Nonprofit Accounting Basics

Policy Development Outline for Small and Midsize Nonprofit Organizations

The following steps are designed to prompt responses that can become the components of a gift acceptance policy that can serve as a guideline for staff and board.  

1)       State the purpose for establishing the policy.

2)       State the organization’s bias, if applicable, toward soliciting unrestricted gifts, whenever possible. (Restrictions can sometimes be unconsciously invoked by the manner in which a gift is solicited.)

3)       Name who is authorized to accept gifts on behalf of the organization.

4)       Identify any sources (or categories of sources) from whom gifts would be inappropriate or incompatible with the values and mission of your organization, or the interests of its constituents, and from whom your organization should rarely or never accept gifts.

5)       Develop and include a checklist for screening gifts that may seem questionable: is there a hidden agenda behind the gift? Is there any potential conflict of interest? Might there be an adverse public opinion? What long term impact might the gift have?

6)       Decide what kinds of gifts, other than cash, you will or won’t accept (for instance, in-kind gifts, sponsorships, trades, real property, vehicles, collections, stocks, bonds, investment instruments, etc.), and how such gifts will be valued and acknowledged. Be clear about any specific acceptance criteria to be applied to the decision in each category.

7)       If the organization will accept gifts of stock, develop guidelines for holding or liquidating the stock, and how to account for it. This may be complex enough to require a separate policy/procedure document or be covered in a separate investment policy to which the gift acceptance policy can refer.

8)       If the organization will enter into planned gift agreements, who has the authority to do so, and what legal counsel must be sought? Develop a process and procedure for this.

9)       Develop criteria for acceptance of purpose-restricted contributions. Does the restricted purpose align with core mission and fit within current programs? Does it require the organization to begin a new program that may not be sustainable? Does it entail too much unfunded overhead effort to accomplish?

10)    Within this policy or separately, state your organization’s donor privacy policy. (The conditions under which the organization may/will disclose information about the donor and the gift – name, contact information, gift amount; acknowledgment, limits on anonymity, sharing of contact information, etc.)

11)    If applicable, state your organization’s position on paying fundraising professionals. (The Association of Fundraising Professionals prohibits its members from being paid a commission on a percentage of funds raised (see Professional Compensation: A Position Paper[BHF1] ).

Links to Gift Acceptance Policy Examples: