Donations Policy - Acceptance and Refusal

Updated on 11 November 2020

This Policy is intended to provide guidance to staff in relation to the acceptance of donations on behalf of the University.

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It defines circumstances in which a donation cannot be accepted and defines roles and responsibilities to protect the interests of the University. It also defines the University’s commitment to best practice in donor relations.

This Policy sits within the University’s wider ethics framework and should be read in conjunction with the University’s Policy on:


The University of Dundee actively seeks and encourages gift income from UK and internationally‐based donors as a legitimate, sustained and vital component of its funding. This policy covers the solicitation and acceptance of donations and bequests by or in the name of the University. It sets out the University’s arrangements which are designed to ensure that such philanthropic support is aligned with its mission, values and financial needs.  

The Institute of Fundraising Code of Practice on “The Acceptance and Refusal of Donations” was used as a framework in defining this policy.

The University also has a separate Gifts and Hospitality Policy which covers the receipt and provision of non‐monetary gifts by members of staff and members of Court. 

Both policies should, however, be read in conjunction with the University’s Anti‐Bribery Policy Statement.


This policy applies to all staff.  

Purpose and rationale

  • To wholly protect the reputations of both the donor and the University from any real or perceived impropriety in the relationship that is established through the offer and receipt of a donation
  • Ensure compliance with legal regulations
  • Clarify the University’s and the University Court’s legal obligations with regard to the acceptance/refusal of donations
  • Avoid confusion between Court members, senior officers, fundraisers, volunteers and staff as to who has the authority to take decisions in differing circumstances
  • Help to ensure that decisions are not taken on an ad hoc basis, but are grounded in the University’s mission, values and agreed strategic objectives
  • Provide a clear objective standard against which external bodies can judge the University’s actions in cases of potential or actual dispute
  • Protect the University’s reputation against adverse public reaction from existing or potential supporters


The University is a charity registered in Scotland SCO015096 .  It is subject to charity law in Scotland and to regulation by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR).  The members of the University Court, the governing body of the University, are the charity trustees and thus are ultimately responsible for operations of the charity.  The University will at all times observe the requirements of charity law and other relevant legislation in relation to the receipt and expenditure of funds.

Responsibility for the acceptance and refusal of gifts rests ultimately with the Court of the University even where decision making has been delegated. Court must be able to demonstrate that it has acted in the best interests of the University in each case. It is clear from the guidance available that there is a presumption that in the generality of cases the interests of a charity will be furthered by increasing the resources at its disposal. There is a strong emphasis on great care being taken over any decision to refuse a donation. This may be done legitimately in certain circumstances, but judgments must not be influenced by the personal ethical viewpoints of trustees or those to whom they have delegated their decision making.

Court is responsible for approving this policy which sets out the framework within which gifts and bequests to the University may be accepted.

Policy principles 

Court Oversight 

The Director of External Relations will be responsible for providing such information to the Court at its meetings about the solicitation and acceptance of gifts as the Court shall determine. As a minimum, the Director of External Relations will provide to the Court a report of all new gift agreements entered into by the University. (A gift agreement is required for all gifts of a cumulative value totalling £10,000 and above.) The report will indicate all “referral gifts”, for example, those for which a formal test of compliance with this policy has been undertaken, together with the process by which each such gift came to be accepted.

The operation of the policy will be reviewed formally by Court on the advice of the Audit Committee in September 2013 and at least every third year thereafter.

Fundraising Operations

The University wants to develop a culture of philanthropic giving where responsibilities for fundraising are shared among Alumni Relations & Development (A&D) staff, the Principal, Vice‐Principals, Deans and  senior officers. Colleges, schools and individuals are encouraged to identify and assist in soliciting prospective donors.  The A&D staff have a wealth of professional fundraising experience, early consultation with them will ensure appropriate guidance and support to help maximize the University’s philanthropic income.  Efforts to secure gifts from private sources must in all cases be brought to the attention of the A&D Office in advance. Everyone seeking to raise funds in the University’s name must work in partnership with the A&D Office to ensure compliance with this policy.

The University recognizes the Dundee University Students’ Association which is a separate legal entity with its own trustee body. The University is committed to working in co‐operation with DUSA to ensure that maximum benefit is derived from fundraising by and on behalf of Dundee students.

