Policy 7 – Gift Acceptance

The policies found on the website of the Secretariat are compulsory rules for the university community. The authoritative copies of the policies are held by the Secretariat and bear the seal of the university. The online version accessible through the website of the Secretariat is available for information purposes only. In case of discrepancy between the online version and the authoritative copy held by the Secretariat, the authoritative copy shall prevail. Please contact the Secretariat for assistance if necessary.


21 November 2013


N/A (New)


28 February 2020. Amended, official titles only.


Policy 7: Approaches for Donations and Gifts-in-Kind; Provostial Statement on Donation Guidelines/Role of Advisory Bodies/Naming Principles and Procedures



Responsible/originating department:


Executive contact:

Vice-President, Advancement

Related policies, guidelines and procedures:

  1. Policy 46 – Information Management
  2. Policy 10 – Naming Opportunities
  3. Policy 69 – Conflict of Interest
  4. Procedure 1 – Contracts and Agreements – Excluding Research
  5. Procedure 25 – Contracts and Agreements – Zero or Unspecified Dollar Amounts
  6. Procedure 26 – Contracts and Agreements – Zero or Unspecified Dollar Amounts, Template Approved by the Secretariat
  7. Procedures re: University Contracts
  8. Naming Opportunities Guidelines (see the Office of Advancement for details)
  9. Gift Acceptance Guidelines (see the Office of Advancement for details)
  10. Information and Privacy Statement

1. Introduction

According to The University of Waterloo Act 1972, the objects of the University of Waterloo are the pursuit of learning through scholarship, teaching and research within a spirit of free enquiry and expression. The university welcomes gifts of a philanthropic nature made in accordance with this policy to help it achieve these objects.

2. Scope

This policy governs the solicitation by or on behalf of, donation to, receipt by and recognition of gifts (as defined in Appendix A) by the university, to the extent activities are not covered by Policy 10 – Naming Opportunities and the Naming Opportunities Guidelines. Gifts made to Conrad Grebel University College, St. Jerome’s University, St. Paul’s University College, Renison University College and other charitable organizations with which the university has affiliations are made in accordance with the policies and procedures of those organizations and agreements for cooperation, if any, between such organizations and the university.

3. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to guide members of the university community on matters of gift acceptance. This policy is intended to ensure the university can respond quickly and appropriately to all gift offers.

4. Legal framework

In addition to the abovementioned “Related Policies, Guidelines & Procedures,” the policy must be construed in accordance with the following legal provisions:

If any of these legal provisions are modified, abrogated, superseded, or added to, the policy shall be interpreted in accordance with this new legal framework.

In addition to this legal framework, the university may refer to guidelines and standards from certified organizations when determining the acceptability of a gift.

5. Principles governing gift acceptance

  • All gifts will be subject to review in accordance with this policy prior to acceptance and will be used expressly for the purpose(s) for which they are given.
  • Acceptance of a gift will be conditional on compliance with university policy, procedures, guidelines, governance framework and applicable law, as well as Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) regulations and consistency with the university’s objects, strategic plan, values and priorities.
  • The university will not accept gifts that could reasonably compromise its public image, reputation or commitment to its objects, strategic plan, values and priorities.
  • The university values and will protect its integrity and autonomy and the academic freedom of the members of the university community, and will not accept gifts when a condition of such acceptance would compromise these fundamental values.
  • The university holds itself to the highest standards of ethical conduct in all of its external relationships and interactions, and reserves the right to decline a gift in any circumstance, including, but without limitation:
    • the gift terms contain unacceptable restrictions or conditions;
    • the gift will be unduly difficult or expensive to administer;
    • the gift exposes the university to legal risk or liability, including, but without limitation, risk or liability arising out of the contravention of applicable laws, such as the Human Rights Code or the Income Tax Act (Canada);
    • the gift is inconsistent with the university’s fundraising priorities, objects, strategic plan or values, including, but without limitation, protecting and fostering equity, diversity, academic freedom and academic integrity;
    • the gift is reasonably suspected to have come from illegal activities; or
    • the gift could improperly benefit any person.

6. Authority to accept gifts

The Board of Governors has delegated authority to the President to make decisions concerning the acceptance of gifts and s/he is accountable to the Board of Governors for such decisions. The President has the ultimate authority to make decisions to accept or reject gifts valued in excess of $2 million and less than $10 million. The Board of Governors approval is required for gifts of $10 million or more. The President may delegate her/his authority to accept or reject gifts valued at below $2 million to the Vice-President, Advancement.

