Skip to main content

Gift Acceptance Policy

Area Responsible for Administration: Advancement and Alumni
Approval Authorities: President
Vice President, External
Director, Advancement and Alumni
Approval Date: 2013
Revision History: July 2017
Review Timeline: Every 5 Years

Purpose

To provide direction for acceptance of all charitable gifts to Seneca, identify various means of charitable giving and the specific guidelines related to acceptance of each type of gift and provide guidance to donors and their counsel to assist the facilitation of the gift.

Scope

This policy applies to all of Seneca’s donor-based fundraising activities.

Key Definitions

Bequest

A provision in a will that directs assets from an estate to Seneca.

Charitable remainder trust

A form of a residual interest gift in which a donor transfers property to a trustee who holds and manages it. If the property is income-producing, the net income will be paid to the donor and/or other name beneficiaries. When the trust terminates, either at the death of the beneficiaries or after a set term, the remainder of the trust is distributed to Seneca.

Contribution

A business gift, typically arising from a sponsorship opportunity or proceeds of a sale, for which a business receipt, not a charitable tax receipt, would be administered.

Deferred gift

A gift commitment or arrangement for delivery to Seneca at a future date. It involves arranging for a donation to be made at a date that will benefit both Seneca’s and the donor’s interests, the donor’s financial and tax situation and the donor’s family.

Donation

A philanthropic gift involving no benefit to the donor outside of the scope of donor recognition policies.

Gift

As defined by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), a gift is a voluntary transfer of money or property for which the donor expects and receives nothing of value in return. It is permissible and encouraged, however, for donors to receive recognition for their gift. For example, honour rolls, signage and plaques, or naming opportunities for buildings, programs, facility spaces, etc.

The following transactions do not constitute philanthropy:

  • Gift of service
  • Purchase of a good or service from Seneca
  • Sponsorship
  • Lottery, draw or contest tickets
  • Gift of debt from a person or partnership, or a share of a capital stock of a corporation that does not deal at arm’s length with the charity.

Gift-in-kind

A non-cash gift of tangible or intangible property.

Intangible property

Property that does not generally have physical substance and whose value stems for non-physical elements. Examples include patents and copyrights.

Publicly traded security

Securities that can be easily converted into cash, including stocks, stock options, bonds and other securities commonly considered to be readily marketable.

Residual Interest

An arrangement, ordinarily in the form of a trust, where property is irrevocably committed to Seneca and the donor retains use of the property for life or a set term. For example, a donor might give a residual interest in a residence and continue to live in it or give a painting and retain possession of it.

Tangible property

Property that derives its value from its physical existence. Tangible property can fall into two distinct categories:

  1. Objects, such as equipment, software, automobiles, etc.
  2. Services, such as photography services.

Policy

1. Policy Statement

Seneca accepts gifts in support of its academic and strategic priorities. It is the intention of Seneca to accept gifts that are consistent with its mission, vision, values and goals and that are in compliance with CRA policies related to charitable giving. Gifts received by Seneca will be administered in a manner consistent with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements, as directed by the CRA’s charities division.

The Senior Executive Committee (SEC) has the responsibility to oversee all resource development activities, including fundraising and stewardship, and has the responsibility to ensure compliance with this policy.

2. Gift Designation

2.1 All gifts must be made payable to Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology, Charitable Registration #107967168 RR0001, regardless of their value, form or designated use.

2.2 Donors may choose to have their gifts fully expended or endowed and may direct their gifts to the area of greatest need, financial aid, specific capital projects or academic programs, provided that:

  • No benefit accrues to the donor
    Note: It is acceptable to give the donor a small token of appreciation.
  • No benefit accrues to any person or entity that does not deal at arm’s length with the donor
  • Seneca makes all decisions regarding the use of the donation within a specific fundraising program and, where possible, acts jointly with the donor and is respectful of their wishes.

2.3 If a donor does not make a specific designation, Seneca shall allocate the gift to the area of greatest need.

2.4 Seneca may decline a gift as a result of the restrictions proposed by the donor. For specific instances where Seneca would decline a gift, refer to section 5 of this policy.

3. Gift Acceptance

3.1 General

3.1.1 Seneca shall consider the following factors in determining whether to accept a gift:

  • Applicable federal and provincial laws and regulations
  • Economic consequences to Seneca
  • Preservation of Seneca’s tax status
  • Donor’s charitable intent, the gift’s alignment with the charitable purposes of Seneca and the ultimate benefit to the Seneca community
  • Nature of any restrictions or conditions on the gift and the implications thereof on the fulfillment of Seneca’s charitable purposes
  • Projected costs to Seneca associated with accepting, administering and disposing of the gift so it can be used by Seneca for its charitable purposes.

