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Donation Detour: Donor-Advised Funds in Higher Education

Victoria Nguyen
Victoria Nguyen

Victoria Nguyen

Victoria Nguyen, J.D. Candidate, 2021, University of Oregon School of Law. I would like to express my deep gratitude to Professor Susan N. Gary for her thoughtful guidance and support. I would also like to thank my first-year Legal Writing and Research professor, Elizabeth Frost, for her mentorship and encouragement. Special thanks to Kirsten Williams and Clint McNutt for sharing their expertise in higher education. Finally, I dedicate this Article to Anthony and Addison Button. Thank you for making every day special.

This Article won first place in the American Bar Association’s 2020 Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section Student Writing Competition.

Author’s Synopsis: This Article examines the history and rising popularity of donor-advised funds (“DAFs”). It discusses the giving vehicles’ impact on higher education philanthropy, and it explores how DAFs can delay donations from reaching higher education institutions. The Article also recommends changes to the Internal Revenue Code that could motivate DAF account holders to make timely grants from their DAFs to benefit colleges and universities.

I. Introduction

Universities have depended on philanthropy since the birth of higher education in the United States. In 1638, a bequest of 400 books trans-formed the country’s first college into Harvard.1 Less than a century later, the Collegiate School expressed its appreciation for a gift of more than 417 books, a portrait of King George I, and nine “bales of goods” by renaming the school for the donor, Elihu Yale.2

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