Emerson College, a nonprofit corporation organized under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (“the College”), encourages the solicitation and acceptance of gifts from individuals, corporations, donor- advised funds, and foundations to further and fulfill its mission. The following Gift Acceptance Policy governs the acceptance of gifts made to the College for the benefit of any of its programs.
Reason for Policy
The purpose of this Gift Acceptance Policy (“GAP”) is to provide a set of standards by which gifts are reviewed and accepted by the College. The policy is intended to protect the College and its donors and serve as a resource and guide. The policy addresses the authority to accept gifts, ethical practices, types of gifts accepted, necessary documentation, gift restrictions, and special circumstances.
I. Restrictions on Gifts
Emerson College will accept unrestricted gifts, and gifts for specific programs and purposes, provided that such gifts are consistent with its stated mission, purposes, and priorities and comply with IRS statutes and regulations and applicable state and Federal law.
The College will not accept gifts that are overly restrictive in purpose, and will not accept gifts that:
- violate the terms of the corporate charter;
- impair the College’s ability to define and pursue its mission, require illegal or unethical acts, hinder governance or administration, or compromise the College’s accreditation or reputation;
- Impose upon the College or any of its related programs overly burdensome administrative or other costs, or financial or other risk;
- interfere with or influence the College’s academic freedom or its capacity to fully control the management, operations, and direction of its affairs, including admission procedures, faculty selection and promotion, academic programs, free inquiry and scholarly activity, and their integrity;
- contain restrictions that unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, citizenship, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital or partnership status, military status, or disability; or
- afford the donor influence over the hiring or continued employment of specific personnel.
The acceptance of a gift does not imply that the College endorses or approves of the donor’s views, opinions, or business or other activities.
Naming opportunities may exist and will be governed by a separate policy document.
The Vice President for Institutional Advancement, in consultation with the Provost when gifts are to the academy, or another appropriate Vice President whose area is involved, is responsible for making all final decisions on the restrictive nature of a gift and its acceptance or refusal; such decisions are subject to the review of the President. As referenced in this GAP, certain decisions may require the review and approval of the Vice President for Finance and Administration or of the Office of General Counsel.
II. Use of Legal Counsel
Emerson College staff shall consult with the Office of General Counsel in matters relating to acceptance of gifts or the formation of agreements where appropriate. The Office of General Counsel may designate approved outside counsel to assist in matters.
III. Disclaimer - Role of Development Staff
The College does not provide legal, financial, tax compliance, or other professional advice to donors. Donors should be actively encouraged to consult their own legal, financial and/or tax advisors when contemplating a gift. Advancement staff should not promote themselves or serve as legal, financial, or tax advisors to prospective donors. A disclaimer clause to this effect should be incorporated in proposals and illustrations as appropriate.
IV. Ethical Standards
Emerson College is committed to the highest ethical standards governing donor engagement. All solicitations on behalf of the College or any unit or program thereof shall comport with the standards in the Donor Bill of Rights, as developed by Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and other national organizations. Additionally, all fundraising staff shall adhere to the Model Standards of Practice for the Charitable Gift Planner, as adopted by the National Committee on Planned Giving, to the extent consistent with legal and other ethical requirements applicable to the College from time to time, with the College’s mission and reputation, and with this GAP.
V. Authority To Accept Gifts
- The President: The President is the principal executive officer of the College, acting pursuant to the general powers delegated to the office by the Board of Trustees. Under the GAP, the President has delegated the gift acceptance and disposition power to the Vice President for Institutional Advancement and the Vice President for Finance and Administration, while retaining a residuary right of review.
- Vice President for Institutional Advancement: The Vice President for Institutional Advancement, by delegation from the President, is responsible for accepting gifts to the College within the limits of GAP, and subject to the review of the President. Any and all fundraising conducted at the College shall be subject to the approval of the Vice President for Institutional Advancement. The Vice President for Institutional Advancement will consult with the Provost when gifts are to the academy, or with another appropriate Vice President whose area is implicated by a given gift.
