by Melanie Norton
Recently it seems I have had several opportunities to work with clients – and even organizations for which I volunteer or serve - on reviewing gift acceptance policies.
Although to some it may seem this duty is as exciting as watching paint dry, I actually thoroughly enjoy diving into the task of crafting and reviewing guiding principles that will help an organization in their important charge of accepting gifts.
There are several reasons for an organization to have a solid set of gift acceptance policies. An effective set of guidelines protects an organization in its due diligence of accepting gifts – especially gifts that fall outside the “ordinary” realm of daily activity.
Guidelines and policies arm the development and leadership staff with the information and tools needed determine whether or not gifts make sense to their organization as well as the donors.
Solid gift acceptance policies should do the following:
- State the purpose of the policies for the organization, including gift philosophy and the entities that have the authority to accept gifts and make exceptions to the guidelines.
- Establish the ground rules by which gifts will be accepted, including the types of gifts and parameters that make sense for the charity.
- Give the charity the ability to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. There is no way a policy manual can be comprehensive enough to cover every type of gift. Some will argue the real value in policies is the ammunition they provide for a charity to say “no” to a gift that is not in their best interest – or the donor’s.
- Educate the staff in their communication and negotiation of potential gifts with donors.
- Provide additional resources for reference, such as a real estate checklist, when the situation merits additional diligence.
Overall guiding policies should have the formal endorsement of the Board. I always recommend organizations request a review of their gift acceptance policies by legal counsel when possible, and I also recommend revisiting your policies on an annual basis.
Gift acceptance policies that include internal handling procedures, and even recognition guidelines, only serve to make your guiding document even more comprehensive and informative.
There are several organizations that offer sample guidelines to get you started and resources are easily accessible on the web. The Partnership for Philanthropic Planning (www.pppnet.org) and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (www.afpnet.org) are just two to consider.
Adopting a set of comprehensive and relevant gift acceptance policies is smart business and good practice.