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Fundraising Fundamentals, Section 10.5


Gift Accounting and Reporting

In the spirit of transparency, consistency and accountability, it is in the best interest of the institution and its donors, leaders, volunteers, students, community and other constituents to publicly define what it is counting as ‘gifts’ and to tell how it is reporting gifts.

This transparency is also important if fundraising in the educational context is to be perceived and respected as a professional and worthy activity.

First and foremost, a start-up development office needs to consider several things:

  • What constitutes a gift?
  • Who is responsible for receiving, recording and processing gifts?
  • How is the relationship between the development office and the finance office defined?
  • Who is responsible for developing accurate accounts?
  • How will issues such as matched funding, foreign currency gifts, gift aid and other variations in giving be handled?
  • What is the policy on unfulfilled gift pledges? Do you treat them as ‘debts’?
  • What kind of reports do you need for your various audiences – donors, governing bodies, authorities, annual reports, CASE annual surveys, etc.?
  • Does your institution have the necessary expertise or is additional recruitment/training required?
  • Are new bank account(s) needed?
  • How can income be ring-fenced for specific projects?
  • How can you integrate the different forms of giving and still keep track of everything – online giving, cheques, bank transfers, direct debits and cash?
  • How can you reassure donors that their financial information will be kept safe?

These issues should be addressed at the earliest stage of operation, before significant levels of fundraising have commenced. Donors need to be confident that the institution can handle their donations efficiently and safely.

Mistakes in gift accounting can lead to serious reputational damage the scrutiny of the authorities. Work closely with the finance office to ensure detailed tracking of gifts.

Records Retention

When determining the policies and procedures for gift accounting and reporting, make sure to include a policy on the retention of records. (CASE provides numerous samples of records retention policies.) Your institution will likely have a general policy, which can be adapted to ensure that the development office is in compliance with all legal requirements for retaining information (and to ensure clarity about timing, roles and responsibilities among staff members). Again, partnership with the finance office is critical.

Action Items
  • Work with the finance office to establish policies for gift accounting and reporting, records retention and gift fees (if applicable) as soon as possible.
  • Make sure staff members fully understand these policies and their role.

You Might Also Want to Read:

Policies and procedures
Working with the finance office
Gift agreements
Gift acceptance policies
Gift recognition policies
What to measure and what to report

Gift Fees

As administrative ‘gift fee’ has become common at institutions in the United States. If your leadership has determined that a gift fee is appropriate for your institution, ensure that you have a gift fee policy.


CASE publishes extensive information describe best practices in gift accounting and reporting.

Roger Makanjuola discusses corruption, maintaining integrity and the importance of gift accounting and stewardship.
Betheny Reid gives advice on how to take care of donors when launching scholarship programs.
Leisl Elder describes her institution's income streams and compares that model to those at other institutions.