Gift Acceptance Policy

By resolution of its Board of Directors (the “board”), Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh (“BVRS”) adopts the following Gift Acceptance Policy (the “policy”):


BVRS is a charitable institution organized under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code section 501(c)(3) with a goal to provide blindness prevention education to the public and the rehabilitation training and jobs that people with vision loss need to become as independent as possible in all areas of their lives.

BVRS accepts charitable donations in support of its mission from individuals, private foundations, corporations, business entities, trusts, and associations. BVRS is committed to compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, with donor designations and with ethical standards.


The purpose of this policy (and related guidelines referenced herein) is to govern the acceptance of gifts by BVRS and to provide guidance to donors and their professional advisors in making gifts to BVRS. This policy has been developed for BVRS and approved by its board in order to outline straightforward and objective processes for analyzing and accepting charitable gifts.

This policy should be interpreted in light of two overriding principles:

Principle 1: BVRS should not accept a gift unless there is a reasonable expectation that acceptance of the gift will ultimately benefit the organization. BVRS encourages private support that will not encumber BVRS with gifts: a) that may be restricted in a manner not in keeping with BVRS’ mission or vision; or b) that are likely to generate a disproportionate cost or obligation in relation to the benefit received.

Principle 2: BVRS should not accept a gift if such acceptance would not be in the best interest of the donor. A determination of the donor’s “interest” shall include, but not be limited to, a consideration of the donor’s financial situation and philanthropic interests, as well as any tax or other legal matters revealed while planning for a gift.

While this document is intended to provide guidance to BVRS personnel regarding acceptance of prospective gifts, donors are ultimately responsible for ensuring that a proposed gift furthers their own charitable, financial and estate planning goals. Therefore, each prospective donor is urged to seek the advice of independent legal and/or tax counsel in the gift planning process. It is not within the province of either BVRS or its staff to give legal, accounting, tax or other advice to prospective donors.

This policy identifies the terms and conditions upon which BVRS shall accept such gifts and serves as a guideline for staff involved with accepting gifts, outside advisors who assist in the gift planning process, and donors who wish to make gifts.


The board is responsible for monitoring all gifts to BVRS. The board has delegated responsibility for acceptance of all gifts to the president. Following the guidelines below, the president has the authority to accept any unrestricted gift in the amount of $250,000 or below that is within the scope of BVRS’ mission and strategic priorities and does not cause BVRS’ unnecessary obligation. Any gift in an amount above $250,000 that is unrestricted and supports BVRS’ mission may require approval by the executive committee. Any gift that is potentially outside the scope of BVRS’ mission and strategic priorities shall require approval by the executive committee of the board before being accepted. The executive committee reserves the right to refuse any gift that is not in keeping with BVRS’ mission, likely to generate disproportionate cost or obligation in relation to the benefit received, or not in the best interest of the donor at its sole discretion and without explanation.

Following the guidelines below, the president should consult with fundraising counsel, legal counsel, and/or the executive committee of the board as necessary prior to accepting certain types of gifts.


BVRS will accept unrestricted gifts and gifts to support specific programs and purposes, provided that such gifts are consistent with BVRS’ stated, board-approved mission, vision, purposes, or priorities.

BVRS will not accept gifts that are potentially outside the scope of BVRS’ mission or strategic priorities, contain restrictions that are at odds with the best interest of BVRS, and/or have the possibility of putting BVRS at undue financial risk without first seeking guidance from fundraising counsel, legal counsel, and/or the executive committee of the board of directors.


Unless subject to a letter, will, or written agreement between BVRS and the donor to use the gift for a specific purpose, all gifts are received unconditionally and may be used for such purposes as BVRS determines most appropriate. If a conditional gift is accepted, BVRS obligates itself to use the gift in accordance with the donor’s intent, as made known by the donor to the organization prior to the gift being made so long as such use is in compliance with applicable state and federal laws, United States Department of the Treasury regulations, and are ethically acceptable.

In cases where the use of the funds in the manner designated by the donor in a fund agreement becomes impractical or impossible, BVRS will request a modification of use from the donor prior to exercising its variance power. Additionally, the board reserves the right to seek judicial interpretation as to the future use of contributed funds at its sole discretion. BVRS may elect to decline a gift if the donor’s intent is not in accordance with or beyond the scope of its mission.


BVRS recognizes that accurately processing a gift in a timely manner is complex and important to both the donor and the organization. Therefore, all efforts will be made to coordinate the process among the president, director of development, development and accounting personnel, and anyone else who should know about a particular gift. The president, in absence of fundraising staff, will assume primary responsibility to ensure the gift process is correct and thorough.


