Guidance on the payment of donations from the University to other charities

This guidance covers the payment of donations from the University to other charities.

The University is a charitable organisation and making a donation to another charity is exceptional. This is because of restrictions placed on the use of the University’s funds by charity law and our general requirements of financial probity in the management of our affairs.

A donation is a gift made with no expectation of receiving anything in return so, by definition, a donation cannot be made in exchange for goods or services of any kind received by the University from the recipient.

It is vitally important that before any donation is proposed a check is made to ensure that there are no terms or conditions attached to the source of the University funds from which the donation is to be made preventing this from being done. For example, if the source of the University funding is an externally awarded grant or contract, the terms of that funding agreement must be checked to ensure that donations ARE an eligible item of expenditure, which would be unusual. If it is not clear in the contract or agreement then this must be verified in writing as acceptable with the original funding body.

Donations cannot be made in lieu of payment to be received by an individual or an organisation for work completed or services provided to the University. For example, a fee payable to an individual must be paid directly to that individual. It is not possible for this to be converted into a donation to be made by the University to a charity of that person’s choice.

Establishing whether a donation can be made to a particular charity

The University cannot donate money to a non charitable organisation or to an individual. Donations can only be made to charities with specified charitable purposes, as detailed below. The Charities Commission website can be used to check if an organisation is a charity if they cannot provide a registered charity number.

Under Charity Law, as a charity itself, the University can only apply its funds (ie commit expenditure) for the purposes of furthering its own charitable objects. So, the key question is whether the charity to which the proposed donation is to be made has charitable objects that are sufficiently close or aligned to the University’s. The University’s charitable objects are quite wide in their definition and are basically to “advance education through teaching and research”.

Where the recipient charity does not have compatible objects, it is likely to be difficult to justify making any donation to them. This is because, by its nature, the use of any donation is unlikely to further the University’s own charitable objects and the University has no authority under its governing documents to make donations in these circumstances. 


So, if a donation was proposed to a local charity that included in its objects the raising of funds for research into a particular disease or medical condition, then this would be sufficiently closely aligned to the University’s own objects to make this allowable (subject to meeting any conditions we may wish to attach to the use of those funds).

Other considerations

Staff proposing that a donation be made from the University to another charity must be aware that this is a potentially sensitive matter and should be prepared to explain and justify why this action is required.

Care must be taken by the person proposing the donation to check the objects of the recipient charity; if these are found to be wider objects than those of the University, no donation can be made without assurances that the funds will be used for only those objects that do align with the narrower University ones. 

Any expenditure that the University makes is subject to the Freedom of Information Act and hence the number and value of any donations made by the University can, at any time, be subject of a request for publication.

Charity Commission

The Charity Commission produces some useful information about working with other charities. An extract is below:

Give money to other charities

Your charity may wish to raise funds for or give money to other charities, for example if they can use it for a particular cause more effectively.

Grants and donations

Your charity can fund another charity as a way of meeting its charitable purposes. You must be sure that this is in your charity’s best interests. This includes checking that any money you give is used as you expected it to be.

Check your governing document to make sure that it doesn’t prevent you from giving money to another charity.

Record your decision to fund another charity in the minutes of your meeting.

Approval of Payments to other charities

The approval of payments to other charities follows the normal approval processes for University purchase orders, purchase invoices. 

The approver must make sure that the donation meets the requirements outlined above eg it is a donation, not a payment for services etc, it is to a charity with similar objects to the University

Donation to charity instead of a fee where a member of staff/ visitor is the speaker?

If, under the Policy on Work with Outside Bodies by Members of University Staff, the contract is made on a private basis between the individual member of staff and the body where the talk was given, and the University is not involved, then the member of staff is free to request a donation to charity on their own behalf. 

If the University/Department is involved in the contractual arrangement, then the fee must be paid into the employee's bank account and taxed in line with HMRC rules. Employees can make charitable donations through the GAYE system, but only up to their net pay.

Appendix Document Control




Prepared by

Ian Smallwood, Financial Accountant

December 2021

Reviewed by

Ruth Clark, Group Financial Controller

December 2021


Approved by


December 2021



Finance Website

January 2022


Date for review of policy

3 years after publication


Document Owner

Group Financial Accounts


Contact us

Group Financial Accounts
Group Financial Accounts, Heslington Hall

Contact us

Group Financial Accounts
Group Financial Accounts, Heslington Hall