In the November 6, special Giving section of The New York Times, author Fran Hawthorne asks just what happens “When a Donation Steers Off Course.” Robert Evans, president of the Evans Consulting Group, was featured in the piece and had several lengthy discussions with the writer, sharing his expertise, throughout the reporting process. The best part is, Evans shared the editorial space with country legend Garth Brooks.

“Of the more than $300 billion a year that is donated to about 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States, most work out as intended,” Hawthorne writes. “Museum wings get built and scholarships get awarded. Nevertheless, experts say, dozens of times a year something goes awry. A donor may lose interest or take a bad loss in the stock market. The project may become more complex than a charity expected.”

Evans argues that such breakdowns in communication are becoming rarer because donors of all levels are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Details and expectations are often hashed out in advance so that there are few surprises, and contingency plans put into in place when unexpected things do pop up.

 “Donors have become much more direct about what they can expect in terms of timetables and visibility and the way that the gift is publicly discussed,” Evans told the Times.

How does Brooks fit into this? Is he writing a song about a rescinded donation? Not quite.

Hawthorn reports that in 2005, Brooks agreed to donate $500,000 to the Integris Candian Valley Hospital in Yukon, Okla. to go toward the construction of a women’s health center named for Brooks’ late mother, Colleen. Several years later, with no hint that the center would ever be built, Brooks successfully sued to get his donation back. He did, and was awarded $500,000 in damages. Experts considered this an extreme case of a charitable donation gone awry.

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