- Vice President for Finance and Administration: The Vice President for Finance and Administration, by delegation from the President, is responsible for the management and disposition of College property, within the limits established by the Board of Trustees and GAP, and subject to the review of the President. The Vice President for Finance and Administration, in conjunction with the Vice President for Institutional Advancement, will consult directly with the President in cases involving gifts of significant magnitude and complexity, or in cases where donor relations are especially sensitive. The Vice President for Finance and Administration and other appropriate College officials shall decide whether property accepted as a gift will be sold or retained by the College. The Vice President for Finance and Administration, together with the Vice President for Institutional Advancement, is responsible for ensuring that the College’s outside financial relationships, whether with donors, prospects, brokers, or other entities, are free of conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest. The Vice President for Finance and Administration is responsible for performing necessary reviews to assess the legal and risk elements that affect the acceptability of property offered as a gift.
VI. Adherence to Gap and Approval of Exceptions:
Each member of the advancement staff, including staff of other divisions whose primary function is to raise funds for the operation of their respective divisions, shall adhere to the GAP. Questions regarding interpretation of the GAP should be directed to the Vice President for Institutional Advancement. Acceptance of gifts to the College in a manner that is in any way inconsistent with GAP must be approved by the Vice President for Institutional Advancement.
VII. Coordination with Donor Objectives
The College, its staff, and representatives shall endeavor to assist donors in accomplishing their philanthropic objectives in a manner consistent with the College’s mission and reputation and with this GAP.
- Donor Expenses: It shall be the responsibility of the donor to secure and pay the cost of an appraisal (where required) and independent legal counsel (where needed), and to pay all other expenses the donor may have incurred associated with the gift. No expenses of the donor with respect to a gift shall be paid by the College without the prior determination by the Vice President for Finance and Administration that doing so is necessary to facilitate the gift and is otherwise consistent with legal and ethical requirements.
- Fiduciary Relationships: Neither the College nor its staff will agree to serve as executor of a decedent’s estate nor as trustee of a living trust.
- Unsolicited Gifts: In the event an unsolicited gift is made directly to a department or division of the College, the Office of Advancement Services shall be notified as soon as reasonably possible in order to initiate the appropriate approvals, acknowledgement, and record keeping. As previously noted, some gifts may be deemed inappropriate and may be declined by the College.
- Administrative Costs: The College reserves the right to allocate administrative costs to a gift or fund to the extent that such costs are reasonably attributable to that gift or fund.
VIII. Types of Gifts Accepted
- Real estate
- Bargain sales
- Bequests (estate and trust gifts)
- Life insurance
- Retirement Plan Assets
- Donor-advised Funds
- Charitable remainder trusts
- Charitable lead trusts
- Other Assets (royalties, etc.)
The following criteria govern the acceptance of each gift form:
- Cash: Gifts of any size are acceptable as cash, check, or wire transfer. Gifts of foreign currency shall require the approval of the Vice President for Finance and Administration.
- Securities: The College may accept both publicly traded securities and closely held securities.
- Publicly traded securities: Marketable securities may be transferred to an account maintained at one or more brokerage firms or delivered physically with the transferor’s signature or stock power attached. As a general rule, all marketable securities shall be sold upon receipt unless otherwise directed by the Vice President for Institutional Advancement. In some cases, applicable securities laws may restrict marketable securities; in such an instance the Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Vice President for Finance and Administration shall make the final determination on the acceptance of the restricted securities.
- Closely held securities: Closely held securities, which include not only debt and equity positions in non-publicly traded companies but also interests in LLPs and LLCs or other ownership structures, can be accepted subject to the approval of the Vice President for Institutional Advancement and the Vice President of Finance and Administration. Gifts should be reviewed prior to acceptance to determine that:
- There are no restrictions on the security that would prevent the College from ultimately converting those assets to cash.
- The security is or will be marketable.
- The security will not generate any undesirable tax consequences for the College.
If potential problems arise on initial review of the security, further review and recommendation by an outside professional may be obtained before making a final decision on acceptance of the gift. The Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Vice President for Finance and Administration, and legal counsel, where necessary, shall make the final determination on the acceptance of the closely held securities. Every effort will be made to sell non-marketable securities as quickly as possible; provided that any proposal to sell closely held securities back to the donor or to an entity affiliated with the donor shall be reviewed by the Vice President for Institutional Advancement and the Vice President for Finance and Administration (in consultation with the Office of the General Counsel as appropriate) to ensure that such proposal is consistent with any legal and ethical requirements and is in the best interests of the College.