During University Campaigns, all development efforts will be in support of the defined goals of the campaigns and will be directed and coordinated through the A&D Office. All gift solicitations should be made in support of university priorities as determined by the Principal, Vice‐Principals and Directors.

Written approval from the Principal must be obtained before any solicitations outside of campaign priorities can be made.

Gift Acceptance

Only authorised A&D Office staff members or their designees can accept new pledges on behalf of the university.  Before soliciting or accepting any gift that requires a present or future financial commitment from the university over and above the amount pledged, written approval must be obtained from an appropriate officer in accordance with the delegation levels set out in the Schedule of Delegation and Decision‐making.

Gift Refusal

The University will refuse a donation where there is reason to believe the money results from illegal activities or where the activities of the donor are inimical to the objectives of the University.

The University will not accept gifts where to do so would, in its considered opinion:

  • compromise its status as an independent institution.
  • suppress or falsify academic research.
  • limit freedom of enquiry.
  • create unacceptable conflicts of interest.
  • cause  adverse damage to the University’s reputation (including deterring significant numbers of beneficiaries or other donors).
  • cause financial loss or any other damage to the University.
  • be directly inimical to the University’s mission, objectives and values as approved by the Court of the University from time to time.

Great care will be taken by the University in deciding whether to accept or refuse a donation where:

  • an offer of support is itself dependent upon the University first spending its own money or resources in order to facilitate the execution of the original offer of support, as this might be placing the University’s assets under undue and inappropriate risk and/or unduly strain the University’s working capital. 
  • the support, whilst reflecting the University’s objectives, is impractical for instance because the University does not have the resources with which to maintain the running costs associated with it.
  • the support consists of goods, services or property which the University cannot lawfully use, convert, exchange or sell in direct support of its charitable objectives.
  • the offer is dependent upon the satisfaction of conditions by the University which are contrary to the University’s values and objectives, or unreasonable in relation to the nature of the donation.
  • conditions tie the donation to a specific activity and the activity itself is not within the objectives or strategy of the University.

Due Diligence

The University will undertake all reasonable research on donation pledges to ensure that it is aware of the ultimate source of funding for each gift and to satisfy itself that the funds do not derive, directly or indirectly, from activity that was or is illegal or which runs counter to the provisions of this policy.  This research will also include checks to determine whether the individual offering the donation in fact has the funds to do so. This research will involve appropriate searches of web and other resources and databases, and the results will be recorded on the University’s own information systems. 

The test of compliance with this policy must be undertaken prior to solicitation wherever possible rather than at the point of acceptance. An unsolicited bequest would be an example of an exception to this general approach.

Potential gifts which may raise issues in terms of their acceptability under this policy or which may give rise to significant public interest or attract adverse comment will be drawn to the attention of the Director of External Relations at the earliest possible stage.

The Director of External Relations will be provided with full information of the purpose and background to the potential donation and shall determine how to proceed in consultation with the University Secretary. This may involve referral of the matter to Court, and particularly so where there is any doubt or room for contention. In a case where the Director of External Relations is unable to act the University Secretary will nominate an appropriate senior member of staff to act in her stead. 

In undertaking due diligence to assess the acceptability of a potential gift the University will have regard to the rights of prospective donors and will seek to distinguish between rumour or speculation and matters of confirmed fact or legal finding. 

The Alumni Relations & Development Manager (the Manager) will be responsible to the Director of External Relations for the day‐to‐day operation of this policy. Responsibility for undertaking due diligence in line with the policy falls to the Manager and his or her staff, who will obtain and bring forward all relevant evidence and will present both sides of the argument fairly, for and against acceptance, before making a recommendation about a particular gift.

The University will be transparent about gifts accepted in terms of their sources and purposes. In cases where a donor wishes to remain anonymous, such anonymity will be respected so far as is legally and practically possible. Gifts will not be accepted where the source of the funds in question is unknown.

Gift Agreements and Use of Gifts

The University will enter into appropriate gift agreements with donors for all significant gifts, defined as those of a cumulative value totalling £10,000 and above. While donors will be offered opportunities for continuing engagement with the activities that they have funded, the management and governance of those activities will rest solely with the University.

The University will operate its standard policies and procedures including but not limited to recruitment, admissions, hiring, promotion, procurement, management and governance for all research, teaching and other activities funded by gifts. All funds raised in the name of the University or one of its constituent parts shall be administered by the University or in accordance with arrangements approved by the University Secretary acting on behalf of University Court.

