Dean Letter: Gift Acceptance Policy

Dear St. Paul’s family,
Where would the church be without the generous gifts of faithful people? We depend entirely on what you, in your generosity, choose to give as part of your spiritual practice. There is no revenue from “church central”; in fact, we give 10.5% of our unrestricted income to the diocese, and a portion of that goes to the Episcopal Church HQ. So let me say, loud and clear, how much I appreciate your gifts.
Gifts come to the church in lots of different forms. Cash is the most common, through pledges and plate. Sometimes people give us stock, which we are required to liquidate immediately. Our endowment funds, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, are nurtured mostly through bequests (as well as the recent property sale). Having maximum flexibility with our assets allows the Chapter to make the best decisions for the church’s operation and mission.
From time to time people want to give the church objects, often works of art but also furniture, musical instruments, or even clothing and kitchenware. Chapter has developed a gift acceptance policy to assist us with deciding whether St. Paul’s is the best home for the gift. (Here’s a link to the full policy.)
Our priority is to help you, the giver, feel that your gift is fully appreciated and put to its best purpose. Nobody makes a gift to the church intending to expose the cathedral to risk or expense, but sometimes the best intentions can lead to unanticipated consequences, if nobody has carefully considered all the possibilities. Our gift acceptance policy exists to help generous people make the best use of their resources and to help the cathedral practice responsible stewardship.
We don’t have unlimited storage or a thrift shop, and not every artwork, however unique or inspired, is suitable for the walls of the cathedral campus. We don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, and it can be difficult to say, “Thanks but no thanks” to a beloved parishioner. So it’s very helpful to have an objective, impersonal basis for decisions, and this is the task of the gifts acceptance committee, appointed by Chapter and charged with making an informed determination of whether to accept any offered non-cash gift. Here’s a quotation from the policy expressing the overall philosophy:
The Cathedral may accept unrestricted gifts, and gifts for specific programs and purposes, provided that such gifts are consistent with its stated mission, purposes, and priorities.
Sometimes a legal opinion is called for. Here’s a section of the policy related to legal questions:
Review by counsel is recommended for:
a.  Closely held stock transfers that are subject to restrictions or buy-sell agreements
b.  Documents naming the Cathedral as Trustee
c. Gifts involving contracts, such as bargain sales or other documents requiring the Cathedral to assume an obligation.
d. Transactions with potential conflicts of interest that may invoke IRS sanctions
e. Other instances in which use of counsel is deemed appropriate
Gifts that have a restricted use call for special discernment, as stated in this part of the policy:
When considering a gift for a special purpose, the Gift Acceptance Committee should evaluate the gift in light of potential ancillary or hidden costs and considerations: permits, installation, maintenance, training, insurance, technical concerns and requirements, easements, conservation and safety. After consideration, the Cathedral may ask the donor to cover these extra costs as a condition of accepting the gift.
All of this is to say that we hope you won’t be offended if you offer a gift and Chapter regretfully declines it. Because again, and I can’t say this enough, the church depends on you and we are all extremely grateful for all that you share with God through St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Your sister in Christ,

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1 thought on “Dean Letter: Gift Acceptance Policy”

  1. When I was a grad student at the Univ. of Ill, Champaign-Urbana, our Episcopal chapel on campus consisted of three panels in what a classics major friend slyly referred to as "Pseudo-English Perpendicular Gothic." It had been designed to be eight panels, but money ran out. (The cornerstone bore the inscription "1929" so you can guess why construction came to a halt.) To make the chapel usable, they built a wooden building on the end which basically housed the sanctuary. SOME folks referred to the chapel as "Saint John the Unfinished" or "Our Lady of the Shack." While I attended in the 1970s I learned that many years before a wealthy parishioner had endowed the Episcopal Church Foundation (owner of the chapel) with a three million dollar gift specifically earmarked to complete the chapel "as originally designed." Unfortunately, sometime after that endowment, the Roman Catholics obtained the unused portion of "our" lot from the University and built their own chapel. It was therefore impossible to complete ours and the funds could not be released except by some kind of special dispensation by the bishop. Many years later — about 5 or 6 years ago, actually — I learned that the chapel had been "completed", that is, the wooden building demolished and a poured concrete section added, then clad to look like the original limestone. I haven't seen it in person, but it looks beautiful from photos!


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