When might you not accept a donation to your 4-H group?

There are a number of reasons why a 4-H club, group or program may choose to decline a cash or non-cash donation.

It can be exciting when a donor reaches out with a cash or non-cash donation, and the first reaction is to say “Yes!” However, there are a number of reasons your group may, and should, decline the donation instead.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development Program encourage groups to consider these six common reasons for saying “No, thank you.”

  • The donor specifies an individual to benefit from the donation. The donor cannot specify a certain individual to be the recipient of a cash or non-cash donation. If the donor wishes that specific youth benefit from the cash or items, such as a saddle or computer, then the donor needs to directly give to that youth or family, not to the 4-H program. It would no longer be a donation to the 4-H program at that point.
  • The donation does not match the group’s goals or purpose. For instance, if your group does not participate in archery, accepting a donation for shooting sports supplies would not align with the focus of the members. If it feels like your group will have to do too much adjusting to make use of the funds or the items, then kindly decline instead.
  • The group cannot meet the donation requirements or the donor’s expectations. The donor can make requests about how and where the funds are used including for specific projects and within a certain time frame. Your group must follow those requirements. Even if the requirements are not written but implied, the group should still follow those expectations. If unable to do so, the donation should be declined.
  • The group will not be able to use the consumable, non-cash donation in the near future. Storing items over a year can be complicated and lead to misplacing or forgetting about the donation. If your group does not have a plan to use the item (for instance, pipe cleaners for a craft) or money within the year, then it is better to not accept the donation than to lose, misplace or misuse the item.
  • The group is not prepared to accept the full responsibility for non-consumable items such as equipment or durable supplies. Care, maintenance, storage and perhaps insurance for the item are all responsibilities that may occur with accepting a non-consumable donation. In addition, the group needs to consider what will happen to the item when the group no longer needs it or if the group decides to disband.
  • The donor is offering a large non-cash donation for items like buildings or land. In this case, the 4-H staff member must be notified and decisions will be made about how to handle these types of gifts on a case-by-case fashion.

If there is ever a question about accepting or managing a donation, a conversation with 4-H staff is always advised prior to making a decision.

When you do have to decline a donation, thank the donor for considering 4-H and your program and then briefly share the reasons for not accepting the donation. If appropriate, direct them to the 4-H program coordinator who can perhaps find another group more suited for the donation.

Saying no to a donation can feel difficult, but can sometimes be the right decision for a group.

For more information on donations, the “Financial Manual for 4-H Volunteers: Leading the Way to Financial Accountability” and the “Financial Manual for 4-H Treasurer: A Guide to Managing Money Wisely support 4-H leaders and youth officers in their important fiscal roles.

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures. As a result of career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth career preparation, money management and entrepreneurship programs, read the 2016 Impact Report: “Preparing Michigan Youth for Future Employment.”

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