Future of gift acceptance

February 16, 2022

Dear faculty and staff colleagues,

I write to update you on the outcomes of an experiment I commissioned last spring to inform our plans for the future of gift acceptance. But first some background on the process so far.

Background and history

In 2019, MIT established the Interim Gift Acceptance Committee (IGAC) – comprising the provost (as chair), vice president for research, and executive vice president and treasurer – to help ensure that our review of philanthropic gifts to the Institute is careful, thoughtful and thorough. Around the same time, Provost Marty Schmidt and then-Chair of the Faculty Rick Danheiser charged two related committees: 

Recent IGAC experiment

In releasing those two committees’ reports last winter, Provost Schmidt announced that I would convene an ad hoc group of faculty, Corporation members and senior administrators to advise me on the implementation of the committees’ recommendations with a focus on gifts. After conferring with the advisory group, in May 2021 I commissioned a six-month experiment to test whether our gift acceptance review process would benefit from:

  • The addition of two faculty to the IGAC
  • Significantly lower gift amount minimums for automatic IGAC review
  • A rigorous review of gifts below the IGAC thresholds by a group of senior staff in Resource Development, the Recording Secretary’s Office and the MIT Alumni Association (“the Review Group")
  • The application of the tools recommended by the Suri committee in the IGAC’s and Review Group’s evaluation of gifts

Late last fall, shortly after the experiment ended, I reconvened the advisory group to consider what we had learned and discuss plans for the longer term.

A few high-level takeaways from the experiment:

  • The IGAC reviewed about 150 gifts, including those above the reduced thresholds for automatic IGAC review and a few elevated by the Review Group.
  • The Review Group reviewed nearly 600 gifts.
  • IGAC members felt that the addition of two faculty colleagues – Professors Fisher and Li-Huei Tsai – strengthened the committee’s deliberations.
  • IGAC members felt that as long as the Review Group continues to conduct a thorough review of smaller gifts, the thresholds for IGAC review could be returned to their pre-experiment levels.

After discussion, I presented a plan for the future of gift acceptance, and the advisory group offered its support.

Gift acceptance going forward

In addition to establishing the Gift Acceptance Committee (GAC) as a standing body, we will make the following changes to MIT’s gift acceptance processes:

  • The GAC will maintain two faculty slots, with the faculty serving three-year terms. Professors Fisher and Tsai will continue on the committee with staggered terms to ensure continuity.
  • The GAC will return its gift thresholds to their pre-experiment levels.
  • The Review Group will continue to conduct a rigorous review of gifts below the thresholds for automatic GAC review and elevate gifts to the GAC for further review, as appropriate.
  • The GAC and Review Group will continue to refer to the guidelines for outside engagements in evaluating gifts and gift proposals.
  • All faculty and staff involved in gift conversations will be asked to consider the questions in the guidelines. 
  • The GAC will conduct an annual self-assessment, with the provost reporting annually to the faculty and Corporation.

Further, the GAC will propose a pathway for student and postdoc engagement in the gift acceptance process.

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This has been a lengthy process but an essential one in our ongoing work to ensure that MIT’s gift acceptance practices are consistent with our community’s values. I offer my deepest thanks to the Suri and Fisher committees, the Gift Acceptance Committee, the Review Group and the advisory group for their time, care, wisdom and dedication to this critical effort.


L. Rafael Reif