BVRS provides gift receipts for tax purposes in compliance with the applicable government (Internal Revenue Service) gift substantiation rules. BVRS will issue all official gift receipts within three business days to contributors, which will be accompanied by an acknowledgment letter signed either by the president or board chair. The donor will be informed of any “quid pro quo” arrangements in the gift transaction or lack thereof. A “quid pro quo” contribution is defined as one in which the donor’s payment is made partly as a contribution and partly as consideration for goods or services provided. Certain sales of donated property may be subject to additional reporting requirements. BVRS will comply with all compliance requirements associated with the receipt and disposition of gifted property. The gift value of any gift will be determined in full compliance with IRS rules and regulations. BVRS will deposit gifts, record the terms, restrictions and conditions of the gift, and comply with auditing requirements.


A. Cash & Pledges

1. Gifts in the form of cash, check, or credit card will be accepted by BVRS regardless of amount.

2. Checks shall be made payable to Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh or an acceptable abbreviation. In no event shall a check be made payable to an individual who represents BVRS. For gifts mailed to BVRS, gift date is the date when the gift is received by the president or development staff.

3. BVRS will accept credit card gifts using Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Credit card gifts can be made by mail, telephone, fax, e-mail, website, or in person. The gift date for credit card gifts is the date the bank authorizes the credit card payment.

4. A pledge can be made to BVRS by an individual, corporation, or foundation. Pledges may be made in single or multiple installments and should commit to a specific dollar amount. It is recommended that pledges not exceed five years in duration. All donors must complete a pledge form or confirm the pledge in writing. Verbal pledges are not recorded or reported.

5. Matching gifts are made by the employer of the donor or their spouse/partner to match the donor’s contribution to BVRS. When BVRS receives a matching gift form it will complete its portion of the form with any other required documentation to the matching gift company.

B. Securities

1. Publicly Traded Securities

a. Readily marketable securities, such as those traded on a stock exchange, can be accepted by BVRS.

2. Closely Held Securities

a. Non-publicly traded securities may be accepted after consultation with the executive committee and/or legal and tax representation. Prior to acceptance, BVRS shall explore methods of liquidation for the securities through redemption or sale. A representative of BVRS shall try to contact the closely held corporation to determine fair market value and restrictions on transfer of securities. No commitment for repurchase of closely held securities shall be made prior to completion of the gift. These guidelines apply to C corporation stock, S corporation stock, and partnership interests.

Securities donated to BVRS will be sold immediately. For gift crediting and accounting purposes, the value of the securities is determined by the mean between the high and low prices on the date of the gift. For stock certificates, bonds, and stock powers received through the U.S. mail, the gift date is the postmark on the envelope. If the stock certificate and stock power are received on different dates then the gift date is the later of the postmark on the envelopes. If the stock is received by electronic transfer to BVRS’ broker then the gift date is the date the stock was transferred by the donor’s broker. If that date is unknown, then the gift date is the date that the stock was received by BVRS’ broker. All postmarked envelopes and other documentation that securities and/or stock powers are received in must be kept for gift date and valuing purposes.

A gift of stock with restrictions can not be completed until the restriction is removed. In most cases, the restriction can be removed by the transfer agent.

Stock proceeds are the actual amount of money that is recorded by BVRS when donated stock is sold. The proceeds check may be a gain or a loss from the actual fair market value that the gift was valued when received. The proceeds check is never entered as a gift, as the gift was already recorded when the stock was received and valued using the high, low and mean.

C. Real Estate

1. Outright Gifts of Real Estate

BVRS shall consider gifts of real estate, both improved (e.g. detached single-family residences, condominiums, apartment buildings, rental property, commercial property, farms, acreage, etc.) and unimproved, including gifts subject to a retained life estate, only after a thorough review of the criteria for acceptance set forth below under the direction and supervision of the executive committee of the board.

The donor must submit a letter of intent regarding the gift of real estate before BVRS will conduct its own due diligence and market analysis. The existence of any and all mortgages, pre-arranged sales agreements, deeds of trust, restrictions, reservations, easements, mechanic liens, environmental liabilities, and other limitations of record must be disclosed. No gift of real estate will be accepted until all mortgages, deeds of trust, liens, and other encumbrances have been discharged, except in very unusual cases where the fair market value of BVRS’ interest in the property net of all encumbrances is substantial.

The prospective donor will be responsible for the costs of an independent, qualified appraisal and any environmental survey/audit costs necessary for BVRS to consider accepting the property as a gift. Any current or former commercial property must receive a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment prior to acceptance. BVRS reserves the right to request the donor to indemnify the organization for any environmental cleanup costs. If the real estate is accepted, the fair market value determined by the independent appraisal will be used for gift counting purposes. Where the donor has retained a life estate in the property, the present value of the deferred gift will also be reported.