The University welcomes gifts from both academic and non‐academic staff members. It also recognizes the donor's right to designate a preferred, restricted purpose for his or her gift.  All gifts from staff members must be credited to either school or college accounts that are controlled by an individual other than the donor. (If members of the immediate family also work at the university, this prohibition also extends to any accounts that such immediate family member may control.) Staff members can designate their gifts to a college, school or departmental discretionary fund that is fully controlled by the College Vice‐Principal, Dean of School or Head of Department and can be used to support the research or teaching of any  academic staff member, including the donor.

University staff members cannot designate their gift to funds that:

  • support his or her salary
  • pay for consumer goods to be used by him or her
  • to pay for travel by him or her

Gift Recording and Reporting

The Alumni Relations & Development Office is responsible for issuing the official gift receipt and donor acknowledgement, and for the proper deposit of gift funds. Adequate records of all gifts shall be maintained by the Alumni Relations & Development Office in accordance with accepted accounting procedures to allow a proper audit trail.  (See Donations Policy – Recording & Accounting for full details).

Returning a Gift

The University will not normally return a gift which has been accepted in good faith in compliance with this policy; indeed the circumstances in which it may do so are extremely limited by law. Exceptionally, subsequent events or the subsequent availability of additional information may give rise to the need to review a previous decision to accept a gift. A decision to return a gift shall always be a matter for the Court on the recommendation of the Principal, having taken appropriate legal advice.

Donor Relations


The University respects the privacy of the generous donors who financially support its objectives and mission. The University will make every effort to ascertain a donor’s wishes in this regard and to abide by them when practicable.

It is the policy of the University to hold the names of our donors in confidence unless one or more of the following conditions apply:

  • it is common and established practice to list such gifts in a newsletter, annual report,etc.
  • the gift qualifies for a naming opportunity elected by the donor
  • the donor gives express permission to the University to make his/her gift public as part of a written document (such as a gift agreement) or other direct  communication
  • the University is obliged by legal requirements, including the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, to provide information regarding the gift.


When a donor asks that he or she remain anonymous in relation to a gift, the fundraiser must determine the appropriate level of anonymity.

For some donors, it is acceptable for University officials and internal entities to know about a gift. Their primary request is that their names and their gift not be discussed in any public setting or included in any published honour roll of donors.

In this case, the gift will be recorded to the donor’s individual entity record but will not be published in any University materials, nor recognised in any public fashion. Other donors want complete anonymity, meaning that only the fundraiser(s) involved and a select number of University officers may know the source of this gift. The University Secretary must approve all such gifts and requests for complete anonymity.


The University will respond to any complaints resulting from any matter addressed by this policy within the framework of the University’s Complaints Policy.

Policy Availability

This policy will be provided in hard copy to donors and prospective donors on request.

Schedule 1: Scheme of delegation

The Alumni Relations & Development Manager is responsible to the Director of External Relations for ensuring the effective operation of this scheme of delegation. Responsibility for undertaking due diligence in line with this policy for all gifts falls to the Alumni Relations & Development Manager and his or her staff, who will obtain and bring forward all relevant evidence and will present both sides of the argument fairly, for and against acceptance, before making a recommendation about a particular gift.

Staff are not expected routinely to screen individual gifts below £10,000 for compliance with this policy, but will nevertheless bring such gifts to the attention of the Director of External Relations if they become aware of potential compliance issues.

A number of “caution topics” have been identified to inform staff when they should refer the decision to solicit or accept a particular gift to the Director of External Relations. The list is not exhaustive and staff are expected to adopt a prudent approach, referring any gift or prospective gift to the Director of External Relations which might be expected to attract special interest, attention or adverse comment.   The “caution topics” are: 

  • Areas of business of corporations and individuals who are their principal (>10%) owners or former owners: arms manufacture, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, pornography. 
  • Companies or states which have attracted widespread public criticism of their conduct in specific areas and individuals who have held high office (main board or cabinet level) in such organisations: human rights, child labour, anti‐competitive practices, environmental responsibility. 
  • Significant (greater than £1,000) gifts from current or prospective students and/or persons known to be in a close familial or personal relationship with a current or prospective student .

