Wednesday, February 7

Salvation Army tries to cut Greenpeace from donor's $260 million trust

One of the dirtiest secrets nonprofit fundraisers may try to keep from donors is the extent to which planned giving officers and lawyers will fight over a deceased donor's estate.

Doris Margaret Di Stefano passed away in June 2005 at the age of 90. Her husband, H. Guy Di Stefano, died a little over a year later. The quiet couple had an estate of more than $260 million (mostly from UPS stock from Doris' dad) and no heirs.

Last fall, eight charities were notified that would each receive roughly $33 million:

* Direct Relief International
* Salvation Army
* Santa Barbara Hospice Foundation
* Santa Barbara Visiting Nurse Association
* American Humane Society
* Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust
* Greenpeace International Inc.
* World Wildlife Fund
But there was a catch. Technically, the legal entity "Greenpeace International Inc." does not exist anymore and the Western Terrority Salvation Army has gone to court in Seattle to challenge the Di Stefano trust.

According to the New York Times:
Greenpeace has several different nonprofit incarnations. Greenpeace International was created in 1978... and Greenpeace Fund was created in 1980. They shared the same central phone number and offices in Washington, D.C., and many employees. During an I.R.S. audit that affirmed the organization’s tax-exempt status, an auditor suggested that Greenpeace reduce the number of its units.

In response, it dissolved Greenpeace International in December 2005. That organization’s board named the Greenpeace Fund as its successor-in-interest.
The same Times article mentions "internal friction" at the Salvation Army stemming from the fact that the Western Territory filed its objection without telling national headquarters in Virginia. If the Salvation Army succeeds in cutting Greenpeace out of the will, each of the remaining seven charities would split the $33 million.

What do you think - will this come down to a legal question of trying to decide "donor intent" in the court room or will this one be fought in the court of public opinion? Vote now.
How will this lawsuit be settled?
Greenpeace will win its share of trust
Salvation Army will withdraw lawsuit
Greenpeace will lose legal fight free polls


Anonymous said...

The planned giving department at my nonprofit had no less than three estate lawsuits at any time all of last year. I can't imagine what it's like at the Nature Conservancy.

Anonymous said...

How dare the Salvation Army to dishonor the wishes of the donor. I am a supporter of Salvation Army but will NEVER give them another dime. And, I will removing the Salvation Army from my estate plan TODAY.

a fundraiser said...

Jack Siegel at Charity Governance has an interesting post on this story:

Robin said...

This makes no sense. Greenpeace International does exists, they are headquartered in Amsterdam.

So what's the problem?

Anonymous said...

Greenpeace International, as we understand it, is a Dutch entity ("Stichting Greenpeace Council") based in Amsterdam. It's the coordinating body of the worldwide Greenpeace organisation. The beneficiary of the Di Stefano estate was an American entity called "Greenpeace International Inc.", which as the article relates was effectively a unit of Greenpeace USA. Seems to me that the bequest was intended to benefit the American Greenpeace organisation, I'm utterly amazed at the reaction of the Salvation Army.

Capt. Jack Sparrow said...

I've always donated to the Salvation Army, but now my donations are going elsewhere because of their tackiness.

Few things piss me off more than people messing with the wishes of those who have passed on... clearly the donor was trying to give money to Greenpeace. How dare the Salvation Amry! How un-Christian!