The art of donating at Intuit…

November 29, 2010

At this time of year, our inboxes and mailboxes quickly fill with all sorts of pleas to support various causes. And make no mistake about it: we here at footnoted certainly encourage as much charitable giving as you can afford. But we also know that it’s a lot easier to be generous when it’s somebody else’s money.

Need evidence? Just look at the proxy that Intuit (INTU) filed before Thanksgiving. There in the footnotes that explain director compensation is this little gem:

This amount represents a donation to the National Football Foundation (NFF), a not-for-profit organization that promotes leadership, sportsmanship and academic excellence, and annually awards post-graduate scholarships to the most outstanding scholar-athletes and community leaders in college football as well as a trophy named for Mr. Campbell. Mr. Campbell is a director of the NFF. In fiscal 2010, Intuit donated $1,000,000 to the NFF’s Campaign for Excellence. Mr. Campbell was not involved in the solicitation, consideration or approval of this donation. He receives no compensation from the NFF and derives no financial benefit from the donation. This donation was unanimously approved by the Audit and Risk Committee and was approved by three of the four members of the Compensation Committee, with Mr. Batchelder voting against.

We’re not doubting that the NFF is a worthy cause, though we did find it interesting that the group’s most prestigious award was recently renamed for Campbell. It also seems interesting that one of Intuit’s newest board members — David Batchelder of Relational Investors — voted against the $1 million gift.

Judging by the profile of Campbell on Intuit’s site, there’s no doubt that Campbell, who serves as non-executive Chairman, is pretty impressive. But according to the same filing, he owns over 180,000 shares of Intuit, which at current prices is worth over $8 million. So presumably he could afford to make his own $1 million donation to the NFF instead of having Intuit do it for him.

And since one of Intuit’s most popular products is a program that provides tax preparation assistance, we have to wonder how TurboTax might handle such a donation.

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