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Signed, Sealed, but Undelivered?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports on the increasing number of college donors who renege on their pledges:

Even in good times, pledges occasionally fall through. But in a bad economy, donors who took a hit on their assets were more likely to postpone, cancel, or reduce their gifts, according to interviews with more than two dozen financial experts, consultants, and fund raisers in five hard-hit states. Depending on the project, colleges may have to absorb the costs when pledges don't come through as expected. They can often do that without much pain. But when coupled with bigger financial problems, such as endowment losses, state cutbacks, and declines in enrollment, uncollected or delayed pledges can put stress on college finances.

In the past two years, a number of institutions, including Arizona State, Brandeis, and Cornell Universities and the University of California at Los Angeles have raised their estimates of uncollectable pledges. Brandeis, Cornell, and UCLA officials say they raised the estimates as a conservative budget tactic but didn't see much, if any, change among their biggest donors. (Arizona State did not return calls requesting comment.)

So Cornell hasn't seen a rise in the amount of pledges that have fallen through, which is a good sign. But even so, with the capital campaign reporting $2.955 billion raised, you can't help but wonder how much of that will actually be received by Cornell.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on October 08, 2010 (#)

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