Approved by: The President
History: Issued              -- November 28, 2006
Revised            -- February 2, 2023
Last Reviewed -- February 2, 2023
Related Policies: Conflict of Interest Policy for Staff and Faculty; Gifts and Donations to External Parties Policy; Property Administration Policy; Sponsored Award Management Policy
Additional References: Campaign Counting Guidelines; Gift/Pledge Information Form

Policy Owner:

Contact Person:

Vice President for University Advancement, tel. (202) 319-6911

Senior Associate VP and Chief of Staff for University Advancement, tel. (202) 319-6915


I. Policy Statement

The Catholic University of America is grateful for the generosity of alumni, parents, friends, and organizations who support its educational mission through their philanthropy. Donors are critical partners in advancing the University’s institutional priorities and strategic objectives. Philanthropy is essential to the University’s mission, financial aid, student programs, faculty development, and research.

II. Policy Purpose

This policy defines the principles by which gifts will be solicited, accepted, managed, and the authority to do so on behalf of the University. It provides transparency to donors and prospective donors, ensures the University’s adherence to donor intent, and ensures that accepted gifts are consistent with the mission and values of the University. The policy is guided by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) guidelines, and thus reflects industry standards.

III. University Advancement

A. Role

University Advancement is organized to support the cultivation, solicitation, receipt, and stewardship of charitable contributions for the benefit of the University. University Advancement provides executive leadership and operations infrastructure for the advancement offices within each school and entity within the University.

University Advancement shall also ensure that all fundraising activities for the University, including: department-specific fundraising, fundraising by governance boards, advisory boards, as well as volunteer boards and committees and such other similar entities or organizations that may be created in the future, are coordinated with and support the institutional priorities and strategic objectives of the University President. University Advancement is responsible for organizing, coordinating, and managing all fund-raising activities which involve individuals, private organizations, and corporations, including fundraising events.

The formal process of referring proposed gifts to the Gift Acceptance Committee does not preclude the informal consultation among Advancement, Finance, Compliance, and Legal in order to ensure a gift complies with this policy during the solicitation and development of the gift.

B. Assistance to Donors

Advancement staff are available to meet with any prospective donor and their financial advisors, without obligation, to discuss areas of interest, the University’s funding priorities, types of charitable contributions, options for payment, estate planning, tax planning consequences of a possible gift commitment, and appropriate stewardship and recognition for the gift to provide every possible assistance to a prospective donor.

Although University Advancement staff will provide all appropriate assistance, the ultimate responsibility regarding asset valuations, tax deductibility, and similar federal, state and local legal compliance issues rests with the donor(s) and with such financial advisors as the donor(s) shall secure (as mandated by the IRS). All donors should utilize competent financial and legal advisors. University Advancement staff will always recommend that potential donors obtain such assistance.

IV. Definitions


A. Contribution or Exchange Transaction is determined by the University in accord with Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2018-08Clarifying the Scope and Accounting Guidance for Contributions Received and Contributions Made.

B. Charitable Contribution or Gift means an unconditional, voluntary, and non-reciprocal transfer or donation of funds or property to the University from an individual or entity that is accompanied by philanthropic intent and for which the donor does not receive or expect anything of value in return. This includes donations of surplus property by a governmental or other public sector entity. A charitable gift may, in some circumstances, be described as a charitable grant.

C. Exchange Transaction is a transaction in which both the donor and the recipient contribute approximately commensurate value. Exchange transactions are not considered to be gifts because the donor receives something of value in exchange for the contribution.

DStandard Gift is interpreted as a gift in support of a University priority such as: The Annual Fund for the University or a Division or a School; a gift to existing funds such as scholarship funds, building funds and other existing priorities defined by the University. Standard gifts are unconditional, voluntary and non-reciprocal transfer of funds or securities to the University from an individual or entity that is accompanied by philanthropic intent and for which the donor does not receive anything of value. These gifts are documented using a standard University gift agreement. Lower level annual fund gifts can be made directly and usually are in response to the University’s mail, phone, social media and e-mail appeals. They do not require a formal pledge document, however the donor’s intent is recorded by the appeal’s response mechanism.

E. Real Property consists of non-mortgaged real estate both improved (i.e., detached single-family residences, condominiums, apartment buildings, rental property, commercial property, etc.) and unimproved land (e.g. acreage). Gifts of real property are evaluated by appropriate officers of the University who will assess and approve their acceptance for the University’s use or to sell for an approved purpose.

