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Receiving Gifts and Awards

Columbia University is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt institution, categorized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c) (3) organization. 

The IRS permits contributions from one 501(c) (3) to another 501(c) (3) in some circumstances, but not to other types of legal entities.

To accept a gift or donation, a memo must be submitted to the SIPA Business Office in IAB Room 408.  The memo should indicate that a prospective donor would like to make a gift to support your group, and should contain the following information:

  • The amount of the gift.
  • What activities the gift is intended to support.

If the gift is a donation “in kind” (meaning goods or services rather than cash) and the donor wants to receive a receipt for tax purposes, the Business Office will contact the SIPA Development Office for approval and guidance on how to precede. 

After review of the supporting documentation, the Business Office will advise whether Columbia can accept the gift. If the gift is accepted, the University will acknowledge the gift but the student group should also send a thank you letter to the donor confirming receipt of the gift.

Please note: No SIPA faculty, staff or students can accept a donation or gift without authorization.

After Approval

The Business Manager will contact the group with an account number and provide wire transfer information, if necessary.

Important Information

  • Checks MUST be made payable to Columbia University. SIPA and its student groups have no legal identity and thus cannot accept gifts in their name.

  • If a gift is cash or a check, documentation from the donor of the gift’s purpose and the dollar amount must be submitted to the Business Office.  If the gift is “in-kind,” documentation must be submitted to SIPA’s Office of Alumni and Development.
  • All gifts are subject to a 10 percent administrative fee charge.  This means that a $500 gift will allow the group to spend about $455.
  • Gifts are restricted funds and can only be spent for the purposes described in the donor’s letter.
  • Gifts of cash will be formally acknowledged by the University Office of Gift Systems.   

A personal thank you from the group receiving the gifts is usually appropriate.  Examples of thank you letters are available upon request.