Currents

Voices

What members are thinking and sharing

Graphic by Jeff Koterba

ILLUSTRATION: JEFF KOTERBA

ADVICE

Policy of No Return

Q: I am the advancement director at an independent school, and we are developing a more robust gift acceptance policy for our annual fund. Specifically, we have a grandparent whose grandson was dismissed this spring. The grandparent made a gift last year, and she is now seeking a refund. For various reasons, we have decided not to honor this request. Do other institutions have a policy for such a scenario? How should we handle this?

A: Communications surrounding a student's withdrawal are the most sensitive relationship situations we are asked to manage. Respond to the grandparent in person or by phone, rather than in writing, and express appreciation for the gift and also empathy regarding her grandson's withdrawal. Explain that annual fund contributions are for current use and benefitted students and faculty in the last school year and that because her gift was expended when received, you are not able to provide a refund. Make sure your annual fund description clearly states that gifts are for current use and expended when received.
Mary K. Carrasco, assistant head of school for advancement, Sidwell Friends School, Washington, D.C.

A: Our gift acceptance policy is robust, and although it does not address gift refunds, the policy refers to the (Canadian) Income Tax Act, which cautions organizations with charitable status from refunding gifts. Under the act, such organizations are to devote their resources exclusively to their charitable purposes and activities. Refunding gifts counteracts that and could result in the organization losing its charitable status. We do, however, treat each scenario on a case-by-case basis.
—Dominique Anderson, stewardship and donor relations officer, St. George's School, Canada

Your Favorite Things
What the stuff in your workspace says about you

Karen White's office is home to some unusual creatures. The executive director for alumni relations at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., keeps tiny palm trees, several pink flamingos, a squid, and even a mermaid on her windowsill—in the form of Tiki bar swizzle sticks, eclectic cocktail accessories for stirring drinks. The Tiki trophies inspire her to be creative and fun and remind her to relax and smile.

How did you start collecting swizzle sticks?
I was unpacking my papers after a work trip, and lo and behold, there was this swizzle stick. I ended up sticking it in a plant on the windowsill.

Why Tiki bars?
I like the kitschy atmosphere and humorous concoctions, the interesting glasses, and all the accoutrements—like dolphin-shaped bananas—that go into Tiki drinks. It's a humorous way to spend an evening.

Do you have any Tiki bar recommendations?
At a CASE conference in Chicago, I discovered the Tiki bar extraordinaire Three Dots and a Dash. Another great place is in San Francisco-the Hotel Fairmont's Tonga Room. They converted the inside swimming pool to a Tiki lounge, and a full rain periodically comes down over the pool.

You keep the swizzle sticks in your office—what significance do they have for your work?
The swizzle sticks are in some ways like our alumni. They're each different in color, size, shape, and where they come from. In alumni engagement, we're looking for creative outlets to draw unique people together.

Selene San Felice

Tiki