7. Authority to solicit, negotiate and receipt gifts

The Office of Advancement has the primary authority to solicit, negotiate and receipt gifts on behalf of the university. It is also the responsibility of the Office of Advancement to ensure the highest standards of professionalism and ethics are followed in working with donors.

An individual outside of the Office of Advancement who wishes to engage in fundraising activity on behalf of the university must consult with the Office of Advancement and follow university policies, procedures and guidelines, including internal guidelines of the Office of Advancement, to ensure consistency, compliance and professionalism in all dealings with donors. An individual who is approached by a potential donor should refer such donor to the Office of Advancement, or report the gift to the Office of Advancement and work with the Office of Advancement regarding the negotiation, documentation, acceptance and receipting of the gift.

All gifts are recorded by the Office of Advancement. If a gift accepted under this policy is intended to be documented in the form of a written agreement, then:

  • the Office of Advancement must be engaged to assist with the writing and negotiation of the agreement;
  • the agreement should follow the approved templates developed by the Office of Advancement in consultation with the Secretariat;
  • if an approved template is not used or is altered, the gift agreement must be referred to the Secretariat for review or referral to external counsel;
  • the agreement must be approved by the Vice-President, Advancement or her/his delegate;
  • the agreement, or relevant aspects thereof, must be approved by the appropriate individuals or governing bodies, in accordance with university policies, procedures and guidelines;
  • the agreement must be signed in accordance with the relevant signing procedure; and
  • the agreement must also bear the signature of the most senior officer in the academic or academic support unit to which the gift is designated to the extent the relevant signing procedure does not already require that individual’s signature.

If a gift is determined by the Office of Advancement to be eligible for an official donation receipt in whole or in part, the Office of Advancement will issue such receipt on behalf of the university in compliance with the Income Tax Act (Canada), CRA guidelines, and university policies, procedures and guidelines. No other individual is authorized to offer, promise or purport to issue an official donation receipt on behalf of the university.

8. Fundraising priorities

Gift solicitation and acceptance is informed by and must advance the university’s objects, strategic plan, values and priorities as established by The University of Waterloo Act 1972 or set by the collegial processes that govern decision-making at the university. In the context of the foregoing, the President will set fundraising priorities for the university in consultation with the Vice-Presidents and Deans, with input and recommendations by the Vice-President, Advancement.

9. Use of professional advisors by donors

The university cannot and does not provide any legal, accounting, tax, financial or other advice to donors with respect to gifts to the university. The university cannot suggest or endorse a third party as a source of professional advice. Donors are encouraged to discuss proposed gifts with an independent professional advisor of the donor’s choice and at his/her own expense to ensure the donor receives a full and accurate explanation of all aspects of the proposed gift. Where the university deems necessary, donors will be requested to provide the university with an acknowledgement that:

(a) the donor has obtained or has waived her/his/its right to obtain independent professional advice; and

(b) the university is released from any liability that may arise in relation to the making of the gift.

Donors may also be required to obtain, at their own expense, professional valuations for certain types of gift, in particular, gifts-in-kind, deferred gifts and gifts of securities in private corporations. Further details regarding gift valuations can be found in the Gift Acceptance Guidelines.

10. Transparency

As a publicly-funded institution, the university is committed to principles of accountability and transparency and is subject to legislation governing access to information. Information regarding gifts to the university is public information, except to the extent its use or disclosure is restricted under Policy 8 or Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). Those fundraising on behalf of the university will inform potential donors of the foregoing when soliciting and negotiating gifts.

A list of all gifts of $250,000 and more will be provided by the Office of Advancement to the Board of Governors and Senate annually.

Appendix A - Glossary

Cash – includes cash, cheque, credit card, payroll deduction and electronic fund transfer.

Deferred gifts – includes will bequests, life insurance policies, gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts.

Gift – has the meaning given to such term by the CRA: a voluntary transfer of property without valuable consideration. In order to be characterized as a gift by the CRA, a gift must satisfy the following conditions: (a) property is transferred by a donor to a registered charity; (b) the transfer is voluntary; and (c) the transfer is made without expectation of return. No benefit or advantage may be provided to the donor or to anyone designated by the donor, except where the benefit is of nominal value. Gifts may be in the form of cash, marketable securities, gifts-in-kind and deferred gifts.

Gifts-in-kind – a gift of property other than cash such as real (capital) property or personal property. A gift-in-kind should be an item that can be retained as a university asset and used in connection with university activities with discretion as to its use and management, or disposed of for cash equivalent.

Securities – refers to privately or publicly held shares, flow-through shares, bonds, units of a mutual fund, stock options and charitable stock options.