F. Personal Property includes, but is not limited to antiques, art, artifacts, equipment, jewelry or gemstones, musical instruments, and valuable or rare books and manuscripts. Gifts of personal property are evaluated by appropriate officers of the University who will assess and approve their acceptance for the University’s use or to sell for an approved purpose

G. Complex Gifts are defined as interest in a privately held company, private business equity, real estate, oil and gas interests, mineral rights, promissory notes, assignment of promissory notes, partnership interests, restricted or non-publicly traded securities, gifts of partial interest and property, gifts subject to a lien or other encumbrance, or similar assets. The definition extends to proposed gifts that may require undue or onerous burden on the University to match or otherwise provide financial or operational accommodation as a condition of the gift. All proposed Complex Gifts are subject to review by the Gift Acceptance Committee as described in this policy.

V. Gift Acceptance

Gifts are solicited and accepted when they will contribute to the approved purposes and strategic objectives of the University. The University welcomes and encourages expressions of interest in supporting the University. University Advancement officers are charged by the University to develop relationships with and explore the philanthropic interests of major donors and prospective major donors. These conversations are undertaken to ensure alignment with the donor’s wishes and the University’s strategic priorities, to verify that the donor intends to donate assets s/he legally controls, to clarify the donative intent, and to understand the donor’s recognition expectations. Donor cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship are managed according to industry best practices. The University will accept gifts that are consistent with these principles:

  • The gift is aligned with the University’s Catholic beliefs and core values, and its mission of service and faith.
  • The gift satisfies the University’s tax-exempt status, and all relevant University policies.
  • The gift does not expose the University to unacceptable risk or liability.
  • The gift is not linked to favorable consideration of admissions decisions or employment decisions for a donor’s family member or any other interested parties.
  • Acceptance of the gift will not materially damage the reputation, standing, or integrity of the University.
  • Restrictions proposed on the gift are not unreasonable or overly burdensome, do not allow a donor to exert management of the funds, do not require expenditures beyond the University’s resources, and do not compromise the academic freedom of the University community.
  • The gift is not solicited from a University vendor or potential vendor as a condition, directly or indirectly, to doing business with the University. An expectation from a vendor or potential vendor that a gift should be part of a business relationship may result in business terms that are not favorable to the University.

University Advancement and its staff should consider these principles in connection with the solicitation or consideration of a gift as early as possible in the fundraising process.

University Advancement has adopted written procedures and guidelines to ensure adherence to these principles, including a robust due diligence and screening process. All staff in this division shall receive periodic training on the procedures and guidelines.

VI. Gift Acceptance Authority

Gifts that comply with the principles in Section V may be accepted by the Vice President for University Advancement on behalf of the University.

If a proposed gift appears to be inconsistent with any of the principles articulated in Section V of this policy, or otherwise presents apparent substantial risks, and the Vice President for University Advancement believes that the benefit of the proposed gift significantly outweighs the risks of accepting the gift, the matter shall be referred to the Gift Acceptance Committee for review, and the views of the Committee shall be shared with the President, who will make the determination on whether to accept the gift. The President should inform the Chair of the Board of Trustees of any proposed gift that the President believes presents significant legal, ethical, or reputational risks.

The Gift Acceptance Committee shall be composed of (1) Vice President for University Advancement, (2) University Treasurer, who shall serve as Chair of the committee, and the (3) General Counsel.

The Vice President for University Advancement shall refer all complex gifts to the Gift Acceptance Committee, and after valuation and due diligence if possible.

The Vice President for University Advancement may seek guidance from any member of the Gift Acceptance Committee with respect to any novel or complex issues, including those associated with unique gifts, complex gifts, and gifts of real estate.

VII. Anonymous Gifts

At the request of a donor, the University may treat a gift as anonymous. Two levels of anonymity can be honored:

Public Anonymity: This means that the donor’s name will not be listed on any public listing of donors to a project or fund.

Deep Anonymity: This means that the donor’s identity is known only to the Vice President of Advancement, the University Treasurer, the Controller, General Counsel, and the President, as well as limited essential personnel involved in recording the gift.

In no circumstance will a gift be accepted from an anonymous donor whose identity is not made known to the University nor  from a donor who does not legally control the gifted asset.

The University is committed to transparency, and will share information about the receipt of gifts in a manner that best serves the interests of the University while attempting to respect the wishes of donors.

