December 29, 2014

Gifts: Thank You But????

What do you do when a gift received may not be the right fit?

With Christmas comes an ethos of increased giving in our country. Hearts are opened wide and the spirit of giving is encouraged. Yet, how many of us have opened a present to find that the contents were not exactly needed---or wanted? 

A few years ago I opened a gift to find a candle that made me sneeze. I had trouble thanking the giver as I fumbled for a tissue. The giver loved the smell and thought I would too, but I wasn`t able to benefit from her generosity.

What can we do when a gift isn`t right? 

I once worked with a client whose congregation received a large sum of money to pay for a new organ. A generous gift, except the current organ was in fine condition and didn’t need replacing. To use this gift as intended, this parish would have had to accrue debt by purchasing a new organ (which the initial gift didn`t completely cover) and changing the construct of the nave to accommodate a larger organ.

I’ve experienced this a number of times in my work, primarily with planned giving and capital campaigns. A potential major donor gives an organization a gift---artwork, land, an important antique, or a gift with restrictions on it. And, it’s not quite right for that organization, at that time. 

It’s important to have a clear idea of your mission and ministry prior to receiving gifts. Know what the areas of focus for your organization are and where you plan to invest your resources.
Gift Acceptance Policies can guide you when faced with the question whether to accept a gift. These policies are developed by your faith community’s leadership team and provide concrete boundaries regarding what gifts can be accepted and how they can be received. For example, many organizations have strong guidelines around gifts of stock.

In some cases, the best thing for your faith community may be to say “No thank you” in a sensitive, appreciative way. Saying “no” may seem like a tough conversation, but it can save years of future difficulty. It also honors the ministry of stewardship by ensuring all gifts are used to their best ability.

In the case of the organ, a conversation with the potential giver took place where we explored how those funds could be used in mutually beneficial ways. 

Ensuring that both recipient and giver take joy in the gift is a ministry that quite often requires planning before a gift is even offered. 

Does your parish or organization have a list of guidelines? If not, the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) provides free samples of gift acceptance and endowment policies. If you`d like more information, please contact Ken Quigley at ECF. 

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