Skip to main content

Gift Policies

What defines a gift? When might Stanford forgo a gift? The following describes certain principles, policies, and guidelines associated with the acceptance of gifts to Stanford.

I. General principles

Stanford’s Office of Development is responsible for the university’s gift procurement program. With the help of many other parts of the university, including the university’s leadership and faculty, the Office of Development works to encourage and help donors support the teaching and research mission of the university and to ensure that all gifts are appropriate and used for their intended purpose. A gift is any item of value given to Stanford by a donor who expects nothing of value in return other than recognition (for example, being listed on an honor roll or naming a physical space, fund, or professorship). If Stanford gives something of value in return for a gift (e.g., a ticket to a gala event), both the value of the gift on Stanford’s records and the donor’s tax deduction is reduced by the fair market value of the benefit received. In some cases, particularly with institutional funders such as foundations and companies, a donor’s terms of a contribution may require the support to be administered as a sponsored project. For more information, see the university’s Administrative Guide.

While most gifts offered to Stanford are helpful and acceptable, Stanford does reserve the right to forgo any offered gift because (i) the source of the gift was acquired by illegal or immoral activities, (ii) restrictions proposed on the gift are overly burdensome or might compromise the independence or integrity of university research or its people, (iii) there is significant risk of damage to Stanford’s reputation if the gift is accepted, (iv) the donor expects something inappropriate in return for the gift, or (v) the gift is otherwise deemed not appropriate by Stanford.

II. Stanford entities

The legal name of the university is “The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University.” Gifts to the university are best made by referring to the full name of the university, but using “Stanford University” is also acceptable. Gifts to the adult hospital should be made to “Stanford Health Care,” and gifts to the children's hospital should be made to “The Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.”

III. Ways to give

1. Assets. Stanford University is able to consider accepting virtually any type of asset and will conduct sufficient due diligence to determine whether or not it is appropriate to accept the particular asset offered.

  1. Cash and publicly traded securities. These are the easiest assets to accept. Attention will be given to the number of shares of any publicly traded security in relation to the volume of daily trading in that security.

  2. Non-publicly traded securities. Depending on the type, size, and other characteristics, an appropriate level of due diligence of the securities and their associated entity will be undertaken, including attention to the value of the securities, underlying assets and activities, potential for future liquidity opportunities, and other factors.

  3. Real property. Before real property is accepted, it will receive a site inspection by a member of the university’s gift real estate team or a hired agent. Other due diligence steps may include assessment of marketability and value, a phase I environmental report on non-residential property (and sometimes a phase II), an inspection by a professional property inspector, analysis of any encumbrances, determining the maintenance costs (including property taxes and management fees) and potential sale expenses, and ordering a title report.

  4. Other assets. This category includes tangible personal property (art works, vehicles, antiques, etc.), cryptocurrency, life insurance policies, and business interests not in corporate form. Appropriate due diligence relating to the value, carrying costs, risks, ability to liquidate, etc., will be undertaken before a gift of such an asset will be accepted.

  5. Unrelated business income. The university is sensitive to unrelated business income and will determine if such is associated with any gift. The presence of unrelated business income, which can arise from gifts of indebted property or from gifts of a large percentage of a business, will not necessarily result in a gift being turned down, but it will be considered.

2. Manner of gift. Below are ways that donors may make gifts to Stanford. Each potential situation will be reviewed, and considerations such as value, type of gift asset, administrative costs, gift vehicle, and gift terms will be taken into account.

  1. Outright gifts from individuals, corporations, foundations, donor advised funds, and other entities

  2. Bequests and other testamentary gifts (e.g., gifts from a trust or designations of life insurance or retirement plans)

  3. Charitable gifts in the form of individual retirement account rollovers

  4. Charitable remainder trusts

  5. Charitable lead trusts

  6. Charitable gift annuities

  7. Remainder interests in personal residencies or farms

  8. Bargain sales

  9. Donor advised funds

3. Pledges. Pledges from donors of specified dollar amounts, which are usually designated for a specified purpose, are welcome and often encouraged. The pledge term is generally five years or less. While it is expected that the donor will make gifts to satisfy the pledge amount, and virtually all donors do, the university does not treat pledges as legally binding on the donor unless there is explicit language to that effect. This approach provides the donor flexibility on the source of the gifts toward the pledge (e.g., personal, donor advised fund, family foundation, etc.).

4. Expendable, endowment, and restricted gifts. A gift to the university can be designated as an expendable gift or as an endowment gift. If the gift is not designated expendable or endowment, it will be treated as expendable, absent unusual circumstances.

  1. Expendable: These gifts are spent as they are needed by Stanford. Expendable gifts are not credited with interest or other earnings while they remain unspent. They may be designated for specific purposes.

  2. Endowment: Donors may designate a contribution to be held as an endowment. Such gifts are held in perpetuity to support the university and can be designated to support specific purposes at the university (e.g., financial aid, particular departments, professorships, etc.). The size of a gift needed to create an endowment fund will vary depending on the purpose (e.g., a professorship versus a scholarship fund). Generally, an endowment fund needs to be at least $250,000. Endowment gifts are typically held in individual funds that are invested in a merged pool of investments by the Stanford Management Company. Investment earnings accrue to the individual funds. Each year, the Board of Trustees generally follows a smoothing formula to determine how much can be withdrawn from each fund (the current target rate is 5.5 percent). On occasion, a donor may designate a gift to be a term endowment gift, which means the gift is invested with the pure endowment gifts but is expended in fixed amounts each year over an identified period of time, usually a minimum of 10 years. On relatively rare occasions, the university may decide to treat an expendable gift (often a bequest) as quasi endowment, which means the gift is placed in a fund that is treated as a pure endowment fund except that the university has the ability to decide later to convert the gift to an expendable fund.