3.1.2 Seneca shall investigate each gift offered to determine whether it is a donation or a contribution.

3.1.3 Seneca shall acknowledge all donations and contributions it receives. A charitable tax receipt and letter are issued for all eligible gifts by the Advancement department.

3.1.4 Seneca shall issue a charitable tax receipt to a donor for the full amount of a gift where the donor receives a benefit of nominal value as defined by the CRA (i.e. less than 10 per cent of the value of the donation up to a maximum of $75). Where the benefit received by a donor exceed the CRA’s nominal value threshold, Seneca shall issue a charitable tax receipt for the amount of the gift less the value of the benefit received. Seneca shall not issue a charitable tax receipt when the value of the benefit received by a donor is greater than 80 per cent of the value of the donation.

3.1.5 Seneca shall issue a charitable tax receipt only upon request for gifts received from service clubs, associations, community groups, private foundations and other non-profit foundations.

3.1.6 Seneca encourages and expects all donors to seek independent legal and tax advice with respect to the tax implications of a contribution made to Seneca. Such advice will be sought at the donor’s expense from an advisor of their choice to ensure full and independent advice regarding gifts to Seneca is received.

3.1.7 Gifts and circumstances not covered by this policy may be considered and shall be subject to review by the SEC.

3.2 Gifts accepted without formal review

3.2.1 Seneca shall accept, without formal review, gifts consistent with its charitable purposes and bylaws and in the following forms:

  • Cash or cash equivalents
  • Publicly traded securities
  • Bequests or other distributions from charitable remainder trusts or charitable gift annuities if distributions are in the form of cash, cash equivalents or publicly traded securities.

3.3 Gifts subject to formal review

3.3.1 Seneca shall review gifts in any form when they are subject to conditions or restrictions.

3.3.2 The SEC shall review proposed conditions or restrictions to ensure that they are consistent with Seneca’s charitable purposes, desired tax status and applicable federal and provincial laws.

3.4 Gifts considered on a case-by-case basis with appropriate legal counsel

3.4.1 Gifts that are not in the form of cash, cash equivalents or publicly traded securities are outside of the scope of this policy will be considered on a case-by-case basis with the appropriate legal counsel.

3.4.2 The SEC shall review proposed gifts with conditions or restrictions to ensure they are consistent with Seneca’s charitable purposes, desired tax status and applicable federal and provincial laws.

4. Gift Acceptance by Form

4.1 Cash and cash equivalents

4.1.1 Seneca shall accept cash gifts in any form, including cash, cheques, money orders, wire transfers, credit or debit card transactions, electronic fund transfers, payroll deductions or other cash transfer means accepted at Seneca.

4.1.2 Gifts in the form a cheque must be made payable to Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology.

4.1.3 Donors wishing to give a gift by credit card must provide the card type, card number, expiration date and name of card holder as it appears on the credit card.

4.1.4 All gifts of cash, cheques or pledges to individual schools, programs or administrative departments must be forwarded to the Advancement department for processing, which includes recording the gift in the Raiser’s Edge system, acknowledging the donor, proper recognition and stewardship.

4.1.5 Seneca will issue charitable tax receipts for all eligible donations over $20. Donors may request the issuance of charitable tax receipts for eligible donations under $20.

4.2 Publicly traded securities

4.2.1 An Advancement department representative or designate, in consultation with Seneca’s investment advisors and/or brokerage firm, will administer the acceptance of a gift of publicly traded securities.

4.2.2 Prior to accepting a gift of publicly traded securities, the representative will:

  • Assess, in consultation with Seneca’s investment advisors, if the gift is marketable and acceptable
  • Consult directly with the donor’s broker
  • Immediately provide Seneca’s brokerage firm with the donor’s name, delivering broker’s name, name and number of delivered shares, and Committee on Uniform Securities Identification Procedures number(s) of the securities
  • Request written confirmation of the date of transfer from the donor’s broker.

4.2.3 Seneca shall not accept gifts of shares in a privately-owned corporation.

4.2.4 Publicly traded stocks, bonds and other marketable securities may be electronically transferred, registered in the name of Seneca or conveyed to the Advancement department through the use of a Stock Power form.

