AAR Policy on Donations, Gifts, and Sponsorship Contracts

All gifts, sponsorship contracts, or related donations from individuals or organizations are subject to the following general principles. Further specific policies apply as relevant. For AAR's Advertising Policy, click here

General Principles

The American Academy of Religion (AAR) solicits and accepts charitable contributions. All such contributions will be acknowledged in accordance with IRS regulations.

The AAR will actively engage in development activities in furtherance of its mission.

Donations and other forms of support will normally be accepted from individuals, partnerships, corporations, foundations, government agencies, or other entities, with the following exceptions. The AAR will not accept donations that:

  • may jeopardize its status as a tax-exempt organization under state or federal law
  • cannot be used or expended consistent with the association’s mission statement
  • place an unreasonable burden (administrative, financial, or otherwise) on the association, its staff, leadership, or members
  • could damage its reputation
  • violate this gift acceptance policy
  • place the control of an underwritten activity under the auspices of an outside agency or the donor themselves

Types of Gifts

The AAR will accept gifts of cash or publicly traded securities. Gifts of in-kind services will be accepted at the discretion of the executive director. Certain other gifts, real property, personal property, in-kind gifts, non-liquid securities, and contributions whose sources are not transparent or whose use is restricted in some manner, must be reviewed by the executive director and, as appropriate, the AAR’s finance and audit committee or the board of directors prior to acceptance due to the special obligations raised or liabilities they may pose for the AAR.

The AAR will accept designations as a beneficiary of donors’ retirement and life insurance plans. Donors may make bequests to the AAR under their wills and trusts.

No gift, designation, or bequest will be recorded as a gift until the gift is irrevocable, at which time the gift will be recorded in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.

The donor is responsible for all fees for independent legal counsel retained by the donor in order to make the donation, as well as any third-party fees related to the donation, including but not limited to appraisal fees, environmental audits, and title binders.

Donation Review

For gifts, donations, and contributions valued at $10,000 or more, a gift agreement between the AAR and the donor specifying the terms of the gift is normally required, though the board may authorize exceptions to this requirement. If a donor wishes to remain anonymous to the board, the executive director and AAR President may together authorize an exception to this requirement.

Certain gifts must be reviewed by legal counsel for the AAR and approved by the board of directors  before being accepted. These include the following:

  • Gifts, donations, and contributions valued at $20,000 or more that include restrictions on how the gift will be used or expended
  • Gifts of real estate
  • Gifts, donations, and contributions being used to establish a prize or named award (see below)
  • Gifts that are exceptions to this policy or where their compliance with this policy is unclear
  • Other gifts that the executive director deems appropriate for legal review

Prizes and Special Funds

The AAR will on occasion accept gifts for the purpose of establishing a prize (“prize” is used here to include named awards).

Donors wishing to establish a prize should submit to the executive director a prize proposal setting out the terms of the prize.

The executive director will work with the donor(s) to develop a mutually agreeable Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and other prize details for presentation to the board of directors, which must approve the establishment of all prizes. The executive director will normally include the executive committee and any chair of relevant committees or working groups in this process, and the group consulted will normally be asked to provide a recommendation to the board of directors regarding the approval of a prize. If another committee is to administer the prize, that committee and committee chair will be consulted.

Gifts for the purpose of establishing a prize are subject to the following terms:

Prizes must be consistent with the AAR’s mission.

The AAR wishes to offer a diverse portfolio of prizes and awards. Therefore, new prizes should be substantially different from existing prizes; prizes focused on subfields or segments of the profession for which there are already several established AAR prizes are less likely to be approved.

Prizes that the board of directors deems too difficult to administer will not be established.

Before they can be initiated, prizes or named awards funded by an endowment require a minimum initial contribution. For prize endowments for which the principal cannot be spent, that minimum is $50,000. For prize endowments whose principal can be spent, that minimum is $10,000 or enough funds to support the prize for 10 prize cycles*, whichever is larger. These prizes must be structured to ensure that they can be funded solely by the endowment and subsequent donations, without additional funds from the AAR’s operating revenue. The board of directors reserves the right to make reasonable adjustments to endowed prizes, such as reducing the prize amount or frequency at which a prize is awarded, to ensure their long term sustainability.

Prizes funded by an outside organization require a funding commitment of no fewer than 10 years or 5 prize cycles*, whichever is longer. Renewals of funding commitments are to be of this same length.

Prizes funded by endowment are to be structured financially with provisions for the long-term use of the endowment, such as periodic evaluation of the prize amount, the establishment of a second prize or fellowship, or with a prize amount set based on earnings.

Prize endowments will be invested in accordance with the AAR’s investment policy.

Prizes must be defined broadly enough to ensure a significant number of competitors for the prize and sufficient candidates for the prize selection committee.

The AAR is committed to having a portfolio of prizes and awards that do not unfairly disadvantage underrepresented minority groups. The board of directors strongly urges potential donors to craft their prizes consistent with this commitment.

Prizes will normally require AAR membership as a condition of eligibility.

The AAR will charge to each prize fund reasonable direct and indirect costs. These costs will normally be set at 20 percent of the value of the prize, though the board of directors may set a higher or lower percentage based on the specifics of a given prize.

The AAR must have legal counsel review all prize MOUs before they are approved and signed.

Any prize requiring a designated session at an annual meeting must be approved by the program committee of the AAR as well as the board of directors.

Prizes Including a Lecture

Due to space constraints on meeting programs, there is limited opportunity for new prizes that include a lecture or other session at an annual meeting. Therefore, the minimum founding contribution for a prize associated with a lecture or other session at an AAR annual meeting is $100,000. Sponsored prizes including a lecture normally require a commitment of no fewer than 20 prize cycles. No prizes requiring a plenary session will be accepted; the only plenary sessions at AAR meetings are the presidential plenaries.

* A prize cycle is equal to the frequency at which a prize is awarded, regardless of the number of prizes awarded in each cycle. For a prize in which three awards are presented on an annual basis, a prize cycle is one year. For a prize in which one award is presented every third year, a prize cycle is three years.

Revoking Prizes and Awards

AAR prizes and named awards can be revoked at the sole discretion of the AAR Board of Directors.

Sponsorship contracts for exhibitors, advertisers, and corporate or individual partners

The AAR will pursue contracts (on its own or in partnership with SBL around the November Annual Meetings) that offer opportunities for sponsoring particular events, locations, elements of annual meetings, specific sessions, events, or receptions.

Responses to advertised sponsorship opportunities or individually targeted support sought for particular events or programming will normally be accepted from individuals, partnerships, corporations, foundations, government agencies, or other entities, with the following exceptions. 

The AAR will not enter into sponsorship or related contracts that: 

  • may jeopardize its status as a tax-exempt organization under state or federal law
  • originate with an individual or organization that has in the past or is currently in violation of the AAR’s code of professional conduct
  • are not consistent with the association’s mission statement
  • place an unreasonable burden (administrative, financial, or otherwise) on the association, its staff, leadership, or members
  • could damage its reputation
  • violate the AAR’s policies of professional conduct