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Background Checks on University Donors: Why They’re Necessary

 In Background Checks, BLOG

Background Checks on University Donors: Why They’re Necessary

Background checks on university donors

Due to the public nature of higher education, colleges and universities are often extremely conscious of their actions. Institutions of higher education aim to be politically correct, prepared for disasters of all kinds, and provide their students with the best possible resources to ensure a great education. Many colleges and universities conduct background investigations on academic professionals, support staff, contractors, and sometimes even students. But what about donors of important funds to university endowments?


Believe it or not, there is a tremendous need to look into the background of donors. Large donations often come from individuals classified as politically exposed persons (PEPs), who may have questionable opinions or dealings. Donors may be vocal in favor or against causes important to a university or not in the best interest of students. Background checks should be conducted on all donors, but especially on any PEPs seeking to offer funds.


A high-profile case at the end of 2017 involved the Sackler family, wealthy donors to a number of respected universities. The Sacklers were also key players in the development of OxyContin, which has led to an opioid crisis in America. There were many critical of donations by the Sacklers, as it was felt their money was tainted and shouldn’t be accepted.


Of course, there might be donations even more questionable. PEPs looking to shift attention from a scandal might offer up large sums of money, and a university in need of endowment growth might accept it. This could lead to a major mark on the institution’s reputation down the line if word of the PEP’s scandal were to come out. This sort of scenario can make universities seem at best complicit, and at worse involved.


A thorough background check can reveal things like a criminal history, global sanctions, and economic or trade sanctions. Colleges and universities should institute a blanket policy that all donors submit to a basic background investigation ahead of donation. The college should reserve the right to refuse donations from individuals whose actions do not align with their mission or values. Donors are important, but students and the reputation of the university are far more so.


If your college or university is considering a background investigation policy for donors, contact us today! Alliance Risk Group is well versed in background investigations for higher education and can help you to mitigate risk when it comes to your donors, professors, and staff.


To read more about background checks and how they can help mitigate risk in your industry, click here.

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