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August 01, 2016

Falling Out Over Fundraising Wracks Small Pa. College

Mansfield University of Pennsylvania has moved to cut ties with its nonprofit fundraising arm amid an acrimonious dispute over giving, deficits, and donor disclosure, The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. The 2,376-student institution, part of the 14-campus Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, has set up its own development operation, competing with the Mansfield Foundation and sowing confusion among donors, according to the newspaper.

The fight centers on the foundation’s refusal to turn over donor records to the university, which was unhappy with donor response and wanted to start cultivating contributors itself. The foundation, which says the disclosure order would violate donor-privacy agreements, was turned out of its office on the Wellsboro, Pa., campus earlier this year and is mulling legal action to protect what it says are its rights as an independent nonprofit.

The friction is exacerbated by financial pressure on the university, which has seen declining enrollment and deficits that reached $7.8 million on a $45 million budget in the last academic year. Rita Dibble, the university’s vice president for institutional advancement, said foundation fundraising for priority projects has been “hopelessly inadequate,” but both she and foundation officials said they held out hope for reconciliation.