Conchologists of America (COA) Gifts-in-Kind Policy and Procedures

While there is a well-established tradition of cash donations to the COA, only recently have we been fortunate in receiving substantial non-cash donations, specifically the shell collections of Walter Paine and the late Frederic Weiss, which have already had a major impact on the annual convention auctions and organization’s treasury. It should become evident from the discussion below that COA must clarify how it manages such assets as these if we are going to move forward and prosper in a way that involves best practices and transparency.

COA certainly can continue to accept gifts-in-kind; in ideal cases these can ultimately be of significant benefit to the organization in fulfillment of its mission. Such gifts are extremely welcome. Since we maintain no collection or library, almost all non-cash such items must be liquidated. An exception is items of archival value, of which materials we have historically maintained oversight and conservation.

Every donor intent on making a gift-in-kind should be prepared to sign a Deed-of-Gift attesting to full ownership and compliance with any collecting/transportation/trade regulations, briefly describing the gift, and agreeing to the COA’s intended use of their donation. If the gift is accepted, the COA (the donee) will also sign the document. Typically such a document will occupy less than one full page.

Although it is widely understood that the proceeds from the sale of gifts-in-kind inure to an endowment dedicated to funding the Academic Grants Program, this disposition is also clearly expressed in the Deed-of-Gift. If a donor wishes to restrict such a gift to any other COA asset or program, such a request will be considered by the COA Board, but it is likely the gift will be deemed unacceptable.

COA has learned from recent experience that liquidation of such gifts can be a lengthy, complicated, labor-intensive, and potentially costly process which might exceed our resources. Consequently some tendered gifts-in-kind may be too burdensome to process and may be declined. Examples of unsuitable collections may include those lacking scientific value, e.g., those in which many lots lack metadata, or, in the case of larger collections, those lacking a catalogue, preferably in digital electronic format.

Optimally all the donated items will be auctioned (silent and/or oral) at one or more of COA’s annual conventions. Liquidation by other means such as direct sale (wholesale or retail) produces a greater drain on resources, is less profitable, and can incur conflict-of-interest issues as addressed in the COA Code of Ethics.

To oversee the processing of gifts-in-kind, at the time a gift is tendered the President will appoint a committee comprised of eight (8) COA members, chaired by him and including the Treasurer, a member of the museum community, and three (3) individuals self-identified as commercial dealers in shells and/or malacological books. Aside from the President and Treasurer, no more or less than two (2) Board members will serve on the committee. The COA Gifts-in-Kind Committee will oversee the liquidation process from initial acceptance/rejection of any/all donations until all the merchandise has been sold. Coordination with COA Convention leadership will be a paramount responsibility in this oversight. The term of service concludes when the gift is liquidated. The committee is specifically charged with maximizing monetary yield to COA, while considering available human and other resources and maintaining the highest ethical standards as set forth in the COA Code of Ethics. A new committee will be formed ad hoc at the time any gift-in-kind is offered.

Since COA is a tax-exempt educational organization under the provisions of Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code, the donor may choose to declare a federal income tax deduction. Pursuant to current IRS guidelines, an independent appraisal must be performed on behalf of the donor for any gift-in-kind totaling over $5,000.00 in value during one year. The donee (COA) is explicitly forbidden to perform this service, and that proscription is interpreted to include members of COA Board of Directors and those of the COA Gifts-in-Kind Committee.

For in-kind donations involving a tax deduction by the donor, the COA will cooperate by executing the donee portion of IRS Form 8283 and will submit annual Forms 8282 as required by IRS. For in-kind donations claimed by the donor as tax-deductible, particularly those valuated in excess of $5,000.00, the COA will probably need to retain the collection in escrow for three years before liquidation begins. A secure, climate-controlled, yet easily-accessible repository will likely be required and can be costly. Such considerations will depend in turn on geographical location among other factors, and must be weighed by the COA Gifts-in-Kind Committee in determining whether to accept or decline, and how to dispose of, any tendered gift.

Let it be known hereby that COA encourages individuals, organizations, and scientific institutions to volunteer their labor and other resources to assist the organization with the complex process of managing and liquidating any gift-in-kind it might be tendered.

Conchologists of America (COA) Gifts-in-Kind Policy and Procedures June, 2017