Naming Recognition: Is it ok to name a building after donors rather than the foundation?

Our foundation, the Hearts and Hopes Foundation, provided a grant to a new research facility at a local university. The university has suggested naming the facility after our donors: i.e., the “John and Mary Smith Research Center.” Is this okay or do we have to name it the “Hearts and Hopes Foundation Research Center?” We want to ensure we are not steping into the area that would be perceived as self-serving.

There is no problem with the university providing naming recognition to the donors.  The IRS considers naming recognition/rights as an incidental and tenuous benefit and this alone does not create a self-dealing problem.

Can a foundation grant, given from discretionary funds, be acknowledged in a grantee’s annual report with just the discretionary donor’s name and not the foundation name?

This is also ok; the same answer as provided above applies here.


NOTE: It’s important to note that foundations may not pay the personal charitable pledge of a family member, trustee, or other ‘disqualified person,’ which includes certain relatives and staff members.

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Self-Dealing and Conflicts of Interest

This Content Collection defines conflict of interest and self-dealing in family philanthropy, and highlights the most common problem areas, including: excessive compensation, tickets to fundraising events, and overlapping board members.

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