Gift Acceptance Policy

Gift Acceptance Policy


The University of Aberdeen Development Trust SCIO (the Trust) seeks philanthropic support from a range of public and private sector sources that support the strategic aims and objectives of the University of Aberdeen.

The Gift Acceptance Policy sets out the principles that the Trust will follow when seeking and accepting gifts from individuals and organisations, and the commitment that it makes to donors and prospective donors.

Regulatory Compliance and Best Practice

The University of Aberdeen Development Trust SCIO is a charity registered in Scotland (SC050996). Accordingly, it is subject to charity law in Scotland and is regulated by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR). The Trustees of the Trust are ultimately responsible for the operation of the charity and for ensuring regulatory compliance.

In addition, the UK Bribery Act 2010 requires the University of Aberdeen and the Trust to ensure, through due diligence and risk controls, that the receipt of a gift is not in relation to some inappropriate benefit that might be afforded the donor, such as the award of a contract or offer of a University place for a close relative.

The Trust is a member of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising and adheres to the voluntary guidance and codes of practice issued by these professional organisations.


This Gift Acceptance Policy applies to all gifts and gifts-in-kind received by the Trust.

A gift is something that is given to a person without receiving anything in exchange. It is offered voluntarily and without any expectation of a return. (HMRC definition)

Gifts-in-kind, also known as non-cash gifts, are gifts of property, including items such as artwork, equipment, securities, buildings, and land.

A contribution of service, that is, of time, skills, or efforts, is not property and, therefore, does not qualify as a gift or gift-in-kind for purposes of issuing donation receipts. 

A benefit is any item or service provided by the charity or a third party to the donor or a person connected with the donor and which is associated with a donation. A right to receive a benefit is also a benefit, whether or not the right is exercised. (HMRC definition). HMRC has strict rules governing the relationship between benefits and Gift Aid eligibility.

Key Principles of Gift Acceptance

It is important both for donors and for the Trust that the reputation of all parties be wholly protected from any real or perceived impropriety in the relationship that is established through the offer and receipt of a gift. In particular, it is imperative that the integrity of the University of Aberdeen’s teaching and research activities be free from compromise or undue influence, including the perception thereof. The freedom to pursue academic inquiry is integral to the University’s values.

Philanthropic gifts to the Trust have made a significant contribution to the success of the University thanks to the generosity of our supporters. It is important however to maintain an appropriate separation between the receipt of a gift and the provision of academic services. The Trust plays an effective role in ensuring an appropriate degree of separation, while still providing donors with access to information about the activities that they have supported.

It is essential that the Trust gains confirmation from the University that it has the commitment, expertise, funds and capacity to deliver any projects that are funded or part-funded by philanthropy to the required standard and within the specified timescale (as appropriate). Failure to meet donors’ expectations can result in significant reputational damage.

The Trust accepts donations from a wide variety of sources, including individuals, companies and trusts and foundations. Donations may take the form of cash, stock, property or gifts-in-kind, and may be offered during an individual’s lifetime or as a gift in a Will. The Trust will not accept any donations which:

  1. Are from sources deemed to be illegal, discriminatory, in violation of international conventions on Human Rights or which have benefited from any form of theft, bribery, fraud, tax evasion, money laundering or terrorist activity.
  2. Require the University or the Trust to give special consideration for employment or student admission to the donor, or to anyone designated by the donor.
  3. Limit or compromise freedom of enquiry or academic integrity, or lead to falsified academic research, or create the perception of doing so.
  4. Compromise the charitable status of the Trust.
  5. Compromise the values and aims of the Trust/ University of Aberdeen.
  6. Create a financial or other liability that is not supported and approved by the University/the Trust (as appropriate).
  7. Damage the reputation of the Trust/University of Aberdeen. This includes damage arising (i) due to public perception of the donor and/or (ii) due to failure/inability of the University to deliver the funded project.   
  8. Damage the relationship with other donors, prospective donors, research funders, sponsors, partners, staff or students.
  9. Create other conflicts of interest.

Staff & Volunteer Responsibilities

Ultimate responsibility for ethical and legally compliant fundraising lies with the Trust Board of Trustees. The Board has appointed a sub-committee, the Compliance Committee, to oversee, advise and make strategic decisions in the area of gift acceptance, as set out in Compliance Committee Terms of Reference. The Compliance Committee may refer gift acceptance decisions regarding higher-value or higher-risk gifts to the University, for example via the Ad Hoc Committee on Gift Acceptance (see below). The Board expects staff to take all reasonable steps to ensure legal compliance, ethical good practice and the avoidance or effective management of conflicts of interest. 

