Your Donation, Should You Choose To Accept It


By: Joe Patti

In: Arts Admin, Board & Committee Management, Development, Legal

The non-profit sector is getting more organized and sophisticated about fundraising and general solicitation of support through vehicles like Kickstarter and Giving Tuesday.

At the same time, there has also been increased scrutiny of donations based on the character of the person or company making the donation or the conditions attached to the money.

It becomes increasingly important for non-profit organizations to have a gift acceptance policy. Not just to insulate the organization from an association with entities that may damage their image, but also to ensure the organization has the capacity and interest in administering gifts of objects and property.

For example, if the organization has received a gift of real estate or a yacht, does it have the ability to maintain it? Does the organization have the opportunity and capacity to perform due diligence to make sure the property, object, securities, etc are properly valued and in good condition and won’t self destruct like a Mission Impossible tape recorder shortly after receiving them?


Philanthropy Journal posted gift acceptance guidelines created by Wachovia Trust Nonprofit and Philanthropic Services outlining many of the things that need to be taken into consideration when accepting different types of gifts.

Among the other practical considerations for creating a gift acceptance policy is that it is a measure of good governance. The IRS asks non-profits if they have formulated one on their 990 filings, just as they ask if the organization has a board conflict of interest policy.

Then there is the simple philosophical question about whether accepting the gift is appropriate to the organization’s mission.

The National Council on Non-Profits provides a good guide and list of resources for creating gift acceptance policies. Among their suggestions are thinking about the audience for the policy and how it will be disseminated.

  • Consider who the audience will be for your nonprofit’s gift acceptance policy: Will the policy help guide prospective donors who are considering a gift? Or is the policy only intended to provide guidance for staff and board members?  Or both – Some nonprofits adopt a policy but also draft guidelines to help staff and board members put the policy into practice.
  • For maximum financial transparency, consider posting the policy on your nonprofit’s website which helps manage donors’ expectations before they approach your nonprofit with a non-standard gift.
  • If the policy will not be linked from the website, how will it be distributed so that individuals who are considering a gift can be informed about the policy?

The National Council on Non-Profit webpage links to good examples of gift acceptance policies that one can use as guidelines for creating one’s own. Reading some like that of the University of Richmond and the Maine Island Trail Associations can make the task seem rather daunting given the level of detail they go into.

While it may be necessary to invest as much time and space when creating your own policy, the example of the College Art Association shows you can address the same categories in a much shorter span.

Joe Patti
Joe Patti
In addition to writing for ArtHacker, I have been writing the blog, Butts in the Seats ( since 2004. I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. ( I am currently the Theater Manager for the Rialto Theater in Loveland, CO. Across my career I have worked as the Executive Director at The Grand Opera House in Macon, GA, at University of Hawaii-Leeward Community College, University of Central Florida, Asolo Theater, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Appel Farm Arts and Music Center and numerous other places both defunct and funky.
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