4.2.5 Donors may mail or deliver endorsed certificates to Seneca or its agent. Prior to mailing or delivery, the donor must examine the reverse side of the endorsed certificate to determine if their signature requires bank notarization.

4.2.6 Donors must notify Seneca in advance of transferring publicly traded securities and provide a completed Securities Transfer form. 

4.2.7 Seneca shall issue a charitable tax receipt for the full value of gifted securities at the closing of the market on the day the securities are received in Seneca’s account.

4.2.8 Seneca shall sell gifted securities upon receipt, with funds managed consistent with Seneca’s investment strategy.

4.3 Shares or debt of privately-owned corporations and interest in other entities

4.3.1 Seneca shall not accept gifts of shares or debt of privately-owned corporations or interests in other entities.

4.4 Tax shelter arrangements

4.4.1 Seneca shall not accept gifts with a tax shelter identification number.

4.5 Gifts-in-kind

4.5.1 Seneca’s acceptance of gifts-in-kind will adhere to guidelines set by the CRA. Therefore, in accordance with the CRA, Seneca will not accept gifts of services.

4.5.2 Gifts-in-kind must be accompanied either by a minimum of one independent appraisal that establishes the fair market value of the gift, an invoice or any other documentation that adequately establishes the purchase price or fair market value of the gift.

4.5.3 Donors are responsible for establishing the fair market value of the gift and for any costs incurred in doing so. For guidance on establishing the fair market value, refer to the CRA’s 2016 pamphlet P113, Gifts and Income Tax.  

4.5.4 If more than one appraisal is required, Seneca will determine the value of the gift based on the information provided.

4.5.5 Gifts-in-kind must be consistent with Seneca’s strategic direction, mission and vision and/or meet the needs of the school, program or administrative division to which the gift was given.

4.5.6 Seneca shall issue a charitable tax receipt for the fair market value of the gift, either by reference to an appraisal or by straight-line depreciation, and net of applicable taxes.

4.5.7 Seneca may decline acceptance of a gift-in-kind if:

  • An appropriate fair market value cannot be determined or will result in undue expense to Seneca
  • It creates physical or environmental hazards for Seneca
  • A suitable location or storage for the gift cannot be determined 
  • A suitable use for the gift cannot be determined
  • It is a gift of services
  • There is uncertainty as to whether the donor has sufficient title to the assets or is mentally competent to transfer the assets as a gift.

4.5.8 Seneca may enter into an agreement with a service provider for complimentary services. In accordance with the CRA, Seneca shall not provide a tax receipt for the value of the donated services. However, if an invoice for the services is provided to Seneca and payment is made in full, the service provider may make a donation in the same amount that is not contractually linked to the service invoice for which Seneca can issue a charitable tax receipt for the full value of the donation.

4.6 Real estate (common form of a gift-in-kind)

4.6.1 Seneca may accept gifts of real estate made in various ways: outright, residual interest in the property or to fund a charitable remainder trust. Where real estate is transferred to a charitable remainder trust, additional requirements of the trustee must be met.

4.6.2 Seneca shall consider several factors to determine if acceptance of the gift is in its best interests. Considerations include zoning restrictions, environmental factors, marketability, current use and cash flow. Seneca may also authorize an environmental assessment of the property to ensure the real estate does not present a liability.

4.6.3 Donors must secure a qualified appraisal of the property at their own expense.

4.6.4 Seneca shall issue a charitable tax receipt for the full appraisal value or present value of the residual interest computed on the appraised value in the case of residual interest gifts. Seneca, however, reserves the right to secure its own appraisal and issue a charitable tax receipt for that amount if there is reason to believe the donor’s appraisal does not reflect the property’s true value.

4.6.5 Donors must present evidence, at their own expense, of clear title to the gifted property.

4.6.6 Seneca shall sell accepted gifts of real estate as soon as possible. In rare exceptions, Seneca may retain the property for investment purposes or for use that is consistent with its strategic direction. The SEC shall review the options and determine whether the decision requires escalation to the Board of Governors. 

4.7 Art and other cultural property (common form of a gift-in-kind)

4.7.1 Seneca shall conduct a due diligence review of residual gifts of art and other cultural property (referred to as “art”) and may attach certain conditions to their acceptance. Conditions may include that:

  • The art reflects Seneca’s mission, vision and values
  • Seneca’s administration approves the location for the art and arrangements as to its security and sustainable maintenance
  • An independent appraisal is conducted at the donor’s expense to determine the value of the art
  • One or more appraisals attesting to the art’s authenticity and value that are satisfactory to Seneca are obtained at the donor’s expense
  • Seneca retains the art or sells it and uses the proceeds where they are needed most
  • Seneca maintains insurance naming it as the loss payee.

