Responsibility for the acceptance or refusal of donations lies ultimately with the trustees of a charity. There is no single piece of legislation that covers the subject, but trustees and their advisers must follow legal principles and make their decisions in the charity's best interests.
The code says it is important for a charity to have a clear policy that has been formally agreed by trustees. The policy should embody any applicable legal guidelines and aim to ensure that decisions are based on the objectives of the organisation. It should also clarify who has the authority to make the final decision when opinions clash.
Trustees and authorised decision-makers must not allow personal prejudices to affect their decisions, and they must be able to prove they have acted in the best interests of the charity.
The decision to accept large or potentially contentious donations should always be referred to senior staff for advice before the trustees have their final say. All staff should understand their decision-making boundaries. Trustees must not get any personal benefit from donations, loans or material support offered to the charity. If it is felt the refusal of a donation will cause a dispute or negative publicity, the code suggests the charity should apply to the Charity Commission for an order authorising the decision.
The code outlines situations in which trustees can refuse donations - for example, when the cost to the charity of accepting a donation is greater than the value of the donation, or when the support depends on the charity accepting certain conditions. A donation can also be refused or delayed, with the aim of persuading the donor to give in a more tax-efficient manner.