Day-to-day adherence to legal and ethical standards is the responsibility of all Development Trust SCIO staff and volunteers. Those involved with raising and managing funds for the Trust should be guided by the Trust’s mission and values and their own sense of personal integrity. The Trust will ensure that the trust of the donor is not violated and that the values, mission and integrity of the Trust and University of Aberdeen are upheld. All those involved in the fundraising process - whether in frontline or supporting roles - must, at all times:

  1. Demonstrate consistency, honesty and transparency, and treat donors and prospective donors with dignity, equality and respect.
  2. Observe all legal and ethical requirements outlined by the Trust and the University of Aberdeen.
  3. Follow University policies regarding Equal Opportunities, Personal Harassment & Bullying, Health & Safety, Employment, and Grievance.
  4. Report any conflict of interest to the Executive Director of Advancement and the Chair of the Trust.
  5. Ensure solicitations reflect the mission and values of the Trust and the University of Aberdeen and that the intended use of funds is supported by the relevant Head of School/Directorate.

The role of the Development & Alumni Relations Office is to inform, serve, guide and assist donors who support the University’s activities, but never to pressure or unduly persuade.

Persons representing the University shall encourage the donor to discuss the proposed gift with independent legal, financial or tax advisors of the donor's choice to ensure that the donor receives a full and accurate explanation of all aspects of the proposed gift.

Due Diligence

Due diligence for gift acceptance is a process that begins at the earliest possible stage of fundraising and continues through to acceptance and subsequent stewardship of the gift. Gift offers are made in many different circumstances and the due diligence process needs to be flexible enough to accommodate these. Many gifts will be the result of carefully planned and implemented cultivation and solicitation over a period of months or years. Other gifts, however, may be offered or even paid to the Trust without any advance notice. Some gifts will come direct to the Trust while others will come via the University of Aberdeen Foundation (US). While most gifts will be made by a living individual or extant organisation, legacy bequests are also a significant component of the Trust income. Due diligence is a requirement for all gifts, irrespective of circumstances or sources, but the wide range of gift scenarios means that it is not possible to prescribe a single, rigid approach or timescale.

Wherever feasible, due diligence should be undertaken, and the necessary approvals acquired, prior to establishing a fundraising relationship with the prospective donor. However, where this is not feasible (for example, where a relationship is already in place, or where the prospective donor, rather than the Trust, has initiated the relationship) the process should commence at the earliest possible opportunity.

There are two parts to every due diligence review for routine gifts:

Internal due diligence - This assesses and seeks to manage the risk of the University failing to deliver the funded project to the required standard or schedule.  There will always be an element of residual risk (for example that the entire academic team will leave, or that the degree programme will be terminated). However, if the relevant Head of School is able to confirm that the project is a priority and that there is the expertise and capacity to deliver it, this risk should be low.  Where applicable, the Vice-Principal (Research) may also be consulted.

Donor due diligence - This assesses the reputational and other risks associated with accepting a gift from the prospective donor. There are two levels of review:

  • Basic screening. This is undertaken for all gifts at £10,000 or above. Basic research into the prospective donor is undertaken to identify any potential risk factors. On the basis of this review, the gift may either be approved for acceptance by the Head of Development or referred to Compliance Committee.
  • Due diligence paper. This is a more detailed review, risk assessment and recommendation, which is prepared for the Compliance Committee for approval and may be shared with the University. The only gifts requiring a formal due diligence paper are those referred to Compliance Committee and/or which are £500,000 or above, or any instances where the Director of Advancement perceives there to be an issue, plus those that are highlighted as needing a formal paper by staff (following the basic due diligence review).

A due diligence review can be requested at any time. For a donor giving a series of smaller gifts that, in time, exceed £500,000, there is no formal trigger point at which the due diligence process should commence. Rather, it is the responsibility of the Development Trust SCIO to monitor cumulative giving and exercise judgement regarding the need for formal review.

All potential donations over £500,000, and any at other levels with the potential to give rise to significant public interest, should be referred to the Compliance Committee for consideration before substantial work is undertaken or before any commitments are made. For donations of £1,000,000 and above, any gifts approved by the Compliance Committee must then be referred to the University. The Compliance Committee may also refer to the University any gifts below £1,000,000 that are considered to present a significant risk. The Vice Chancellor is a member of the Compliance Committee. Any referral to the University is expected to involve the Vice Chancellor or the Vice Chancellor’s nominee in the decision process. The University’s decision on whether to accept a potential donation shall be respected by the Trust.