VIII. Charitable Gift Types

The University welcomes expressions of interest and financial support that are consistent with the principles of Section V, regardless of size or form, from any individual, family, business, corporation, granting organization, or similar source.

Gifts of immediate cash and/or negotiable securities are the forms of donor support which will have the greatest immediate impact on the University and its plans for the immediate future, therefore those should be encouraged.

A. Acceptable Charitable Contributions

Charitable Contributions may include the following (this is not a complete list of possible contributions):

  1. Cash; 
  1. Capital assets; 
  1. Multi-year written pledges; 
  1. Real or personal property (the University reserves the right to limit gifts of property to those gifts that will be of benefit to the University); 
  1. Tangible assets (the University reserves the right to limit gifts of property to those gifts that will be of benefit to the University); 
  1. Appreciated securities or other investment instruments; 
  1. Private business equity or partnership interests; 
  1. Oil and gas interests and mineral rights; 
  1. Cryptocurrency (which is cleared and accepted by a third party vendor then transferred as cash to the University); 
  1. Deferred or planned gifts including, but not limited to: 
  • Gifts-in-kind 
  • Trusts 
  • Annuities 
  • Insurance Policies 
  • Gifts of residence with a retained life interest 
  • Bequest intentions

B. Unacceptable Charitable Contributions

 The following items are not considered a charitable contribution: 

  1. Gifts of services are not tax-deductible for donors (IRS pub. 526) and so, the University does not acknowledge pro-bono services as gifts. 
  1. Inter-company transfers between the University entities will not be recorded as philanthropic commitments and will not be included in fundraising totals.

  2. Gifts from University employees, faculty and university-affiliated constituents (e.g. contracted personnel or vendor representatives located in University entities) or their immediate family members that are credited to any account that is directly or indirectly controlled by the donor. Indirect control occurs when 1) the donor has a supervisory relationship over the individual controlling the account, or 2) reciprocating gifts by two or more donors are made such that the net effect is donor control of the gifts. Unrestricted gifts from the aforementioned donors, or gifts designated to accounts that are not directly or indirectly controlled by the donor are permitted as charitable contributions.

C. Restricted and Unrestricted Gifts

Unrestricted Gifts. The University gratefully accepts unrestricted gifts. Most unrestricted gifts are given in support of the Annual Fund. These are accounted for and spent consistent with GAAP and relevant accounting standards. 

If the University receives a bequest of $100,000 or more, without restriction, the University President (or her/his delegate) shall determine the direction and use of the gift, consistent with the University’s institutional priorities and strategic initiatives. If the bequest is intended to generally support a School or Division, the Dean of that School and Cognizant Vice President shall be consulted on the use of the funds. 

Restricted Gifts. The University accepts gifts restricted for a specific program or purpose. Consistent with GAAP, a gift is considered to be restricted when the purpose is not easily met within the fiscal year received and/or there is a time restriction included in the gift agreement or will. Restricted gifts greater than $20,000 are subject to a 5% gift assessment, defined in the Gift Assessment Policy. 

The University discourages donors from narrowly restricting a gift for a hard to meet purpose. The University is better served when the intent is written in reasonably broad and flexible terms to maximize its usefulness to the University. The University’s standard practice is to include Cy pres language in the agreement, permitting the University to use the gift for a similar purpose in the event the donor’s stated purpose in the gift agreement cannot be met. In the event a donative purpose cannot be met, the University will take the following steps (in order) to attempt to remedy the barrier to using the gift: 

  1. The University will attempt to contact the donor or his/her representative and attempt to re-document the intent to a useful purpose.
  2. The University will review the gift agreement or will to identify any variance language that may exist to permit a modification to the donor intent.
  3. The University will examine eligibility for remedy via UPMIFA and follow the guidance of the Attorney General for DC to seek approval to remove or alter the barrier that inhibits spending. 

University Gifts Agreements will include the variance language that The Catholic University Board of Trustees shall have the authority to modify any restrictions or conditions on the distribution of funds for any specified charitable purpose or to specified agencies if, in the sole judgment of The Catholic University Board of Trustees, such restrictions or conditions become, in effect, unnecessary, incapable of fulfillment, or inconsistent with the charitable needs of The Catholic University. The Catholic University Board of Trustees shall exercise this power consistent with the principle of maintaining, as close as possible, the original intent of the donor(s).