In the case of gifts which raise no issues in relation to this policy and always provided that no relevant interest has been declared by the member of staff concerned, the delegated limits for acceptance are as follows: a)

  • £1,000,000 + : University Court 
  • £500,000 ‐ £1,000,000 : Principal in consultation with the Chair of Court
  • £250,000 ‐ £500,000 :  University Executive Group d) £10,000 ‐ £250,000 : Director of External Relations
  • less than £10,000: Head of Development & Alumni Relations

The financial limits set out in this policy shall apply to the total value of each gift or to the total value of gifts from a single donor in each calendar year, whichever is the greater.  Wherever there is doubt or room for contention, cases should be brought to the attention of the Court.

Schedule 2: Types of Gifts

The following gifts are or may be acceptable (depending on restrictions): 

  • Cash or equivalent
  • Tangible personal property
  • Shares
  • Real estate (property and land)
  • Bequests
  • Other gifts  

Such gifts and donations may or may not attract Gift Aid and tax deductions, depending on the tax status of the donor. These benefits will not influence the University’s decision to accept or decline a gift.

The following criteria govern the acceptance of each type of gift:

Cash or equivalent

Cash donations of over £100 will not be accepted. Cheques are accepted and should be made payable to ‘University of Dundee’. The University accepts payment by Credit Card and Direct Debit which can be made online or via a donation form which can be downloaded at www.dundee.ac.uk/ad/donate.


The University can accept both publicly traded stocks & shares  and private stocks & shares. As a general rule, all shares will be sold upon receipt unless otherwise directed by the University Finance Director acting on the advice of appointed investment advisers.

Publicly traded stocks & shares:  may be accepted subject to completion of the necessary transfer formalities and the payment of any Stamp Duty. In some cases stocks & shares  may be restricted by applicable  laws: in such instances the final determination on the acceptance of the restricted stocks & shares  will be made by the University Finance Director, acting on such advice as he or she deems necessary. 

Private stocks & shares: which include not only debt and equity positions in non‐ publicly traded companies but also interests in limited partnerships and limited liability companies, or other ownership forms, can be accepted subject to the approval of the University Finance Director. However, such gifts must be reviewed prior to acceptance to determine that:  

  • There are no restrictions on the stocks & shares that would prevent the University from ultimately converting those assets to cash.  
  • The stocks & shares are  marketable or likely to become marketable in due course (without imposing any undue costs, administrative or other burdens in the interim)o The stocks & shares  will not generate any undesirable tax consequences for the University.

If potential problems are identified on an initial review of the stocks & shares, further review and advice from suitably qualified professionals may be sought before making a final decision on acceptance of the gift.

Tangible Personal Property

Tangible personal property includes art, furniture, books, memorabilia, coin and stamp collections, jewellery, vehicles and any other personal property item owned by a donor. It excludes property and land. The University will examine a potential gift of tangible personal property for the item’s financial value, its potential use by the University, any associated ongoing risks or costs to the University and, if the item will not be used or kept, whether the item could be sold quickly and converted into cash.

Property or Land

Gifts of real estate may include gifts of developed property or undeveloped land. Prior to acceptance of gifts of property or land the University shall require a structural survey or other similar review of the property to ensure that it offers no significant ongoing financial or environmental risks or costs to the University.

The cost of such survey or review will generally be an expense of the donor. Prior to acceptance of the property or land, the gift will have to be approved by the University Secretary acting on such professional advice as he or she deems necessary.

Some criteria for acceptance of property or land (but not an exhaustive list) are as follows:

  • Is the property or land  useful for the purposes of the University?
  • Is the property or land saleable?
  • Are there any restrictions, reservations, easements or other limitations associated with the property or land?
  • Are there ongoing costs, which may include insurance, taxes and mortgages associated with the property or land?
  • Does the structural survey show that the property is in a reasonable state of repair and likely to remain so prior to disposal?  

The University may accept a remainder interest in a personal residence, farm, or vacation property subject to the provisions above. The donor or other occupants may continue to occupy the property for the duration of the stated life. On the death of the donor, the University may use the property or convert it to cash at its absolute discretion.  


The University will accept bequests. The University asks donors wishing to leave a bequest to execute an appropriate Codicil or include in their Will the suggested wording available online in the Development section of www.dundee.ac.uk. The University is also keen that such donors complete and return a pledge form so that it can keep accurate records of those who have made a provision in their Will or Codicil and such pledge form should be kept updated from time to time (e.g. if the size and/or conditions attaching to the bequest change).

Other Gifts

The acceptance of any other gifts not listed above will be considered on a case by case basis.

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