We are a nonprofit search & rescue team. We often get donations from persons we help. One person in a group recently sent individual gift certificates to each individual on the team as a thank you. How should we treat this event?
As an opportunity to create a policy on individual gifts to team members.
Many organizations, particularly those like nursing homes that deal with particularly vulnerable people, have a policy that prohibits employees from accepting gifts or gratuities from the patients or clients. Development offices usually have policies that prohibit acceptance of gifts from potential donors except in unusual situations, like lunch at the donor’s home or club. Other organizations prohibit gifts over a certain dollar value, or require that gifts to be turned over to the organization. (We had a nursing home client with an absolute prohibition on gifts that had to tell a nurse that accepting a $1 million bequest from a resident would cost her her job. You can guess what choice the nurse made.)
There is no absolutely right or wrong answer to the question, although most organizations don’t want their employees or volunteers to use their positions for personal advantage. The important thing is to have a policy so that everybody knows the rules in advance and you don’t have to ask what to do when the event arises.