Planning is done, approval from management is confirmed, now it’s time to operationalize the dream. Where do you start? There’s a lot to think about and it’s possible some things may not be done in the right order. But there’s one that should and must be done right from the beginning : The Charity’s Gift Acceptance Policy!
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you start working on your charity’s policy. It may not be the most exciting work but trust me when I say that it will help prevent any major hiccups.
Protect your donors and your charity
Any fundraising organization must have a gift acceptance policy. If the charity is in the process of launching a gifts in will program, it must review its policy to add GiW.
Outright cash gifts are fairly straightforward but some deferred gifts can have long-term implications for the charity. Before accepting the gift, the charity must consider the consequences in order to protect both the donor and the charity. This is particularly important for smaller charities where the terms of some gifts in wills may jeopardize the sustainability of the organization.
The gift acceptance policy must address gifts of tangible personal property as well as designations of cash gifts.
A charity can turn down a gift
A gift acceptance policy provides a way for charities to turn down gifts that would provide little benefit to the charity or worse, present a burden on it, requiring substantial financial outlay and management. In fact, there should be a clear process for assessing the risk of some GiW, such as real estate. Charities can cite a policy that prohibits certain types or terms of gift arrangements (i.e.: a donor that wishes to offload a property that has lost value). The policy also provides guidelines for staff members to follow for most GiW arrangements.
Drafting the policy
Ideally the Development Officer drafts the policy then the charity’s financial administrator, accountant and charity’s treasurer review the document. Lastly, a legal advisor must review it before the policy is presented to the Board of Directors for final approval. One special note, the policy, as with all policies, should be reviewed annually (or at most, every two years).
Flexibility is key
A charity’s gift acceptance policy must be flexible because exceptions in the gift acceptance process can arise. A donor’s relationship with the charity can create a reason for the charity to deviate from the policy.
Formalizing the process
An individual or group of people (i.e.: Board of Directors) should have the authority to accept gifts on behalf of the charity. This is particularly important for gifts in wills so make sure you have a standard board motion assigning signing authority for the organization.
These are foundational things that must be done as a charity plans to launch a gifts in will program. Or if the charity doesn’t have any policies, this is a crucial first step in getting the “house in order”. Don’t let guesswork dictate gift management. On a final note, make sure that this and other policies are accessible on the charity’s website. It demonstrates transparency and clarity to donors and funders.