Ad Hoc Committee on Gift Acceptance

For gifts or donors which are not considered routine, such as where a donor might be seen to be potentially controversial and capable of damaging the reputation of the University, the Compliance Committee will convene as the Ad Hoc Committee on Gift Acceptance (see Appendix). As outlined in the Appendix, this committee will meet as needed and will be comprised of the Compliance Committee membership, plus the Principal’s nominee if the Principal is not present as a member of the Compliance Committee, the relevant Head of School/Directorate, and the Director of External Relations or their designate, and such other members of University staff as may be considered appropriate by the Chair of the Compliance Committee.

Due Diligence Protocol

The Development Trust SCIO staff will conduct research into a potential donor in order for the Compliance Committee to consider whether a gift should be solicited or accepted. It will consider the following areas:

  • Background of the individual or company
  • Relationship with University, if any
  • Risk areas:
    • Reputational
    • Technological
    • Social
    • Environmental
    • Applicable Government Sanctions

In preparing a background paper covering these issues, appropriate sources will be used where necessary to research the prospect. It is important to note that a screening will be limited to publicly available resources.

The paper will review online information, Companies House filings in the UK and Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) filings and rulings in the United States, if applicable, or the relevant national body in other countries, The prospect (individual or organisation) and all directorships and shareholdings belonging to the prospect, when known, will be screened.  It will review these issues and make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees as to whether or not a gift should be pursued or accepted.

The legal and reputational rights of potential donors should be considered as part of any due diligence undertaken. In this regard, a clear distinction should be drawn between rumour, speculation, and matters of confirmed fact or legal finding. It is accepted that the Trust and University of Aberdeen may wish to consider the reputational risks that could be incurred through public perception of any donor.  All relevant information will be compiled with full citations and presented without any personal comment in a dated report.

Due diligence documentation will be stored on the potential donor’s record on the Raiser’s Edge database. Care should be taken to ensure that sensitive personal information is processed and held in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

UK Corporate and Charitable Bodies

The Trust relies on the appropriate regulators to ensure that charities and companies are legally compliant. As such, the Trust will not conduct independent investigations of funding sources. However, ethical or reputational concerns relating to revenue from products and services carrying reputational risk (e.g. companies/organisations which encourage addictive behaviour), or when prominent individuals associated with the organisation are of significant public interest, will be addressed through the due diligence process.

Gifts from Outwith the UK

Gifts from states or governments outwith the UK may be offered with conditions that will require legal and reputational factors to be taken into account prior to acceptance. If normal diplomatic relations do not exist between the UK and the state in question, the offer of a gift would not normally be accepted. All such offers will normally be referred to the Compliance Committee Chair and may then be referred to the Compliance Committee.

Gifts Received from the University of Aberdeen Foundation (US)

Gifts received via the University of Aberdeen Foundation (US) will be subject to the same due diligence process, undertaken by the Trust, as all other gifts. Normally, due diligence would be undertaken before the gift is received by the Foundation, especially if the gift is the result of staff solicitation. This will not always be possible (e.g. a gift could be made on the Foundation’s website), but it would be unusual for the Foundation to receive a large gift without the Trust having ample prior notice. In rare cases (this has not happened to date), this may require the Trust to decline a gift that the Foundation has already accepted. Wherever possible this should be avoided through good communication with the Foundation’s administrators and Board of Trustees.

Legacy Gifts

Legacy gifts will be subject to the same due diligence process as other gifts. This applies both when the Trust is notified of a legacy pledge during the donor’s lifetime, and when first notification is after the donor has passed away. It may be necessary to communicate with the solicitor or executor of the Will in order to gather information for the review. 

Donor Anonymity & Cash Gifts

We are conscious of the need to prevent money laundering and to undertake appropriate and proportionate due diligence on donors. Accordingly we do not accept anonymous direct donations, or any cash donation, of more than £2,000 per donor. We do however accept and respect that some donors may wish no public acknowledgement of their generosity and so we will comply with their wishes provided that this is consistent with relevant legislation and guidance. Moreover we accept donations of money raised through reputable fundraising platforms which may include anonymous donations.

Energy Sector Gifts

Philanthropic gifts will be solicited and accepted from energy companies and service providers which have had or have a fossil fuel footprint where there is evidence that they are actively engaged in the transition to clean technologies and net zero, thus signalling the University’s support for their contribution to address the UN Sustainability Goals. Such gifts will be used to support energy transition projects and other projects aligned with the strategic priorities of the University.