BVRS will dispose of all gifts of real estate (other than properties BVRS wishes to retain for its primary mission) as expeditiously and cost-effectively as possible. Therefore, regardless of the value placed on the property by the donor’s appraisal, BVRS will attempt to sell the property at a reasonable price based on current market conditions. The donor will be informed that such a sale occurring within two years of the date of the gift will be reported to the Internal Revenue Service pursuant to current regulations.

The gift date for real estate gifts is the date the real estate is deeded to BVRS.

2. Testamentary Gifts of Real Estate

BVRS may accept or reject testamentary gifts of real estate based upon evaluation, inspection and approval as described above.

3. Retained Life Estates

BVRS may accept gifts of a farm or residence with a retained life estate after assessing the length of the life tenancy and examining all factors that are otherwise relevant to accepting gifts of real estate. The prospective donor will be responsible for the costs of an independent, qualified appraisal and any environmental survey costs necessary for BVRS to consider accepting the property as a gift. Payment of such costs by the donor shall in no way obligate BVRS to accept said property.

Should the gift be accepted, the donor will continue to be responsible for taxes, insurance, and maintenance on the property. The donor will sign a separate agreement covering expenses, including remodeling and other improvements. If the donor wishes to sell the property prior to death, the donor and BVRS will jointly negotiate the terms of the sale. The split of sale proceeds will be divided between the donor and BVRS in accordance with the then-calculated remainder and life estate values.

D. Life Insurance

BVRS may accept gifts of life insurance policies if the organization is made owner and irrevocable beneficiary of 100% of the policy. While attempting always to honor donor wishes, BVRS reserves the right to determine whether it will cash in the policy or retain it as an investment.

1. Partially Paid Premiums

If the donor pays the premium to BVRS or the insurance company, the donor will get gift credit for the premiums paid.

2. Paid-Up Policies

If the insurance policy is paid in full, BVRS will record the cash surrender value as a current gift.

3. Non-BVRS Owned Policies

Where BVRS receives the death benefits of an insurance policy in which it was named beneficiary but not owner, the full amount received shall be reported as a cash gift on the date received.

E. Planned Gifts

1. Charitable Gift Annuities

A charitable gift annuity is an agreement between BVRS and the donor whereby the donor transfers cash, securities, or other assets to the organization and, in return, the organization agrees to pay the donor a fixed amount per year for the life of the beneficiary/ies. Upon the death of the income beneficiary/ies, the annuity balance is distributed to BVRS.

BVRS shall offer charitable gift annuity rates in accordance with the parameters established by the American Council on Gift Annuities, but in no event shall BVRS offer payout rates higher than those recommended by the ACGA. BVRS reserves the right to negotiate payout rates on all gift annuities to be funded with assets other than cash or publicly traded marketable securities.

2. Deferred Gift Annuities

A deferred gift annuity is similar to a charitable gift annuity except that the donor defers the fixed income amount to a pre-determined point in the future. As with charitable gift annuities, deferred gift annuity rates will be in accordance with the parameters established by the American Council on Gift Annuities.

3. Charitable Remainder Trusts

Charitable remainder trusts are personalized planned giving vehicles that provide income to beneficiaries for life or for a term of years. They are personalized in that the donor, within limits, selects the payout rate and term. Upon the death of the income beneficiary/ies or completion of the term of years, the remainder is distributed to BVRS. BVRS may agree to act as trustee for charitable remainder trusts and reserves the right to charge reasonable fees for acting as trustee. BVRS reserves the right to negotiate the payout rate for all charitable remainder trusts while adhering to IRS regulations regarding minimum payout rates.

a. Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust (CRAT)

A charitable remainder annuity trust provides a fixed, guaranteed dollar amount of income to beneficiaries representing no less than 5% of the value of the trust’s assets at the time the trust is established.

b. Charitable Remainder Unitrust – Straight Fixed Percentage (CRUT)

A charitable remainder unitrust pays to beneficiaries a fixed percentage of the trust’s assets based upon an annual revaluation. With a CRUT, payments are variable as they are affected by the annual increase or decrease in the market value of the trust’s assets.

c. Charitable Remainder Net Income Unitrust

A charitable remainder net income unitrust requires a payment of the net income produced or a fixed percentage of the trust assets, whichever is less. These trusts may be established with or without so-called “make up provisions.”

4. Charitable Lead Trusts

A charitable lead trust is a planned giving instrument wherein the donor pays the “lead” income to BVRS and, after a number of years based on a term or a lifetime, the remainder is returned either to the grantor (a grantor lead trust) or to someone other than the grantor, such as the grantor’s heirs or other beneficiaries (a nongrantor lead trust). A charitable lead trust must be in either an annuity trust or unitrust form.

