Restricted Charitable Gifts: Public Benefit, Public Voice

45 Pages Posted: 16 May 2018

See all articles by Susan N. Gary

Susan N. Gary

University of Oregon - School of Law

Date Written: 2018


Donor restrictions on gifts to charities can raise difficult issues over time, if changes in social or economic circumstances create the need for modifications to those restrictions. Often the analysis of whether to permit a modification focuses on the charity’s interests or the donor’s interests, and ignores the interests of the public. This article brings the public into the discussion, considering where and how the public’s voice can be heard.

The article provides an overview of the history of charities law in the United States, with an emphasis on rules related to donor-imposed restrictions. The article explains that a public benefit standard related to charitable assets has existed from the beginnings of charities law, but the standard has often been overlooked and ignored. The article suggests that the public’s voice needs to be heard and considered with respect to charitable assets, and that the courts, as the arbiters of what it means to be charitable, should be able to consider public benefit as well as donor intent.

Keywords: charities, donor restrictions, modification, public benefit

Suggested Citation

Gary, Susan N., Restricted Charitable Gifts: Public Benefit, Public Voice (2018). "Restricted Charitable Gifts," 81 Albany L. Rev. 101 (2018). Available at SSRN:

Susan N. Gary (Contact Author)

University of Oregon - School of Law ( email )

1515 Agate Street
Eugene, OR Oregon 97403
United States

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