  3. Restricted gifts: The purpose of all restricted gifts (e.g., scholarships, student housing, departmental support, research support, professorships, etc.) must be documented in writing and accepted by Stanford. Stanford is responsible for assuring that restrictions as to use of the gift are honored. Changes to the designated use can occur only if (i) the donor specifically waives or changes the restriction and the consent of the Provost is obtained, (ii) a court approves a change to the restriction based on a significant change in circumstances from when the gift was made, or (iii) as otherwise allowed by law.

IV. Other policies

1. Anonymity. Stanford will honor a donor’s request for anonymity. Stanford requires that at least one senior leader of Stanford (e.g., the president or vice president for development) knows the identity of the donor of an anonymous gift and the reason for the desire of anonymity to make sure it is appropriate to accept the gift. In addition, Stanford may be obligated by legal requirements to disclose information regarding a gift.

2. Infrastructure charge. Activities supported by restricted gifts represent a significant percentage of Stanford’s total activity. If Stanford is to maintain long-term financial stability, gifts restricted to specific purposes need to contribute to the cost of the university’s infrastructure. General unrestricted funds alone cannot bear the full burden of the infrastructure and administrative costs required to support these activities. Consequently, an infrastructure charge (currently 8%) is imposed on restricted expendable gifts at the time they are expended and on endowment payout from restricted endowment funds at the time the payout is spent. Certain gifts are exempt from the infrastructure charge: endowed gifts to support academic-year tenure line salaries (e.g., professorships); endowed gifts for graduate student financial aid; endowed support for undergraduate student financial aid or undergraduate research opportunities; and gifts for facilities. For more information about the infrastructure charge, see the university’s Administrative Guide.

3. Stanford University name use, seal, or logo requests. Stanford’s marks, including its name, are owned by Stanford and are valuable university assets. Making a gift to the university does not confer on the donor the right to use the Stanford name or any of the following without specific university prior consent: the name of any faculty member, employee, or student or any trademark, service mark, trade name, logos, photographs, or other symbol of Stanford. All requests for such use should be directed to the Office of University Communications. For more information, see the university’s Administrative Guide.

4. Gifts and admissions. Stanford is fortunate to have many alumni and others who are interested in providing financial support for its students, faculty, and programs. For many decades, the children of current and prospective donors have applied to Stanford for admission as undergraduate and graduate students, and this pattern is expected to continue. 

No one should make a gift with the expectation that it will influence an admissions decision.  The admission office is separate from the development office, and gifts cannot buy an applicant’s admission to Stanford.  When a current or prospective donor is considering a gift and has a child who may apply for admission to Stanford, the university carefully examines the circumstances because the donor may expect, or others may think, that a gift made at that time will influence an admission decision.  The university may require that a prospective gift be delayed until after the admission process has run its course.  This is particularly true when a prospective gift of $100,000 or more is significantly higher than prior gifts and within 18 months of a potential application for admission.

5. Academic independence.The academic independence and integrity of the university is critical to its mission. Gifts and conditions on gifts that might compromise the integrity, independence, accuracy, or autonomy of the work of the university and its students, faculty, or other researchers will not be accepted.

V. Information for non-U.S. donors

Like most institutions of higher education in the United States, Stanford is required to report to the U.S. federal government certain gifts and other payments (together “gifts”) received from foreign sources.

Stanford must report to the Department of Education gifts received from a foreign source when the aggregate value of that foreign source’s gifts equals or exceeds $250,000 in a calendar year.  

Stanford must also report to the National Science Foundation gifts received from a foreign source when the aggregate value of that foreign source’s gifts equals or exceeds $50,000 in a reporting period, but only when the foreign source is from one of a few specified countries (currently Russia, North Korea, Iran, and China).

1. Foreign source definition: For purposes of this reporting, a foreign source includes: (i) a natural person who is not a citizen of the United States, (ii) a legal entity created solely under the laws of a foreign state, and (iii) a foreign government.

Gifts from a foreign source that are paid to the university by a non-foreign agent or intermediary acting on behalf of a foreign source (e.g., a gift from a U.S. subsidiary of a foreign legal entity) are counted and reportable as though having been made by the foreign source.

2. Information reported: Information reported includes the foreign source’s name and address, the value of each gift, and the date on which it was received. If a gift is made subject to certain restrictions described in the statute, which is not a common occurrence, those conditions must also be reported. Schools are not currently required to submit copies of gift instruments, but the Department of Education has previously indicated that it might impose such a requirement.

3. Public database and FAQs: The Department of Education publishes on its website some of the information it collects about reported gifts, but it has committed not to publish the names and addresses of foreign sources in that public database. The database can be found here:

You can also find frequently asked questions here:

VI. More information

For more details about making gifts to Stanford or to ask a question, send a message to or call the Office of Development’s service desk at (650) 724-0627. You can also find additional information in chapter 4 of Stanfords Administration Guide.