- Gifts-In-Kind: Gifts-In-Kind may be accepted where they advance the mission of the College, or may be readily converted into cash. These gifts may include tangible personal property, artwork, professional services, or event underwriting. Prior to accepting a gift of artwork, the College will confirm with the donor that the artwork may be sold at the College’s sole discretion, and will also confirm that the artwork is readily marketable. These gifts must be the subject of Deeds of Gift or other appropriate gift agreements.
Tangible personal property shall be examined based on following criteria;
- Does the property fulfill the mission of the College?
- Is the property marketable?
- Are there any undue restrictions on the use, display or sale of the property?
- Are there any carrying costs for the property, or apparent risks (including financial and reputational risks) connected with the property?
The Director of Archives shall make the final determination on the acceptance of tangible property gifts to be incorporated into the Emerson College Archives. Acceptance of other Gifts-In-Kind will be subject to the approval of the Vice President for Institutional Advancement, and Vice President for Finance and Administration, or their delegates.
- Real estate: Gifts of real estate include developed property, undeveloped property, or gifts subject to a prior life interest. Prior to acceptance of real estate, the College shall require an initial environmental review of the property to ensure that the property is not contaminated with environmental damage. In the event that the initial inspection reveals a potential problem, Emerson College shall retain a qualified inspection firm to conduct an environmental audit. The cost of the environmental audit shall generally be an expense of the donor.
Where appropriate, a title binder shall be obtained by the College prior to the acceptance of the real property gift. The cost of this title binder shall generally be an expense of the donor.
Prior to acceptance of the real property, the gift shall be approved by the Vice President for Institutional Advancement, and Vice President for Finance and Administration in consultation with legal counsel. Criteria for acceptance of the property shall include:
- Is the property useful for the advancement of the mission of the College?
- Is the property marketable?
- Are there any restrictions, reservations, easements, or other limitations associated with property?
- Are there carrying costs, which may include insurance, property taxes, mortgages, or notes, etc., associated with the property?
- Does the environmental audit reflect that the property is not significantly compromised?
- Does the property involve a retained life interest?
Bargain sales: The College will enter into a bargain sale arrangement where the bargain sale furthers its mission and purposes. A bargain sale is a transaction defined as the purchase of property (usually personal or real property) at a cost well under its established value. The policies governing the acceptance of personal and real property apply. All bargain sales require the approval of the Vice President for Institutional Advancement and the Vice President for Finance and Administration
Bequests: Donors shall be encouraged to make bequests to the College under their wills and trusts. Such bequests shall not be recorded as gifts until such time as the gift is irrevocable. Documented specific dollar bequests may be booked for fundraising and tracking purposes consistent with CASE recommendations.
Realized unrestricted bequests with a value of less than $50,000 shall be placed in the College’s Annual Fund. For realized unrestricted bequests of $50,000 or more, the first $50,000 shall be placed in the College’s Annual Fund, and the remainder of the gift shall be placed in the College’s quasi endowment. The College reserves the right to disclaim a bequest if it is inconsistent with the College’s mission or values, or would prove more costly than beneficial to the College. Alternatively, in appropriate situations, in consultation with the Office of the General Counsel and to the extent allowed by law, the College may accept a bequest subject to modification (including court modification, where required) of any restrictions or requirements imposed upon the bequest which the College deems to be inconsistent with this GAP.
Life insurance: Donors shall be encouraged to make gifts of life insurance policies in either of the following ways: (1) by designating Emerson College as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy through a beneficiary designation form (such designations shall not be recorded until such time as the gift is irrevocable); OR (2) by designating the College as both beneficiary and irrevocable owner of a paid-up life insurance policy. The gift is valued at its interpolated terminal reserve value, or cash surrender value, upon receipt. This gift is subject to approval by the Vice President of Institutional Advancement and requires advanced written confirmation by the insurance company and the donor that the policy has been fully paid up.
Retirement plan assets: Donors shall be encouraged to name the College by beneficiary designation of their qualified retirement plans (e.g., IRAs, 401(k), 403(b) plans, or qualified contribution plans). Such designations shall not be recorded as gifts until such time as the gift is irrevocable.