4.8 Items donated by corporations (common form of a gift-in-kind)

4.8.1 Seneca shall issue a charitable tax receipt for the fair market value of the gift provided that the item is in inventory and the transaction does not result in a material benefit to the corporation, such as promotion or advertising. For more information on how to determine fair market value of the gift, refer to section 4.5 of this policy.

4.9 Vacation property (common form of a gift-in-kind)

4.9.1 Donors may gift use of their vacation property to Seneca. In accordance with the CRA, Seneca shall not issue a tax receipt for the value of the donated usage. Donors, however, may rent the property to Seneca and make a donation in the same amount that is not contractually linked to the rental agreement and Seneca can issue a charitable tax receipt for the full value of the donation.

4.10 Special event revenue (common form of a gift-in-kind)

4.10.1 Donors may participate in a special event hosted by Seneca or by a third party in support of Seneca. Their participation will be subject to special tax considerations and treatment.

4.10.2 Seneca shall issue a charitable gift receipt for a donor’s participation in a special event if there was payment for admittance, a meal and/or payment for a donation. The receipt will be equal to the total value of the ticket less fair market value of the meal and other benefits of participation.

4.10.3 Seneca shall not issue a charitable tax receipt for participation in a third party event organized by supporters of Seneca without staff involvement, where the net proceeds of the event flow directly to Seneca.

4.11 Bequest (common form of a deferred gift)

4.11.1 Seneca accepts several types of bequests, including:

  • A specific bequest that provides Seneca with a specific sum of money, stated percentage of an estate or a specific property, such as real estate or securities
  • A residual bequest that leaves all or a portion of an estate to Seneca after providing for other beneficiaries
  • A contingency bequest that ensures Seneca receives all or a share of an estate in the event of the prior death of certain other beneficiaries
  • A residual bequest subject to life interest that applies when the donor chooses to have Seneca receive the bequest following the death of certain other beneficiaries who have use of the assets in the estate for their lifetime.

4.11.2 Upon request, Seneca shall provide a donor and their lawyers and/or financial planners sample bequest language to ensure that a bequest is appropriately designated, deemed acceptable at the time of designation and that proper legal title for Seneca is used. Seneca encourages donors to provide information regarding their bequest provision and send a copy of the section of their will that names Seneca.

4.11.3 Donors may use a bequest of an appropriate value to create a named endowment fund with Seneca. Donors are encouraged to identify a proposed recognition name and the fund’s purpose within the context of their will, or to demonstrate their intent in an alternative communication addressed to Seneca during their lifetime.

4.11.4 During the probate of an estate containing a bequest to Seneca or during the post-death administration of an inter-vivo trust containing dispositive provisions benefiting Seneca, the President or their designate, and Seneca’s legal counsel shall represent Seneca in all dealings with the legal counsel and personal representatives of the estate.

4.11.5 Any legal, accounting or other professional fees associated with the administration of an estate will be deducted from the residual value of the gift received. The net value of the bequest will be used for the purpose specified by the donor.

4.11.6 Seneca shall not provide professional consultation to donors in the preparation of their will or become involved in the execution or witnessing of a will in which Seneca is named as a beneficiary. Seneca or its staff or volunteers will not be named as executor of a donor’s will.

4.11.7 Seneca shall issue a charitable tax receipt to the estate of a deceased donor.

4.12 Residual interest (common form of a deferred gift)

4.12.1 Seneca shall issue a charitable tax receipt to a donor for the present value of an accepted gift of residual interest.

4.12.2 Donors will continue to be responsible for real estate taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance after transferring the title of a property unless Seneca, upon prior approval by the SEC, agrees to assume responsibility for any portion of the property. The terms of a gift and responsibilities for expenses will be specified in a deed of gift executed by the donor and Seneca.

4.12.3 Seneca reserves the right to inspect the property related to an accepted gift of residual interest to ensure that its interests are properly safeguarded.

4.13 Charitable remainder trust (common form of a deferred gift)

4.13.1 Donors may fund a charitable remainder trust with cash, securities or real estate. If a donor contributes real estate to a trust in which Seneca is the trustee, the real estate will be subject to a thorough review as described in section 4.6 of this policy.

