Most NGOs around the world do not have a written gift acceptance policy. A gift (or grant) acceptance policy is a formal set of guidelines that determines under which conditions an NGO should decline a gift or donation. Some NGOs may have never considered drafting such a policy, or feel that it is unnecessary. What is a gift acceptance policy? Why do NGOs need one? How do you draft one? This short guide provides answers to these questions. A sample gift acceptance policy has also been attached for reference.
What is a gift acceptance policy?
A gift acceptance policy is a written formal set of guidelines that guides NGOs in several ways:
- It broadly defines the types of gifts/donations that the NGO can accept
- It clarifies the forms gifts/donations can take
- It assigns responsibilities to various persons in the NGO
- It outlines how gift acceptance procedures are administered
- It clarifies when gifts are to be reviewed
Why do we need a gift acceptance polity?
Having proper, formal policies and procedures in place is an important prerequisite for NGOs to function at their highest capacity and ensure smooth operations. A gift acceptance policy can help prevent a range of problems. Though most gifts/donations are not controversial in nature and will not create issues, there will always be a first time when acceptance of a gift/donation creates serious organizational or reputational problems. For example:
- The gift hurts the NGOs reputation
- The gift is inappropriate
- The donor does not share the mission of the NGO
- The donor has an agenda other than helping the NGO
- The gift is very difficult to administer
- The gift creates risks for beneficiaries and/or staff
- Management has not approved acceptance of the gift
- Staff do not approve of the donor
A written policy means that the NGO is making a good faith, disciplined attempt to prevent high-risk or inappropriate gifts from being accepted. A gift acceptance policy will typically be quite broad and not too prescriptive. While in some cases it is possible to define gifts that cannot be accepted under any circumstance (e.g. donations from donors connected to arms trade, alcohol/cigarette manufacturing, a government that does not respect human rights, etc.) – in most cases specific restrictions are difficult to list and not recommended. With thousands of potential donors around the world this would be a logistical nightmare.
How do we develop a gift acceptance polity?
First Steps? The first step is to gather examples of gift acceptance policies from other organizations. There are a range of such policies available on the web, from the very simple to extremely complex. You can get a sense of what you would like to include in your policy be researching. The attached sample gift acceptance policy is a good place to start.
Who should be involved? Once you have drafted a policy it would be a good idea to convene a meeting with relevant staff (board members, management, program officers) to review the draft document and solicit comments and feedback. You want to make sure all staff are on board with the policy and understand its implications.
How to implement the policy? Once finalized and approved, make sure all staff receive a copy of the policy, understand its implications, and their specific responsibilities. As a gift acceptance policy will likely only be use d in exceptional circumstances it may well be forgotten very quickly. For this reason try to plan a review of the gifts/donations accepted that year, and whether they comply with the policy, at least once a year. This will help test the effectiveness of both the policy, and keep staff engaged in reviewing gift acceptance. If necessary, update the policy periodically.