothing was ever agreed upon. Before an agreement could be reached, Mr. Brooks decided to sue. INTEGRIS worked tirelessly and made numerous attempts to return Mr. Brooks’ donation pre-trial, but he could not be satisfied.

    We were disappointed to receive an unfavorable verdict from a jury that was presented solid facts. Regardless of our trial outcome, our mission remains unchanged moving forward. We do not believe it prudent to allow this isolated incident to cast any doubt upon the INTEGRIS name, or the impact philanthropy has on our ability to save lives, provide healing, and treat those who need us most in our communities. We cannot allow a one-sided viewpoint to diminish our donors’ service, gifts or their support.

    We are committed to improving the health of the people and communities we serve, which demands that we listen to our people and our communities – and that begins with our donors. We exist to align donor passions with hospital needs and to inspire enduring legacies.

    I encourage you to reach out to us with your concerns. I am available to meet any time and address any lingering questions you may have. Feel free to contact me at my office 405-951-5005 or brad.walker@integrisok.com.

    There is nothing more important than serving as excellent stewards of your gifts. I appreciate the support received by our organization these last several days and look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Sincerely,
    Brad Walker,
    Executive Director

    • Melinda, thank you for sharing Brad Walker’s message. Until you posted it here, I had not seen it. Walker’s message is nothing short of amazing. To be clear, it’s not amazingly good; it’s amazingly ill-conceived.

      Rather than being remorseful and outlining a path to the future, Walker remains defiant and admits no fault, despite the findings of a jury that not only ordered the return of the Brooks donation but also the payment of $500,000 in punitive damages.

      Instead of the self-serving message that Walker posted on the Foundation’s website, his open-letter should have contained the following elements:

      +a clear and unqualified expression of remorse;
      +a promise to do better in the future;
      +an announcement that an independent review of the situation had been ordered;
      +a commitment to develop new policies and procedures based on the findings of the review and the decision of the jury;
      +a pledge to be more open, transparent, and honest;
      +a commitment to the highest ethical standards including the creation or re-creation of an institutional ethics code;
      +a re-commitment to the institution’s mission (which the message did contain).

      Frankly, I’m disappointed that INTEGRIS appears to not have learned anything at all from the experience. Walker writes that he remains “confident that INTEGRIS not only followed the law throughout this process, but also made every effort to meet Mr. Brooks’ expectations.” Well, that’s not what a court jury found! INTEGRIS needs to wake up before it does more damage to itself and the nonprofit sector, in general.

  15. As if I hadn’t found it baffling enough that Integris let the situation escalate to this point after six years, the response to the jury’s decision by Brad Walker leaves me scratching my head even more. I don’t understand how, over the course of six years with the money unspent & still in possession of Integris, that the situation was unable to be settled. Even if Integris felt strongly they were in the right, why not either name something after Colleen Brooks or return the money for no other reason than to avoid the negative PR associated with a trial involving a well-known celebrity & major donor to the organization? Somehow, there was a collossal breakdown of communications & common sense, & it is a terrible reflection on the development staff there. Mr. Walker mentions there were presentations made & discussions held, but no agreement; why not? I find it hard to believe that if there were active negotiations in progress that a law suit would have been filed. Though the Integris letter claims to be written in the interest of transparency, it seems information about why talks broke down is glaringly absent. Making matters worse, there is not, as you pointed out, Michael, any indication of apology or acceptance of responsibility in the published response to the jury verdict. Unbelievable!

    • Heather, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Both Penn State and INTEGRIS have poorly handled the public relations dimension of their respective fiascos. However, Penn State realized its problems and took corrective action. We can debate the relative merits of what Penn State has done and is doing, but at least they have definitely moved in the right direction. At INTEGRIS, they still appear to be in a state of denial, defiant, and unwilling to take any action aimed at restoring public confidence. There’s no doubt in my mind that these two stories will be taught in nonprofit management programs for years to come.

  16. The E.D. probably signed a letter written by a battery of attorneys. They would not be capable of drafting the above response (yours). It is a tight rope to walk. Great string of comments on this, and certainly brings to light the complexity of major gift sollicitation.

    • Patrick, thank you for commenting. I agree with you, the discussion here has been terrific. I’ve alerted Brad Walker about the post and comments and have provided him a link. I hope he visits so that he can be exposed to professional opinions from outside the “bunker.”

  17. A fantastic discussion and timely “real world” case study to share with my fundraising students. Thank you!

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