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Principles of Practice: Fundraising Standards in European Educational Institutions

Universities and independent schools have a long tradition of fundraising with many being founded on the generosity of philanthropists.  In recent years there has been a substantial investment in fundraising teams and activity under the aegis of their charitable status. The heads of these educational institutions are also often tasked by their Governing Boards to provide personal strategic leadership for fundraising and associated appeals and campaigns with a view to generating a valuable and much needed additional income stream.

It is important that educational institutions have clearly stated ethical guidelines governing the acceptance of gifts, and to this end the Ethical Principles for the Acceptance of Gifts was published by CASE Europe in 2011.  It is also important that fundraising activities that generate these gifts are conducted to a high professional standard and comply with all legal requirements. In short, fundraising activities must be legal and need to be open, honest, and respectful. The basic principles that follow are intended to create a framework within which each institution can develop its own detailed policies and procedures that fit with its own particular circumstances.

These principles of practice are consistent with the detailed ‘Code of Fundraising Practice’1 produced by the Institute of Fundraising and used as the basis of adjudications by the Fundraising Standards Board. Members of CASE may find it helpful to use the detailed code in developing their own approach to ensuring high standards amongst all those involved in fundraising and CASE is committed to working closely with the IoF to ensure that the Code remains relevant and useful to its members.

The CASE principles of best practice in relation to fundraising standards are:

Institutional Policies and Guidelines 
  • The institution will only accept donations that comply with its own published ethical policies for the acceptance and refusal of philanthropic donations and that are in the best interests of the institution. If a donation is turned down, a permanent record will be kept of the reasons for that decision.
  • The institution will publish a Donors’ Charter or similar setting out in summary form their intentions in respect of their relationship with donors and supporters.   
  • The institution will have a clear policy for handling any complaints from donors or prospective donors.  Any complaint will be treated seriously and with respect and the complainant will receive a response within a reasonable time frame. Where the complaint is found to be valid, appropriate measures will be taken to address the concerns and issues raised and to prevent similar issues arising in the future.
  • The institution will have a clear policy on donor recognition.  Associated schemes and practices for donor recognition will be proportionate to the significance of the gift and will comply with both prevailing charity and tax law. 
 The Donor
  • Donors will be provided with accurate information about the institution and the purpose for which their philanthropic funds are being solicited.
  • Any philanthropic funds raised will be used for the purpose for which they were solicited. Institutions will inform donors in a timely manner should the activity they are funding be changed in a significant manner or experience problems that could prevent the agreed outcomes being achieved. 
  • Where an agreement between the institution and the donor exists funds can only be repurposed with the explicit prior permission of the donor or as charity law allows, but where there is no individual agreement the institution will obtain a general permission to repurpose funds. 
  • All key conditions relating to major donations will be contained in a signed Gift Agreement or exchange of correspondence with which both parties will comply.  
  • The institution may use reasonable persuasion to encourage prospective donors or legators, but it will not put individuals under pressure to give.
  • Fundraising for legacies will be carried out with due regard to the potential legator’s freedom to provide for his/her family and others and will take account of the needs and situation of vulnerable individuals where appropriate. Fundraisers will make it clear that they cannot give financial and legal advice on drawing up wills.
  • The institution will provide all donors with appropriate general reports on their contribution to the institution’s goals e.g. an annual Benefactors’ Review for regular givers and other donors. It will also comply with any specified reporting requirements that are a condition of a specific donation, as set out in a gift agreement, in a timely and honest manner.
  • Information about prospects and donors will be kept secure and in compliance with the Data Protection Act (1998). 
  • Donors will be informed, through appropriate means (such as web sites, donation forms and individual discussions) and prior to making a donation, about the institution’s policy on publicising donor names and on its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (2000) to reveal , in certain circumstances, the identity of donors who would otherwise have remained anonymous . 
Fundraisers and Volunteers 
  • The institution will ensure that all those who solicit gifts on its behalf (including volunteers and students) are fully briefed as to the standards of practice and behaviour that the institution expects.  Compliance with these principles and any institution specific rules will be monitored on an on‐going basis by senior management. 
  • The institution and all fundraisers will respect the clearly expressed preferences of donors and prospects about the method and timing of fundraising approaches and will ensure that that those preferences are appropriately recorded and disseminated across the institution.
  • If the institution  is working with  an independent third party organisation or individual as a ‘professional fundraiser ‘ to solicit philanthropic gifts on its behalf , the arrangement will be subject to the relevant legal requirements and a ‘written agreement’.  Before soliciting donations a relevant disclosure or solicitation statement must be made available to all prospective donors.
  • Third party fundraisers will not be paid by Commission other than in exceptional circumstances and where the conditions set out in the IoF Code of Practice have been met
  • If the institution uses volunteers or students on its behalf to cultivate and/or solicit gifts from prospective donors then the organisation will comply with its consequent legal duties and the donor will be made aware of the nature of that relationship.