From DeGroote to Michael Garron: why more medical institutions are selling their names

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  1. Scott Wooder

    Trading a donation for a name change to an institution degrades both parties, the donor and the institution. Philanthropists should make a donation for the good it will do, not for their own personal glory.

    Of course I’ve never had 10 or 50 or 100 million to throw around and I never will.

    • Frances

      I think large donations should be made with no strings attached such as renaming a building. Make a donation as a “Goodwill” gesture.

  2. Steven Lewis

    Very interesting piece that raises all sorts of issues. It is all part of a trend where the naming of buildings and institutions has changed from honoring people for substantive historical achievements to immortalizing money. Philanthropy is a great thing as long as it does not unduly steer the agendas of public institutions. It is perfectly reasonable to recognize those who make large donations. However, when the donor insists on affixing his or her name to an institution, it’s not entirely altruistic. It brands not just the recipient, but burnishes the image of the donor. Indeed that is part of the intent – otherwise the donation would not require naming rights.

    Hence the donation in some ways creates goodwill value, which is, or certainly could be, a financial benefit. (“Goodwill” is monetized in valuing businesses.) As a thought experiment, perhaps we could consider different tax consequences for different types of donations. A donation with no naming rights could be fully tax deductible; a donation with naming rights somewhat less so. Totally unrestricted donations, or donations directed towards initiatives entirely defined by the recipients, could be treated more generously by the tax code than restricted donations.

    • Roxana Tudor

      This is a neat article for sure. I’m a master of science student myself and I can say that if it wouldn’t have been for philanthropy, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue a thesis, especially one that carries a heavy stigma tag on its back (lung cancer). And it is true, for those that donate, they get back as a tax deductible… I think philanthropic measures can mend gaps that continue to exist between the public (ie, us), health policies meanwhile continuing to strive towards achieving better patient-centered care.

      • J Tagg

        To immortalize a 13 year boy who was only notable for being the son of wealthy “donors”, illustrates the sad state of hospital funding in Canada. Hospital foundations are willingly selling their institutions’ names to the highest bidder, ignoring institutional heritage and community connections for the almighty dollar. Regardless of what they name it, it will always be East General to the people of east Toronto.

  3. Ann Moran

    It is a very thoughtful article. When I see one of these name changes my cynical self always wonders if or how this is related to The Panama Papers?

  4. Ted Rodgers

    It’s not a true donation if you get something in return for it, particularly your name immortalized on a university’s graduate school.

    Calling it a donation is misleading. It is naming rights, the same way the Skydome is now called the Rogers Centre.

  5. James Dickinson

    It is disturbing that naming goes for money, rather than some major achievement that deserves remembrance. But these are once-only gifts. What happens in 20 years when they are bankrupt again? In 50 years time, will anyone know or care about the name of that donor? Perhaps these institutions should be like sporting arenas: sell the naming rights for 5 or 10 years, then do a new contract. That way there will be a renewed flow of extra funds. Buildings are easier: given the 30 to 40 years lifespan expected in modern construction, they are knocked down and the naming rights for the new one can be resold. It looks like John Harvard got good value: over four hundred years before his college considered renaming.

  6. A cohen

    It’s not philanthropy if you put your name on the school, it’s buying the rights. It’s branding. I for one am not impressed.

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