Wisdom Wednesdays: Can We Accept That Gift From a Donor?, Part Three

by Dawn M.S. Miller, CFRE

In addition to the Gift Acceptance Policy and understanding when and why gifts may be refused or declined – topics we considered in the past two weeks – below are some key points to consider when you evaluate your fundraising policies and procedures.  They may seem obvious or simple, but these are questions you must ask of yourself and your organization to ensure an effective development program.  After all, a small error is no small matter.

  1. Miller-DawnIs there a procedure for processing gifts and maintaining database accuracy?  Is there a written procedure for entering and recording gifts?
    1. Is the Development Office reconciling with the Finance Office?  Different staff members working with the same information can result in data inconsistencies.
    2. Is the word “Street” spelled out or is “St.” used for address?  Is it “Mr. and Mrs.” or “M/M”?  Contact information can directly affect the quality of your data and the number of duplicate records.
    3. Are you using fund codes, appeal codes and campaign codes consistently? Otherwise your reports and queries may not be pulling accurate information.
  2. Is there a donor privacy/confidentiality policy?  A staff and volunteer privacy/confidentiality policy?
    Folks that have access to your database or other donor information need to know and understand that it is a privilege, not a right, and the information is the property of the nonprofit.
  3. Is there a written procedure for acknowledging gifts?
    Is the expectation that gifts are acknowledged within 24-48 hours?  Does the Executive Director sign gifts over $1,000?  Board chair signs gifts over $5,000?  Whatever your parameters are for acknowledging gifts, they need to be stated in your policies and procedures manual.
  4. Is there a donor recognition/stewardship policy?
    1. At what giving level would/should a donor’s name be added to a donor wall
    2. What about recognizing donors in an Annual Report?  Or with a small token of appreciation?  Again, donor recognition practices need to be clearly stated in your manual.
  5. Is there IRS language on receipts and acknowledgement letters?
    For example: ABC Charity is an IRS approved 501(c)3 organization.  This acknowledgment of your contribution is provided pursuant to Section 170(f)(8) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Under present IRS guidelines, since no goods or services were received in return for your contribution, the entire amount is eligible for consideration as a Charitable Tax Deduction.
  6. Is there a permission/opt-in/opt-out policy for sending email communications to benefactors, volunteers, etc.?
    Don’t blast your contacts with e-mail information unless they’ve agreed to it.
  7. Is there a policy for conducting new special events?  Use of the charity’s name and logo?
    Where do you want your organization’s name to appear, or not appear? Could be a sticky point!
  8. Is your organization registered where it raises funds?
    1. Please consult a qualified professional adviser if you are uncertain about state and federal registration issues affecting your nonprofit.
    2. You really don’t want to get into legal trouble over a $50 gift … or a $5,000 gift!

~Partially adapted from AFP’s Ready Reference Series, Developing Fundraising Policies and Procedures: Best Practices for Accountability and Transparency

 Keep a policies and procedures manual within reach in the development office and review annually.

Not sure where to start?  Below are a few quick references that your organization may find helpful:

At the end of the day, we as fundraising professionals are charged with raising funds for our nonprofits and properly stewarding our donors’ gifts.  Policies and procedures should enhance our fundraising operations, not hinder our progress.

Begin to draft, or revise, your fundraising policies and procedures today!

Dawn M.S. Miller, CFRE, is Director of Consulting for Fund Development Services at Zielinski Companies in St. Louis, Missouri. She can be reached at dmiller@zielinskico.com or (800) 489-2150.

Founded in 1957, Zielinski Companies helps nonprofit and religious organizations address their financial, management and planning needs. The firm has a broad range of consulting service areas, including: Fund Development and Mission Advancement Consulting; Audit, Accounting and Tax Services; Property and Facility Planning; Organizational Management and Planning; Long-term Care, Facility and Staffing Consulting and Cash Management and Credit Card Services. For more information, please visit www.zielinskico.com.


2 thoughts on “Wisdom Wednesdays: Can We Accept That Gift From a Donor?, Part Three

  1. Our organization recently approved an updated public fundraising policies manual, and is implementing those policies in our day-to-day operations. Rather than a burdonsome administrative task or a wasteful distraction of time, drafting and implemeting clear policies frees staff and volunteers to act in confidence and defined the boundaries of the playing field. They have a calming, focusing effect and significantly reduce the amount of energy- and resource-consuming improvisation.

    • Thanks for the comment, Mark! It’s good to see this sort of thing in practice. It’s very true that well written policies actually foster freedom and the confidence to do effective work.

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