In addition, if permitted by law, charitable IRA rollover gifts may be made by donors during life to the College and recorded as gifts when received. Gifts made through applicable IRA rollover legislation are subject to any and all rules and limitations then in effect.
- Donor-advised funds: Many donor-advised funds allow donors to name charities to receive the fund assets on termination (at the donor’s death, or at some other time, such as the death of one or more family members). Donors should be encouraged to name the College as the recipient of any donor-advised fund upon its termination. Such designations shall not be recorded as gifts until such time as the gift is irrevocable.
- Charitable remainder trusts: The College may accept designation as remainder beneficiary of the charitable remainder trust. The College will not accept appointment as trustee of a charitable reminder trust unless approved by the Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Vice President for Finance and Administration.
- Charitable lead trusts: The College may accept a designation as income beneficiary of a charitable lead trust. Distributions are booked when received.
- Other Assets: The College may accept other types of property, including promissory notes, patents, royalties, trademarks, and copyright subject to the approval of the Vice President for Institutional Advancement and the Vice President for Finance and Administration.
- Gift Acknowledgment: The College shall issue written gift acknowledgments in compliance with IRS requirements and guidelines. See: Emerson College Gift Acceptance Procedures, IRS Publication 561 Determining the Value of Donated Property, and IRS Publication 526 Charitable Contributions.
IX. Pledges and Gift Agreements
- Funds and Installment Gifts: Donors wishing to establish funds or make their gifts in installments over time will be asked to document their commitment in a gift agreement to be reviewed by the Vice President for Institutional Advancement and/or designated staff.
- Gift Agreements: Any gift with restrictions (including endowment fund restrictions, purpose restrictions, or administrative restrictions) or conditions (including naming rights) must be made pursuant to a gift agreement.
Donors wishing to make gifts in installments for purposes such as capital projects or endowed chairs that create a financial obligation or detrimental reliance on the part of the College may be required to sign a written agreement that will create a binding legal obligation on the donor, as well as a claim against the donor’s estate if the commitment remains unpaid at the donor’s death.
The President, the Vice President for Institutional Advancement, and the Vice President for Finance and Administration are authorized to sign gift agreements.
- Variance: To provide the College with maximum flexibility in the pursuit of its mission, donors are encouraged to make unrestricted gifts to the College. Unless otherwise approved in advance by the Vice President for Institutional Advancement in consultation with the Office of the General Counsel, the College will reserve the right, in any agreement that restricts or sets conditions upon the use of the gift, to broaden or alter the purpose of the gift or conditions attendant to a gift should it be determined in the future that the original purpose or conditions of the gift no longer meets the needs or serves the mission of the College.
- Estate Gifts: Sample bequest/beneficiary designation language will be made available to donors to ensure that the gift is properly designated. A signed gift agreement will be required to create an endowed fund, or where required to clarify future use of dollars and confirm consistency with this GAP. In order to help ensure that the donor’s charitable intent can be fulfilled and implemented as quickly and efficiently as possible, donors are encouraged to work together with the College in advance of execution of any will, trust, or beneficiary designation that includes restrictions on use of funds or requirements imposed on the College.
X. Acceptance and Modifications
These policies and guidelines have been reviewed and accepted by the Vice President for Institutional Advancement and the Vice President for Finance and Administration who must approve any changes to or deviations from these policies.
- Institutional Advancement Privacy Policies
- Privacy Notice - Alumni and Other Supporters (GDPR)
- Privacy Notice - Alumni and Other Supporters
The Vice President for Institutional Advancement is responsible for this policy.
Key Offices to Contact
Please contact the Office of Institutional Advancement for further information regarding this policy and its implementation.
Links to Procedures of Forms
Commitment to Non-Discrimination
Emerson College seeks to protect the rights of all members of the College community and any other persons having dealings with the College, and prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender or sex (including pregnancy), gender identity or expression, race, color, religion or religious creed, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, disability or handicap, age, genetics, marital status, veteran status and any other category protected by law (“protected characteristics”).
Statement of Adherence to College Values
This Policy is intended to align with College values of equity, diversity, inclusion and access.
Approved on the 26th day of April, 2021
M. Lee Pelton,