Prohibiting the Acceptance of Restricted Gifts

Occasionally a ministry will adopt a policy prohibiting acceptance of restricted gifts. The prohibition may be stated in a policy by the governing board or by another administrative policy. What impact does this type of policy have on a giver’s gift? It depends on the understanding between the giver and the ministry.

The mere fact the ministry has a policy not to accept restricted gifts does not supersede the giver’s gift restriction unless the ministry’s policy is clearly communicated to givers. A “Yes” answer to the all of following questions would be helpful to support a ministry’s policy on prohibiting restricted gifts:

  • Do all appeals for gifts clearly and explicitly express the ministry’s policy that it will not accept any restricted gifts?
  • Are gift response communications devoid of any option to restrict gifts for missions, buildings, etc.?
  • Are charitable gift receipts absent of any indication of restriction limitations?
  • If the ministry receives a gift with a giver restriction, do they refund the money or offer to refund it unless the giver agrees to remove the gift restriction?

It is generally difficult to adequately communicate a “no-restricted-gifts” policy to all donors. Additionally, the ministry’s communication is simply part of the equation; a giver’s intent relates both to what is communicated in an appeal and to any giver instructions accompanying the gift. On balance, ministries are better served to proactively approve restricted projects to which givers can contribute.

Some ministries include provisions in their governing documents or board resolutions indicating the ministry retains the right to modify conditions on the use of assets (sometimes called “variance powers”). Such powers should be clearly communicated to givers.


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.