There are many stories going around about organizations that accepted gifts which subsequently become a difficulty for the organization for a wide variety of reasons. There may be severe restrictions on the use of the gift, the gift may be expensive to maintain and difficult to dispose of, have unexpected and unwanted effects on the organization financially, or any number of other complications.
An effective tool for organizations to use is a gift acceptance policy. Having a policy aids the organization by ensuring that gifts that may cost the organization money, time or even its reputation, being able to say “no” to gifts without offending the potential donor, reducing “spur of the moment” gift decisions, and helping to educate the staff and board about issues surrounding unusual gifts.
Some gift acceptance policies are quite lengthy and technical, depending on the nature of the organization and its donors. However, the policies do not need to be complicated or address every conceivable situation. There are some standard segments included in most policies. We usually see a paragraph describing the purpose of the policy, an acknowledgement of the value of donors and their rights, a description of gifts that are acceptable, and a summary of the processes surrounding gift acceptance.
Such a policy is likely to be revised periodically to address situations that had not been previously contemplated. This is a good time to reeducate management and the board about the policy and the motivations behind it.