Tobacco Industry

We do not accept donations from tobacco companies, or any companies that have direct and significant interest in the manufacture, distribution or retailing of tobacco products. Tobacco industry funding includes: funds from a company or group of companies engaged in the manufacture of tobacco goods; funds in the name of a tobacco brand whether or not the brand name is used solely for tobacco goods; and funds from a body set up by the tobacco industry or by one or more companies engaged in the manufacture of tobacco goods. (The following do not constitute tobacco industry funding for the purposes of this policy: legacies including tobacco industry investments,  provided that these are sold promptly; and funding from a trust or foundation no longer having any connection with the tobacco industry even though it may bear a name that for historical reasons has tobacco industry associations.)

Reviewing Past Decisions

The Trustees, through the Trust Compliance Committee, may review and reconsider previous decisions taken in good faith relating to the acceptance of gifts and any naming rights attached, if subsequent events or the subsequent availability of additional information require it. The response to such circumstances should be transparent and proportionate to the circumstances that have arisen. These deliberations will be held in strict confidence to protect the privacy of the donor and also not jeopardise a gift in the discussion stage.

Conflict of Interest

Members of staff of the Trust and Trustees of the Development Trust SCIO should act impartially and not be influenced in their roles by family, social and business relationships. Any member of staff, volunteer or Trustee who has a pecuniary, family or other personal interest with a donor, prospective donor or any other body under solicitation/discussion shall disclose that fact of his/her interest to the Director of Advancement and the Chair of the University of Aberdeen Development Trust SCIO Board of Trustees. A member of the Trust staff, volunteer or Trustee is not considered to have a conflict of interest merely because they are a current/former member of staff of the University of Aberdeen or if they are a current or former student of the University. Those declaring a potential conflict of interest should refer to the guide below:


Category of Interest

Information to be Disclosed

Family/Personal Interest


Relationship to donor/prospective donor

Paid Employment


Employer & Position held

Self – Employment


Nature of business

Directorship of companies (current & former)


Names of company/companies & date of directorship held

Significant shareholdings


Name of company/companies

Elected Offices


Name of authority & position held

Trusteeships or participation in charities and other voluntary bodies


Name of body and position of office

Public Appointments


Name of body and position of office

Memberships of Professional Bodies


Name of Body


Return of Gifts

Gifts made to the Trust will not normally be returned to the donor and will be brought to the Compliance Committee for review. In cases where a gift with agreed restrictions has been received by the University in good faith but where circumstances have changed so that the original purpose of the gift cannot be fulfilled in whole or in part, the Trust will, in discussion with the University, normally seek to use the funds in a way that closely corresponds to the original objectives of the donation. This decision will be made in consultation with the donor, or the donor’s representative wherever possible. If no agreement can be reached with the donor or his/her representative about alternative uses for a restricted or designated donation, the University will return the unexpended portion of the donation. Investment income and capital appreciation of funds invested as part of the Trust’s wider portfolio will not be returned.  If the donor is deceased, the donation will be used in a manner that is as consistent as possible with the donor’s original intent. Wherever possible, gift agreements will anticipate this possibility and allow for alternate usage of the gift. Gifts made in error and bank overpayments will be refunded to the donor on request.

Administration of Gifts-in-Kind

The Trust can accept transfers of shares, an outright gift of an unencumbered property, and other gifts including art works, books or collections. Any legal expenses, valuation costs or transport charges pertaining to the transfer of such items to the University will normally be the responsibility of the donor or executor. Unless otherwise agreed with the donor, the Trust reserves the right to dispose of shares or property at a time to be decided by the Trust. Unless otherwise agreed with the donor, articles of value or collections are accepted on the understanding that the University would have full authority to use, lend, exhibit, donate or sell the property.

The Trust wishes to ensure that gifts received can be used in a manner that is both appropriate within the context of the University and reflects the objectives of the donor. Certain types of gifts may only be accepted following advice and approval from specialists in the University. This will be co-ordinated by the Trust. For example, acceptance of donations of books or artefacts will be subject among other things to ethical considerations regarding their provenance, available space, appropriate storage conditions, resources for cataloguing, conservation and displaying of items and relevance of subject matter to existing collections and research interests. Donations of equipment to the University will be subject to similar constraints and considerations such as agreement as to the transportation of items. The Trust reserves the right to refuse non-monetary gifts. Potential reasons for refusal may include that the University cannot take proper care of the item/s, that it already owns a copy of the proposed item/s (e.g., books or journals), that the University does not wish to hold the item/s for ethical reasons (for example due to cultural sensitivities) or that the gift would create a new financial or other liability that the University is unable to resource. 

