Gift Acceptance Policy

Gift Acceptance Policy

(This post was first published in January 2010)

When I was raising money for The Nature Conservancy in the late 1990s, a former board member approached us about gifting the Conservancy a number of shares of privately-held stock. The intent was that we would hold it for a period of several months while he was taking the company public. Following the Initial Public Offering (IPO), the Conservancy would be able to sell the stock for an estimated $1,000,000.

If this was you, what would you do? There are some significant risks involved with accepting and holding stock anyway, and the fact that it was privately held stock made it worse. Still, it was a million dollars!

If a donor wanted to give you any stock, do you know what to do? Is your organization capable and ready to receive such a gift? Do you have a broker who will handle it for you? Will you sell it right away (preferred policy!), or keep it as an investment? What about gifts of other items, such as a car or truck, a piece of furniture, jewelry, or art? How about Life Insurance? Or land that has little or no conservation value?

These are issues commonly handled in a Gift Acceptance Policy. You should have one, your Board (especially your Fundraising Committee) should be familiar with it, and you should review it periodically.

A good gift acceptance policy will address the issues above and more. Here is my starter checklist:

  • Cash and cash equivalents – do you accept credit cards? Debit cards? Automatic periodic transfers?
  • How about “new money” like Venmo, PayPal, Google Wallet, and so on?
  • Gifts of appreciated stock
  • Gifts of real estate (both conservation land and non-conservation land) – will you accept land without stewardship funding?
  • Gifts of other real property
  • Gifts of time (in-kind services)
  • Temporarily and permanently restricted gifts – can you handle the accounting?
  • Gifts of Life Insurance
  • Estate Gifts
  • Other Planned Gifts (annuities, remainder trusts, and so on)
  • Gifts from Corporations and Businesses
  • Acknowledgement Policies
  • Benefits:
    • If someone gives you a restricted gift, are they considered a member?
    • Are higher level membership benefits based on a single gift decision or on cumulative giving? Do matching gifts count?

The Land Trust Alliance’s Gift Acceptance policy is on their website. I like it but it’s probably more than most land trusts need. Do you have one you like? If so, I’d like to post it as alternative examples.

What’s in your organization’s gift acceptance policy?




Photo by Valeria Boltneva courtesy of


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Fundraiser’s Almanac
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Handwritten Letters

There are serious advantages to writing letters by hand. Here’s one:

  • Degree of personalization: Because each letter takes 15-20 minutes to write longhand, and you’re thinking about the recipient the whole time, you are far more likely to make subtle adjustments to language and sentence structure than you would be if you were typing the letter, or simply changing the salutation and calling it good. You are far more likely to be writing TO THE DONOR. And it’s like smiling into the telephone – the person on the other end can tell.


Getting the Most from Fundraising Events

Every event ends up with five different kinds of people.

  • Those who came, enjoyed themselves, and seemed genuinely interested in one of the programs or projects.
  • Those who came and just enjoyed themselves.
  • Those who said they would come and didn’t.
  • Those who responded to the invitation but couldn’t come.
  • And those who ignored the invitation altogether.

You should plan specific follow-up activities for each group.


Good News

From now until Christmas, everything you do with members and donors should be coordinated. And everything they see should appear coordinated as well. Start with some Good News. Have you been saving something back, waiting for the right moment to release it? Now is the time. The message for your donors – right before they are asked to give again – is “your financial contribution is making a difference.” Give them something to be proud of.


Filing/Data Entry – Soft Credits

When a donor makes a gift, they obviously get the direct credit for what they actually gave. But the Board member who wrote the nice note in the left-hand margin deserves some credit as well – the note-writer gets a “soft” credit. Most fundraising software includes a way to assign soft credits to specific individuals, and keeping track of such information can open several cultivation doors for you. Soft credits are thereby a way of tracking relationships.

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