BVRS may agree to act as a trustee for a charitable lead trust where the organization is the irrevocable charitable beneficiary. In all cases where BVRS agrees to serve as the trustee or co-trustee, the terms of the trust document must be acceptable to the organization. Further, BVRS reserves the right to negotiate the type of lead trust to be used, the payout rate, the type and amount of funding assets, the term of the trust and the number of charitable beneficiaries.

a. Charitable Lead Annuity Trust (CLAT)

A charitable lead annuity trust provides a fixed dollar amount each year to BVRS over the term of the trust.

b. Charitable Lead Unitrust (CLUT)

A charitable lead unitrust provides BVRS with a fixed percentage payout of the value of the CLUT assets based upon an annual revaluation.

5. Bequests

BVRS encourages its supporters and friends to provide for the future of the organization by including the organization in their philanthropic estate plans. A donor may name BVRS as a beneficiary of his or her Will or revocable trust, IRA, retirement plan assets, or life insurance policy. Bequests may be made in the form of cash, securities, specific property, or by naming BVRS to receive a specific percentage of the estate or the residue of the estate after the payment of all taxes, other bequests, and expenses.

F. Tangible Personal Property and All Other Non-Cash Gifts

All proposed gifts of tangible personal property and all other non-cash gifts (artwork, collectibles, jewelry, etc.) are first subject to review by the executive committee based on Section II to ensure that the property meets BVRS’ basic guidelines. If BVRS agrees to accept the property, BVRS reserves the right to sell the donated property at its discretion. BVRS cannot make appraisals of property value for donors, and it is the responsibility of the donor to consult a qualified appraiser.

VII. Planned Gift Reporting

A. Realized Bequests and Bequest Intentions

Realized bequests will be counted at the value of the assets received, provided that they have not been counted earlier in the form of a bequest intention.

BVRS, when notified of a bequest intention in writing, will provide credit to the donor based upon its bequest counting guidelines. At present, these guidelines call for counting bequest intentions at the full value for those donors aged sixty (60) and older, and discounting the face value of bequests for donors aged 55 to 60. Bequests will be discounted at a flat rate of 3% for each year that the donor is less than 60 years of age. The donor will be asked to complete a Bequest Confirmation form. In certain cases BVRS may also request a copy of the relevant portion of the donor’s will.

B. Deferred Gifts

Donors of deferred gifts will be recognized as having made a gift in the amount of the value of the assets transferred.

VII. Ethics/Administration

A. Donor Relations

BVRS considers the donor’s intent and circumstances to be of the utmost importance. Every effort will be made to ensure that each gift is beneficial to, and in the best interest of, both BVRS and the donor. The donor’s charitable interest, finances, relationship with BVRS, and family will be considered before accepting a gift. No agreement shall be made between BVRS and any agency, person, company or organization on any matter related to investments, management or otherwise which would knowingly jeopardize the donor’s interest.

B. Legal Representation

Prospective donors shall be advised to consult with counsel of their choice in all matters related to planned gift instruments such as drafting of wills, trusts, agreements, contracts or other. They shall be advised to consult with their attorney or accountant on matters related to the tax implications and estate planning aspects of gift agreements. Whenever counsel for BVRS also acts as an adviser to the donor, BVRS will notify the donor of a potential conflict of interest.

C. Annuity & Trust Management

BVRS will contract with a financial service agency to manage and administer annuity and trust assets. Assets and shall be managed under the jurisdiction of the executive committee of the board of directors. All fees associated with management, administration, and custody will be paid from the earned income of the assets. BVRS reserves the right to decline to serve as trustee for any vehicle.

D. Finder’s Fees

BVRS does not pay finder’s fees for gifts. All personnel employed by BVRS to contact prospective donors shall be paid a salary or fixed wage, but shall not receive commissions, which could give such personnel a direct beneficial interest in any agreement.

E. Culture

BVRS aims to create a culture of donor service to the extent made possible by the law. BVRS recognizes that individuals making gifts, either outright or deferred, are almost always trying to help the organization and its mission. It is in this context that these guidelines have been developed.

Though BVRS makes every effort to consider the benefits to and impact on the donor as well as the organization, BVRS is not undertaking to protect or defend the donor or provide financial or legal guidance. The donor is ultimately responsible for their actions and decisions and should rely on personal financial and legal advisors in taking such actions or making such decisions. Representatives of BVRS shall exercise caution to avoid pressure, persuasion or undue influence when informing, counseling, and/or assisting the donor in gift planning concerns, including the exercise of prudent consideration of the donor’s personal interests as well as charitable objectives.

F. Confidential Information

All information concerning prospective donors, including names and addresses, names of beneficiaries, nature and worth of estates, amounts of provisions, etc. shall be kept strictly confidential by BVRS and its personnel unless the donors grant permission to use selective information for purposes of referral, testimonial or example at the discretion of authorized personnel.