Factoring in a Charitable Gift to a State Appropriation

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March 11, 2011; Source: The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead | The estate of Melvin Norgard, who died in 1992, donated the mineral rights on 120 acres of land in McKenzie County in North Dakota's "Oil Patch" to the North Dakota Veterans Home. That's a pretty generous gift. Last year, leasing the mineral rights on the property brought the Veterans Home $258,000, a sum that could increase into the millions if wells are drilled on the Norgrad property.

Officials at the home see the funds creating programs for the vets in the home. “We want to keep their lives active and interesting … We could use these funds for projects that could rehabilitate these residents,” the chair of the Veterans Home board said.

However, the North Dakota legislature envisions different uses for the funds. State appropriations typically fund the Home, but the legislature wants the Norgard moneys rather than state dollars to pay for $126,500 requested by the Veterans Home for landscaping and facility repairs.

To legislators, the Norgard moneys are something of a windfall that should be used to alleviate the financial burden on state taxpayers. To the administrators of the state-run Veterans Home, the Norgard mineral rights revenues should be treated no differently than alumni donations to North Dakota's state universities. If legislators can count the mineral rights revenues as offsetting the Veterans Home costs, then out of fairness they factor in donations to the colleges and universities to offset state higher education appropriations.

How do NPQ readers stand on this issue? Should the Norgard revenues be available to the Veterans Home administrators for new program development or should the legislature be allowed if not encouraged to tap some of these dollars for Veteran Home operations?—Rick Cohen

  • Barry Nelson

    I think this sets horrible precedence and could poison similar actions in the future. What motivation would benefactors have in the future if they realized that their gift would just be offset by a reduction in other funds? One thing this article does not include also is the fact that the ND legislature is dealing with a one billion dollar surplus.

  • Mike Toothman

    I think this is a bad idea, especially for North Dakota donors. It suggests that their gift won’t make any special difference at all. Certainly, large donors would expect to see their gifts make a mark in some sense.
    To see the object of your generosity essentially be penalized for receiving a gift, I would not want to be working a North Dakota project having to spin this–especially if the idea goes further abroad within the state.
    No veterans groups raising alarm at this notion?