Charitable Giving, Fundraising, Restricted Fund Management & Investments



With real life answers to your real life challenges, we use our interdisciplinary platform and strategic, forward thinking approach to help Higher Education clients meet their institutional missions for the future.

Our approach

The demand for donations has never been greater for educational institutions.

At the same time, the laws governing the management and solicitation of charitable assets have become more complex. Institutions need the right partner to help create clear structures to support their fundraising, integrating the development, donor relations, investment and fund management functions.

Our team guides higher education clients through the evolving landscape not only with insight, but also with customized solutions.

We have seen every gifting situation and asset class for our clients—from the adoption of gift acceptance policies to campaign development, coordination of the development function, and the various tax, property, securities, trust and estate law implications of their gifts.

Our team provided legislative language adopted as the new Uniform Prudent Management of Restricted Funds Act in one state and we were one of the first law firms to address the intricacies of restricted fund management. We also work with investment committees on meeting their fiduciary duties while maximizing expected returns.

As a result, our attorneys are known in the industry for their knowledge of current market terms, conditions, trends and challenges.

Who we work with

  • Research universities
  • Public universities
  • Small private colleges
  • Professional schools
  • Medical schools
  • Schools of the performing and visual arts

Recent experience

  • Charitable giving: establishing a charitable giving hotline—After attending our presentation on fundraising and management at a meeting of the Eastern Association of College and University Business Officers, an institution sought to marry the goals and approaches of its development and treasury functions by reforming its gift acceptance policies and gift forms to emphasize current gifts, standardize naming opportunities and lessen accounting burdens. Our Charitable Giving Hotline provided immediate answers to members of the development staff in the field, so that thorny legal issues around complex gifts could be answered in light of the parameters already approved by the institution’s governing board.
  • Restricted fund management: fund audit helps avoid attorney general court action—We performed a restricted fund audit so as to better inform the governing board of a fundraising foundation how best to allocate and invest its funds. The audit was presented to the board in conjunction with an education session on the role of fiduciaries in the charitable solicitation and grantmaking context. The review proved especially useful in an ensuing challenge to the use of donor-restricted funds by the state attorney general who, bowing to pressure from local press reports, brought a court action against the individual board members for fiduciary mismanagement. The matter was resolved just before the attorney general was to begin depositions of board members, when the court considered the client’s proposal to redirect restricted assets, based in part on our extensive fund review. Ruling from the bench, the court adopted our proposal as its own; the attorney general’s action was discontinued.
  • Representation of university endowments—We have represented one of the nation’s leading public university endowments since 2004. Nixon Peabody attorneys have represented the university in connection with its private equity investment programs and reviewed and negotiated the university’s investments in alternative investments, marrying a keen understanding of industry practices with a deep knowledge of the rules governing investments in the charitable and nonprofit sphere.

The new tax plan could impact charitable giving

Hearst Television | January 01, 2018

Washington DC M&A and corporate transactions partner Ken Silverberg is interviewed in this news segment about how the new tax plan may affect charitable giving.

Artists’ commissions, tech gifts and guns: the legal issues facing US museums

The Art Newspaper | May 11, 2017

This article discusses the most pressing legal questions facing museums. Washington DC M&A and corporate transaction partner Mike Cooney is quoted on the possible legislation by Congress to limit income tax deductions for charitable donations.

Consider nonprofit’s impact when donating

Rochester Business Journal | January 20, 2017

This article about charitable giving features Washington DC nonprofit/higher education partner Mike Cooney discussing the personal drivers behind choosing a charity.

Limited privacy of donor information in New York

Rochester Business Journal | October 17, 2016

Rochester Private Equity & Investment Funds partner Jeremy Wolk and Washington DC M&A and Corporate Transactions partner Mike Cooney authored this column about privacy issues surrounding charitable donors in New York.

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