Philanthropic Support and Charitable Giving: Guiding Principles

Since its founding, Grinnell College has existed to provide a lively academic community of students and teachers of high scholarly qualifications from diverse social and cultural circumstances. Among the College’s strategic priorities is a vision to achieve financial sustainability while maintaining intergenerational equity. In order to sustainably meet its mission at the highest level, the College welcomes the active engagement of alumni and friends who support the College by sharing their time, talent, and connections, and by making outright and planned gifts.

At Grinnell, the Office of Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) has chief responsibility for providing alumni- and donor-centric engagement opportunities in support of advancing the College’s mission. DAR supports the cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of philanthropic gifts in accordance with all applicable policies. DAR staff members help ensure the responsible use of donations and work to communicate about the impact of giving to the College.

To assure that donors and prospective donors can have full confidence in the way their support of the College will be used and in the way they will be treated, Grinnell College upholds the tenets outlined in the Donor Bill of Rights created by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), and the Giving Institute.

It is important to Grinnell that our donors have the opportunity to support those aspects of the College which speak most closely to their philanthropic goals while carrying the College’s mission forward. DAR staff members can provide prospective donors with information about what to support to help align their interests with the College’s needs.

Grinnell accepts gifts that have a reasonable expectation of benefiting the College and serving the College’s mission. The College reserves the right to deny any gift from any donor. Several factors may be considered when assessing whether a gift will serve the College’s interests.

The College will not knowingly accept any gift from an organization with a mission or values deemed to be in conflict with the College’s mission. The College will not knowingly accept any gift deemed by law to be funded by illegal means or illegally gotten gains. The source of funds, whether from an organization or individual, may be a consideration when determining whether a gift should be accepted.

Organizational donors include partnerships, corporations, foundations, government agencies, or other public entities. When an organization is the source of funds, publicly available information regarding its mission, activities, and goals may be taken into consideration in determining whether a gift will be accepted.

Unless otherwise indicated by the donor, individuals making personal gifts to the College are presumed to be doing so from their private funds, solely of their own initiative and representing only themselves as private individuals. The College will not initiate or engage in any prima facie examination of an individual donor’s non-Grinnell affiliations or activities, either personal or professional, nor would such be a de facto basis for declining a gift.

The role an individual donor might hold within an organization, whether a paid professional role or an unpaid volunteer role, is irrelevant in regard to gift acceptance by the College, even if that association is with an organization that the College might not otherwise deem in alignment with its mission. Checking donors’ affiliations would be impractical, and more importantly it would be an invasion of their privacy.

State of Iowa laws and Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code relating to the tax treatment of charitable contributions may be considered by Grinnell in determining whether a gift is deemed to be from an organization or individual donor.

The College strives to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest, and even the appearance of impropriety. In certain instances, the College may determine that it is necessary to apply a more stringent standard of review to private gift acceptance if an individual donor cites their association with the College to advance a personal agenda or position that is antithetical to the College’s mission. Likewise, neither an organization or individual would be allowed to use a gift to leverage publicity for financial gain, whether for personal or business purposes.

In any instance where a gift might be in question, the College will make a multi-dimensional evaluation and assessment of the benefit to the mission relative to the potential risks to determine whether such a gift should be accepted or declined. In the event a donor implies a commercial relationship, endorsement or imprimatur from or with the College, or otherwise uses association with the College to advance a personal agenda for his or her own gain, the College will require that individual to cease-and-desist the actions in question. Furthermore, any potential future gifts from that individual will be subject to a higher level of scrutiny.

A gift to the College does not accord the giver any quid pro quo rights. Grinnell will not take any donor-requested action nor bestow favors that would compromise the College’s institutional integrity or governance in return for a gift. Receipt of a gift does not imply an endorsement by the College of an organization or its mission. With donor permission, Grinnell College will attempt to provide appropriate recognition of donors and the impact of their gifts. This may include but is not limited to annual publication in gift recognition pieces, online information, press releases, and potential naming of campus spaces or programs.

The College has a Gift Acceptance Policy to help assure that gifts are structured to benefit Grinnell while ensuring fidelity to donor intent. The ultimate authority and discretion in regard to the application of charitable giving policies lies with the president and the Board of Trustees.