Gift acceptance policy

Queen Mary University of London, as an exempt charity under the Charities Act 2011, has a responsibility to accept philanthropic gifts as long as they are legal, consistent with the ethics and values of the institution and do not carry a risk to reputation or future fundraising ability.

With this in mind, a set of ethical principles has been established to record the basis on which the University will or will not pursue potential benefactions, underpinned by a robust and defendable process that gifts go through before being accepted or rejected.

This policy details these principles and establishes guidelines that will be invoked in the case of potentially controversial gifts or donors.

The Principal is ultimately responsible for the acceptance of such donations - based on the advice of the Head of Development, the Director of Development, the Chief Operating Officer, Council and others where appropriate to a Faculty, School or other units as set out below - where the purposes to be funded by the gift are consistent with the University's values, strategic mission and priorities.

Queen Mary accepts donations on the understanding that the funder can have no influence over the academic freedom and independence of the University.

In the case of potentially controversial gifts or donors, there may be occasions when the University may choose not to solicit or accept a gift from an organisation or individual. Decisions on whether to proceed, when there is doubt on ethical or public relations grounds, will generally need to be made prior to the cultivation process to ensure that time and resources are not wasted.

Gifts with a total value of up to £10,000 can be accepted by the Head of Development, in consultation with the Acting Chief Operating Officer when necessary. Due diligence reports generated by Directorate of Development and Alumni Engagement (DDAE) staff will be referenced when coming to a decision.

Gifts of over £10,000 and up to £100,000 will automatically be referred to the Acting Chief Operating Officer, along with accompanying due diligence reports, who may decide to seek further advice from the Queen Mary Senior Executive Team (SET).

Gifts of over £100,000 will automatically be referred to SET by the Head of Development, again with accompanying due diligence reports, using the Acting Chief Operating Officer as a conduit.

Any donation, of whatever value, which has an associated naming opportunity, must be referred for approval to the Head of Development in the first instance.

It is the responsibility of the Head of Development to alert the Acting Chief Operating Officer and the Principal should any gift conflict with the recommendations laid out below. The Principal may then decide whether or not further discussion should be pursued with the potential benefactor. The Principal may at this stage involve other members of the University body, as they see fit.

Items to consider regarding the refusal of donations:

  1. If there is published or credible evidence that the proposed gift will be made from a source that arises in whole or in part from an activity that:
    - Was illegal
    - Evaded taxation or involved fraud
    - Violated international conventions that bear on human rights
    - Limited freedom of enquiry, or encroached on academic freedom
    - Compromised academic integrity or suppressed or falsified academic research

    Unproven allegations or rumours under any of the above points will not themselves prevent acceptance of a particular gift, but care will be taken in accepting any benefaction, or continuing negotiations towards a possible benefaction, where there is significant potential damage to Queen Mary's reputation - see item 4.

  2. If the nature or level of the gift may result in current or future financial liabilities for Queen Mary, beyond those built in to the financial plan.

  3. If the activity to be funded by the gift creates unacceptable conflicts of interest for Queen Mary.

  4. Where the money derives from a source contrary to the Queen Mary’s objectives.

  5. If the proposed gift or any of its terms will seriously damage the reputation of Queen Mary or if it will harm the University’s relationship with other benefactors, partners, potential students or research supporters.

  6. If the proposed gift is a cash donation of more than £10,000 by a single transaction, or there are suspicions of money laundering.

Queen Mary should not necessarily refuse a gift solely based on potential or perceived negative public relations. It should nevertheless carefully consider whether, by accepting the gift, the University would face a level of public notoriety.

Recommendation regarding named recognition linked to benefactions
Where Queen Mary offers to name a building, academic post or another aspect of its activities in recognition of a particular benefaction, the duration of such a naming opportunity should be agreed between the donor and the University. In addition, Queen Mary reserves the right to withdraw such named recognition in the future, where it subsequently transpires that the source of funding arose in whole or in part from any activity listed under 'Recommendations regarding the refusal of donations'.

Recommendations regarding anonymous donations

  1. A truly anonymous donation, where Queen Mary only deals with an intermediary who will not identify the donor, even to the Principal or another member of SET, on a strictly confidential basis, should not be accepted. The risks of accepting a gift with no idea of its provenance are too great. 

  2. A gift by a donor who wishes their name to remain anonymous to Queen Mary and to the world at large should be dealt with, as far as possible, in exactly the same way as other gifts. If the donor is only prepared to reveal their name to Principal, another member of SET and/or to the Head of Development, it will fall to them to determine its acceptability in terms of the current ethical guidelines. The Chairman of Council will be required to have sight of such gifts for final approval. The donor must be informed of this process regarding anonymous gifts from the beginning of any discussion.

Queen Mary is a member of CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education), a professional association serving educational institutions and the advancement professionals who work on their behalf in alumni relations, communications, development, marketing and allied areas. As such, the University fully subscribes to the following: 

Queen Mary is also registered with the Fundraising Regulator.