Donations Policy - Acceptance and Refusal

Updated on 23 September 2021

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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This policy is intended to set out the principles that the University of Dundee (the “University”) will follow when seeking and accepting donations. It sets out:

  • arrangements which are designed to ensure that such philanthropic support is aligned with its mission, values and financial needs.
  • the circumstances in which a donation cannot be accepted and details roles and responsibilities to protect the interests of the University.
  • 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:


This policy applies to gifts of all amounts and classifications and is applicable to all staff of the University.


The University is a registered charity in Scotland (charity number: SC015096). Accordingly, it is subject to charity law in Scotland and is regulated 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 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. The Royal Charter which established the University tasks it to “procure contributions to the funds of the University and to raise money in such other manner as the University may deem fit”. The University therefore actively seeks donations from individuals, charitable trusts and other corporate bodies in the UK and internationally as an essential component of its funding.

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. From the guidance available there is a presumption that in general, 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.

The University recognises the guidance published by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Institute of Fundraising Scotland.


The purpose of the policy is to:

  • 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 legislation
  • Clarify the University’s and the University Court’s legal obligations regarding the acceptance/refusal of donations
  • To clearly state the roles and decision making authority of Court members, senior officers, fundraisers, volunteers and staff when seeking, accepting or refusing donations
  • Help to ensure a consistent decision making process which is 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

Policy principles 

Court oversight 

The Director of External Relations will be responsible for providing information to the Court 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 where the purpose is a project previously defined and approved.) The report will indicate all “referral gifts”, that is, 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 and Risk Committee in August 2021 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 Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) staff, the Principal, Vice‐Principals, Deans and senior officers. Schools and individuals are encouraged to identify and assist in soliciting prospective donors. The DARO staff have a wealth of professional fundraising experience, early consultation with them will ensure appropriate guidance and support to help maximise the University’s philanthropic income. Efforts to secure donations must in all cases be brought to the attention of the Head of DARO in advance. Everyone seeking to raise funds in the University’s name must work in partnership with DARO staff to ensure compliance with this policy.

All development efforts will be in support of agreed priority projects and will be directed and coordinated through the DARO team.

All gift solicitations should be made in support of University priorities as determined by the University Executive Group (UEG). Approval from UEG must be obtained before any solicitations outside of University priorities can be made. Submissions seeking the approval of UEG should be made in partnership with DARO.

The University recognises the Dundee University Students’ Association (DUSA) 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 University of Dundee students.

Due diligence

The University will  undertake all  reasonable research on donation pledges  to  investigate the (original) source of the funds pledged until satisfied that these funds do not derive, directly or indirectly, from illegal activity, or which runs counter to the provisions of this policy. This research will involve appropriate searches through the web or other resources and databases including those which require a subscription. The results will be recorded on the University’s own constituent database, Raisers Edge and will be provided to those responsible for the decision to accept or refuse the pledge or donation.

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 and Chief Operating Officer. This may involve referral of the matter to Court 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 their 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 Head of DARO (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 their staff, who will obtain and bring forward all relevant evidence and will present both sides of the argument fairly, i.e. 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 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 contrary 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
  • directly contradicts to the University’s mission, objectives and values as approved by the Court of the University.

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.

Gift agreements and use of donated funds

The University recognises the donor's right to designate a preferred, restricted purpose for their gift and 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 professional services staff members. It also recognises the donor's right to designate a preferred, restricted purpose for their gift. All gifts from staff members must be credited to either School 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) or to a School or academic discipline discretionary fund that is fully controlled by the Dean of School or Head of Discipline 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 the staff member’s salary
  • pay for consumer goods to be used by the staff member
  • pay for travel by the staff member

Gift recording and reporting

DARO staff are 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

DARO in accordance with accepted accounting procedures to allow for a proper audit trail.

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 their 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.

DARO has a privacy statement which includes information for donors.


When a donor asks that they remain anonymous in relation to a gift, DARO staff 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 constituent 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 DARO staff member 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 Procedure.

Policy Availability

This policy is available at University of Dundee – Academic and Corporate Governance and will be provided in hard copy to donors and prospective donors on request.

Schedule 1: Scheme of delegation

The Head of DARO 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 Head of DARO and their staff, who will obtain and bring forward all relevant evidence and will present both sides of the argument fairly, i.e. 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 Head of DARO and the Director of External Relations if they become aware of potential compliance issues.

Some “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: 

  • businesses or corporations and individuals who are their principal owners or former owners (controlling more than 10%) in: arms manufacture, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, pornography.
  • companies or states which have attracted widespread public criticism of their conduct in specific areas: human rights, modern slavery, child labour, anti‐competitive practices, environmental responsibility.
  • individuals who have held high office (main board or cabinet level) in companies or states which have attracted widespread public criticism of their conduct in specific areas: human rights, modern slavery, 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: 

  • £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
  • £10,000 ‐ £250,000: Director of External Relations
  • less than £10,000: Head of DARO

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

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 and converted into cash.


The University can accept both publicly traded stocks and shares and private stocks and shares. In general, 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 and shares: may be accepted subject to completion of the necessary transfer formalities and the payment of any Stamp Duty. In some cases, stocks and shares may be restricted by applicable laws - in such instances the final determination on the acceptance of the restricted stocks and shares will be made by the University Finance Director, acting on advice as they deem necessary.
  • Private stocks and 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 and shares that would prevent the University from ultimately converting those assets to cash.
    • the stocks and shares are marketable or likely to become marketable in due course (without imposing any undue costs, administrative or other burdens in the interim).
    • the stocks and shares will not generate any undesirable tax consequences for the University.

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

Property and 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 they deem 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 appropriate wording in their Will. DARO Staff can provide information as required by the donor or their legal representatives. The University is also keen that who those make bequests 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 said pledge form should be updated when necessary (e.g. if the size and/or conditions of the bequest change). DARO staff can also record the donors wishes for the bequest and ensure the purpose will fit with the University’s policies.

Other gifts

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

Corporate information category Governance