Purpose of Policies and Guidelines
The Board of Directors of Religion News Foundation (RNF) and its staff solicit current and deferred gifts from individuals, corporations, and foundations to secure the future growth and missions of RNF. These policies and guidelines govern the acceptance of gifts by RNF and provide guidance to prospective donors and their advisors when making gifts to RNF. The provisions of these policies shall apply to all gifts received by RNF for any of its programs or services.
All solicited and accepted funding must adhere to the RNF Bylaws in accordance with RNF polices and the Association of Fundraising Professional’s Principles of Ethical Fundraising and the Donor’s Bill of Rights. All gifts are accepted on a case-by-case basis. RNF reserves the right to decline or return any donation which, in the opinion of the board or the board’s designees, may conflict with these principles or otherwise damage the integrity of the organization. Gifts from explicitly religious institutions such as denominations or judicatures shall not be accepted.
RNF shall strive for an array of individual donors, so as not to be, or appear to be, overly dependent on donations from any particular sector, ideological perspective or type of individuals beyond the journalism community.
RNF’s board, volunteer leadership, and staff are to remain in control of all programming, including agenda, speakers and topics, and no outside funding sources may be represented as sponsors or co-sponsors of RNF events, without prior approval of RNF’s executive director.
Summary: The following policies are based on individual and corporate gifts.
- All individual donations are accepted on a case-by-case basis.
- RNF reserves the right to refuse any donation.
- Gifts from explicitly religious institutions such as denominations or judicatures shall not be accepted.
- Real estate shall not be accepted.
- All donations shall be used in accordance with RNF policies.
- A gift is defined as a voluntary transfer of assets from a person or an organization to the Foundation.
- Gifts usually take the form of cash, securities, real estate or personal property. RNF may accept or decline any gift. The following criteria generally identify a gift:
- Gift is motivated by charitable intent.
- Gifts are irrevocable transfers of assets.
- Gifts are not generally subject to an exchange of consideration or other contractual duties between the RNF and the donor, except for certain split-interest gifts as set out in this Policy, although objectives may be stated and funds may be restricted to a specific purpose.
- Donors are not provided formal financial accountings. A general report to the donor stating the utilization or impact of the gift is appropriate.
- Generally, funds received from individuals, closely held corporations, and family foundations will be classified as gifts. Funds received from corporations, corporate foundations, and major foundations will be classified as gifts unless the grant requires performance or other consideration.
- A gift is not completed until it has been accepted by RNF, or in the case of securities, bonds or mutual funds, when deposited into RNF account.
Acceptable Income Sources
RNF may solicit grants to fund projects, programs and general operating expenses of RNF. RNF maintains control over all grant fund use, provided it is in accordance with the mutually agreed-upon grant agreement. Records substantiate the amount of grants awarded and are maintained according to the RNF Document Retention Policy.
- Gifts or Bequests
RNF accepts gifts or bequests from individuals provided they are not from a religious institution such as a denomination or judicatory. Tangible personal property donated to RNF must be readily convertible to cash and pre-approved by the Board. RNF shall retain full control over the use of all funds.
A bequest to RNF is a gift made in the donor’s will. Gifts made in a donor’s revocable trust that are effective at the donor’s death are treated the same as bequests. The donor can designate a specific amount, a percentage, or the remainder of an estate to the RNF. Direct unencumbered bequests shall be accepted by RNF if the underlying assets are in conformity with the guidelines set forth this Policy. RNF reserves the right to not accept gifts from the estates or trusts of deceased donors that are not in conformity with the terms of this Policy. Donors should be encouraged to notify the RNF when considering a bequest in order to ensure that the assets left to RNF meet the criteria set forth in this policy.
- Marketable Securities, Insurance and Retirement Funds
Securities that are actively traded on recognized stock exchanges and other readily marketable securities, including bonds and mutual funds, may be accepted as gifts according to the policies described below. Securities given to RNF will typically be sold as soon as possible. Insurance and retirement plans gifted to RNF and naming RNF as a beneficiary must have a minimum face value of $1000, be paid up, have a cash value and be marketable at the time the gift is accepted as such assets will be liquidated or sold.
- Non-Standard Contributions
RNF shall not accept real estate gifts, any interest in a closely held business or other gift that is not readily convertible to cash. Closely held or non-publicly traded securities or restricted securities, (unregistered securities, investment-letter stock, control stock or private placement stock) may be accepted only after prior review and approval by the Board of Directors.
Valuation of closely held or restricted securities may be challenging due to infrequent trading, which makes it difficult to establish fair market value. RNF will only consider gifts of closely held securities in amounts of $10,000 and above.
The following documentation must be provided to the Board before a gift of such securities will be considered for acceptance: a qualified independent appraisal as defined in the Internal Revenue Code and IRS Publication 561; copies of any shareholder buy/sell agreements; copies of transfer restrictions on the transfer contained in the bylaws and/or reflected on the stock certificates.
- Other Non-Traditional Asset Gifts
Gifts of nontraditional assets such as intellectual property or mineral rights are complicated and can carry with them additional risks and costs to both donor and RNF. Such gifts will not be accepted unless it can be demonstrated that acceptance will further the mission of RNF in an important way. This policy is meant to ensure that the RNF makes prudent decisions regarding the acceptance of these types of gifts such that maximum benefit is achieved.
- Matching Gifts
Many companies offer programs that match employee contributions to quality charitable organizations. As a 501(c)(3) organization, RNF is eligible to benefit from these matching gift programs. Donors will be encouraged to take advantage of this program when available to them.
Tax Status Policy
- To preserve the organization’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, the Board through its strategic plan shall ensure that the organization is operated exclusively for qualified exempt purposes, including charitable and educational purposes, and that no more than an insubstantial portion of the organization’s activities are devoted to the furtherance of non-exempt purposes. Examples of non-exempt purposes might include a members-only job bank or other activities that result solely in a private benefit without serving an overriding public interest.
- No part of the organization’s activities may constitute intervention or participation in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office. No substantial part of the organization’s activities may consist of political, lobbying or non-exempt purposes as defined in paragraph (1) above.
- The organization shall offer no guidance to donors about the deductibility of their gifts other than to inform them that RNF is a 501(c)(3) organization, gifts to which may be tax deductible under U.S. tax laws.
- As under current practice, each year’s IRS Form 990 (which includes a listing of all donations of $5,000 or more) shall be made available to the public upon request.
Policy on Use of Legal Counsel
Use of legal counsel by both the donor and RNF is advantageous to all parties. The RNF cannot serve as both the donor’s advisor and beneficiary of the donor’s gifts. Therefore potential donors should be advised to consult independent tax and/or legal counsel before making gifts to the Foundation.
The Donor’s Use of Legal Counsel
RNF representatives (staff and volunteers) shall encourage donors to consult independent tax and/or legal counsel prior to making a contribution to the Foundation. It is the donor’s responsibility to retain appropriate independent legal and tax counsel in these transactions. Prior to signing gift agreements, such as gifts of partial interests, charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts and charitable lead trusts, counsel for the donor should be given the opportunity to review and approve the documents.
RNF’s Use of Legal Counsel
Counsel should review in advance any split-interest gifts and outright gifts of assets other than cash or publicly traded securities.
RNF will acknowledge the receipt of all gifts in writing and in a manner which satisfies the IRS’s substantiation requirements set forth in IRC Section 170(f) for the deduction of charitable gifts by individual donors.