4.13.2 Where Seneca is the trustee of a gifted charitable remainder trust, the minimum trust size must be $50,000, and beneficiaries must be at least 50 years of age. The SEC can make an exception to these requirements in some circumstances.

4.13.3 If a donor selects an outside trustee for a gifted charitable remainder trust, it may be funded with any property of any value that is acceptable to the trustee.

4.13.4 A trust agreement must be either drafted or reviewed by the donor’s own legal counsel. Upon request, Seneca may provide prototype agreements to the donor’s legal counsel. Seneca shall not execute a trust agreement until it is determined to be in the proper form and that the gift is appropriate for the donor’s situation.

4.13.5 Seneca shall issue a charitable tax receipt to a donor for the present value of a gift of residual interest in the form of a charitable remainder trust as long as the trust is irrevocable.

4.14 Life insurance

4.14.1 Seneca may accept proceeds of an insurance policy gifted in several ways, including if a donor:

  • Irrevocably assigns ownership of a paid-up life insurance policy to Seneca
  • Irrevocably assigns ownership of a life insurance policy, other than a term policy, on which premiums remain to be paid
  • Irrevocably assigns ownership of a term life insurance policy on which premiums remain to be paid
  • Names Seneca as a beneficiary, whether primary or secondary, of a policy. In this particular case, ownership of the life insurance policy is not irrevocably assigned to Seneca.

4.14.2 Seneca will become the legal owner and beneficiary of a life insurance policy in each of the first three methods listed in section 4.14.1 of this policy.

4.14.3 Seneca shall issue a charitable tax receipt to a donor for the cash surrender value of a policy assigned using either of the first two methods listed in section 4.14.1 of this policy.  

4.14.4 Seneca shall not issue a charitable tax receipt to a donor for a policy assigned using the third method listed in section 4.14.1 of this policy as no cash surrender value exists. A tax receipt will be issued to the estate of the donor when the policy is realized.

4.14.5 Seneca may issue a charitable tax receipt to a donor for premiums paid either directly to the insurance company or to Seneca, which will in turn pay the insurance premium for a policy assigned using either the second or third method listed in section 4.14.1 of this policy.

4.14.6 Seneca shall not issue a charitable tax receipt to a donor for premiums paid or for proceeds received using the fourth method listed in section 4.14.1 of this policy.

4.14.7 Seneca will ensure that it does not incur any liability to the insurance company for future insurance premiums for a policy assigned using the first or second method listed in section 4.14.1 of this policy. Seneca shall only pay such premiums in circumstances where it receives the amount of the premium from the donor.

4.14.8 Seneca shall incur no liability to the donor of an insurance policy, the insured or otherwise if it has not paid the insurance premiums as a result of not having received the amount from the donor.

4.15 Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and Registered Retirement Income Plan (RRIF)

4.15.1 Donors may name Seneca as a direct beneficiary of the proceeds of their RRSP or RRIF (in all provinces except Quebec).

4.15.2 Seneca shall issue a charitable tax receipt to a donor for the proceeds received which can be applied against income tax payable on the estate.

5. Gift Refusal

5.1 Seneca may choose to refuse a gift for various reasons, including if:

  • The gift constitutes a non-gift as per CRA guidelines
  • There are features to the gift that are inconsistent with the mission, vision, values and/or goals of Seneca
  • The gift financially or morally jeopardizes the donor and/or Seneca
  • The gift or terms of the gift are illegal
  • Seneca is unable to honour the terms of the gift
  • An appropriate fair market value cannot be determined or will result in unwarranted or unmanageable costs to Seneca
  • There are physical or environmental hazards to Seneca in accepting the gift
  • The gift involved false promises on the part of either party
  • The gift could improperly benefit any individual or entity.

6. Return of a Gift

6.1 In special cases, such as the cancellation of a construction project, the CRA may allow the return of donated funds to the donor. However, complex legal considerations, going beyond income tax considerations, can apply to the return of gifts and legal advice should be sought as required. In these cases, Seneca shall make every effort to work with the donor to find a suitable alternative purpose for the gift.

6.2 Seneca shall investigate the possibility of returning a gift only upon a donor’s request.

7. Mechanisms for Settling Disputes

7.1 The Advancement department and Seneca’s legal counsel shall resolve disputes that arise from the application of this policy.

7.2 In the event that a donor is not satisfied with the resolution of a dispute, the SEC shall consider the issue and make an appropriate recommendation for resolution. The decision of the SEC will be final.

Supporting Documentation

  • None

Related Seneca Policies

Related Materials