Philanthropy is one of the most important tools for families to strengthen their communities, establish their legacy and communicate their values – both inwardly and outwardly. What happens when the organizations that receive family resources don’t fulfill the donor’s intent? What if the charities mean well, but aren’t effective? What if the charities use the resources for something else entirely? Well, these issues came up in a big way when the Robertson Family of A&P Supermarket fame disagreed with the way Princeton handled the proceeds of a $35 million gift. Author, DOUG WHITE is going to lay out the case, explain where it went wrong, and give us some lessons on how to avoid future quagmires around donor intent.

DOUG WHITE, a long-time leader in the nation’s philanthropic community, is a 5-time author, teacher, and an advisor to nonprofit organizations and philanthropists. He is Co-Chair of the FoolProof Foundation’s Walter Cronkite Project Committee and a governing board member of the Secular Coalition of America.

He is the former director of Columbia University’s Master of Science in Fundraising Management program, where, in addition to his extensive management responsibilities, he taught board governance, ethics and fundraising. He is also the former academic director of New York University’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising. He has also been an advisor to BoardSource, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to “building exceptional nonprofit boards and inspiring board service.”

Doug has written five books:

His expertise includes fundraising strategy, board governance, improving organizational processes, and ethical decision-making.

Introduction and Doug’s Background

The Role of Philanthropy

  • Help for Donors
  • Help for Charities

Donor Intent – The Robertson / Princeton Case

  • The Robertsons (Descendants of Charles and Marie Robertson)
  • Source of Wealth (A&P Supermarket Fortune)
  • The Desire to Build the Woodrow Wilson School After JFK in 1961
  • The Gift- $35 Million in 1961 (Robertson Foundation: > $900mm in 2008)
  • The Mistake in Structuring (and codifying) the Gift
  • Where did Princeton veer off course? Funds used for other purposes
  • The Conflict between Charity and Family when the Patriarch Died
  • The Expense ($45mm in legal fees by both sides!)
  • Princeton’s Explanation:

Good practices for families making the gift (and monitoring it)

  • Establishing and Codifying Donor Intent
  • Balancing Rigidity and Flexibility around terms and uses of the gift
  • Drawing up a Binding Agreement
  • Communication (Oversight at the Charity and the Family)
  • Performance Metrics
  • Accountability Structures and Procedures


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