Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cincy | Did a $90K gift breach foundation rules?

In an earlier post, I said new public documents showed the Gannett Foundation last year matched $90,035 of a total 280 employee gifts to the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts.

Now, it appears the foundation may have done so despite a ban on bundled gifts in the employee GannettMatch program. In a list of contributions it won't match, the guidelines include: "Pooled gifts (i.e. funds collected from a group of individuals or raised from a fundraising activity), whether or not the contributors are individually eligible as participants."

I also found another instance last year where the foundation matched gifts that aren't eligible under the guidelines. It gave $12,500 to the United Way for Southeastern Michigan in Detroit, even though the guidelines say it won't match United Way contributions.

I discovered these departures from the guidelines while researching a reader's question today about gifts under the foundation's exclusive executive grant-making program. It's important to note, however, that there's nothing illegal about the Cincinnati and Detroit grants; the foundation can always make exceptions to its own rules.

How it works
Under the GannettMatch program, the foundation matches dollar-for-dollar employee donations of $50 to a maximum $10,000 per year to non-profits. In 2009, the foundation matched a combined $1.39 million of employee contributions.


  1. What they did is not allowed. But it happens all the time. I expect changes to come from this.

  2. If the employees each wrote individual checks, it seems like it'd be OK.

    What's not OK would be taking up a collection from a group of employees and submitting a single donation. That's how I read the restriction on pooling.

  3. Damn, why is it everything is a big deal. It's char-it-y, we should be happy to participate.

  4. Each employee made an individual contribution during the campaign (the Fine Arts Fund has an annual campaign similar to United Way) and then had to fill out the Gannett Match paperwork (on their own) to get it matched. There was no pool. You're just reporting the total of a bunch of individual's actions.


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