By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If you give money to a charity for a specific purpose, does the charity have to use it for that?
Lincoln Center, a Manhattan institution known mostly as the place that the collegiate acapella finals are held in the movie Pitch Perfect, is also known as home of the New York Philharmonic, which performs in the Avery Fisher Hall.
Avery Fisher was a philanthropist who gave $10 million in 1973 and Lincoln Center convinced him to allow them to name the hall in his honor.
Yeah, about that. Turns out that Lincoln Center could now get a whole lot more money by selling the naming rights. The family has agreed to let Lincoln Center pay them back for the privilege of taking his name off the building. But, if a donor gave money with the expectation that his name would be on the side of the building forever, does a charity have to abide by his wishes for all eternity?
The law requires nonprofits to adhere to the terms of a donation. If a gift comes with a requirement that is or becomes illegal or impossible, then a court can allow the charity to deviate from the original intent, but it will give significant deference to donor intent.
In this case, the family isn’t suing Lincoln Center to keep the name, although the conversation where they were asked to was probably awkward.