Gifts Offered to Departments and Schools

In some cases, individual schools and departments have strong relationships with alumni and donors. It is important to encourage engagement between donors and the University staff who are leading projects which donors are supporting. The Trust will work with Schools and individuals to co-ordinate fundraising and stewardship, conduct due diligence and ensure that all gifts received are recorded and administered in a consistent and appropriate manner, and that suitable records are maintained of engagement with the donor. It is imperative that the schools work closely with the Trust rather than developing fundraising relationships independently of the Trust.

Research Grants and Corporate Sponsorship

For the avoidance of doubt, philanthropic gifts are distinguished from research grants, the latter being administered by the University Research Financial Services within the Directorate of Finance. With the approval of the Director of Advancement and for the purpose of complete and consistent recording, income received through RFS from trusts, foundations, companies and other organisations which may be categorised as philanthropic (as defined by CASE Ross Survey guidelines) may be counted and recorded on the Trust database.

Gifts to Development Trust SCIO Staff

From time to time supporters of the Trust may offer small gifts to Trust employees as tokens of appreciation. All gifts made to Trust staff where the value is in excess of £50 should be recorded in the register of gifts and hospitality.  The register will be reviewed annually by the Compliance Committee.

Donor Benefits

In addition to expressing its appreciation and keeping donors informed about projects they support, the Trust may also offer donors invitations to special events or small gifts of appreciation. In certain cases “naming opportunities” appropriate to the level of gift are also offered on a case by case basis. All benefits afforded to donors under the Gift Aid scheme must comply with existing HM Revenue & Customs rules and relevant legislation.

Rights of Donors and Prospective Donors

The Trust is committed to treating donors, alumni and friends with the highest level of care and respect. The Trust adheres to the highest professional standards at all times and is committed to the following Donor Charter. Donors to the Trust can expect:

  1. To be informed about the University of Aberdeen’s priorities and its strategic aims and objectives.
  1. That a gift given for a specific purpose will be used for that purpose.
  1. To be informed when the intended purpose of a gift can no longer be fulfilled due to charitable legislation or due to a change in the priorities or needs of the University. In such cases, the Development Trust SCIO will discuss with the donor their gift and how best their wishes can continue to be met.
  1. To be informed of the impact of their donation, e.g., recruitment for a post they have funded, outputs of research they have supported, the award of a scholarship or bursary that they have funded, and to have agreed Compliance and reporting commitments honoured.
  1. To have their donation acknowledged in a timely manner, and where appropriate to be publicly recognised in consultation with the University, or to remain anonymous if requested.
  1. To have their questions relating to their donation answered in a timely and honest manner.
  1. To have their right to privacy respected and their personal information to be treated in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation.
  1. To have access to the Trust’s latest published accounts.

The rights of the donor and what they can expect from the Development Trust SCIO are outlined in the Donor Charter. This will be made available to donors via Development Trust SCIO communications.

Complaints Procedure

Complaints or concerns should be raised with the Head of Development in the first instance for investigation. The Trust will do its utmost to resolve such issues. The Head of Development  can be contacted at the University of Aberdeen Development Trust SCIO, Powis Gate, College Bounds, Aberdeen, AB24 3UG or by email at:

Review of Policy

The Development Trust SCIO will review the Gift Acceptance policy on a regular basis to ensure it continues to be ethical, adheres to charitable legislations, and honours donors and their gifts.



Ad Hoc Committee on Gift Acceptance - Mandate

The Compliance Committee of the Development Trust SCIO will function as the Ad Hoc Committee on Gift Acceptance. Membership will be augmented by those persons whose department/school/unit might be impacted by receipt of a particular gift. Its role is to consider complex gifts to the University and those which may not be consistent with the principles outlined in our Gift Acceptance Policy. Such gifts will be reviewed in light of these principles. In all cases, it is the Development Trust SCIO’s responsibility, acting on the advice of the Ad Hoc Committee on Gift Acceptance and in consultation with University administration, to ensure that a balance is achieved between the donor’s wishes and the University’s needs. If this cannot be done, the donation cannot be accepted. The function of this committee will be performed on an as-needed basis.


Compliance Committee of the Development Trustv SCIO; the Principal’s nominee if the Principal cannot attend; Head of impacted School/Unit; Director, External Relations and such other members of University staff as the Compliance Committee Chair may request.

Further Information

Further information is available from the Director of Advancement, telephone +44 (0)1224 274198.