Purpose of Policies and Guidelines
The Board of Directors of Religion Newswriters Foundation (RNF) and its staff solicit current and deferred gifts from individuals, corporations, and foundations to secure the future growth and missions of RNF. These policies and guidelines govern the acceptance of gifts by RNF and provide guidance to prospective donors and their advisors when making gifts to RNF. The provisions of these policies shall apply to all gifts received by RNF for any of its programs or services.
All solicited and accepted funding must adhere to the RNF Bylaws in accordance with RNF polices and the Association of Fundraising Professional’s Principles of Ethical Fundraising and the Donor’s Bill of Rights. All gifts are accepted on a case-by-case basis. RNF reserves the right to decline or return any donation which, in the opinion of the board or the board's designees, may conflict with these principles or otherwise damage the integrity of the organization. Gifts from explicitly religious institutions such as denominations or judicatures shall not be accepted.
RNF shall strive for an array of individual donors, so as not to be, or appear to be, overly dependent on donations from any particular sector, ideological perspective or type of individuals beyond the journalism community.
RNF's board, volunteer leadership, and staff are to remain in control of all programming, including agenda, speakers and topics, and no outside funding sources may be represented as sponsors or co-sponsors of RNF events, without prior approval of RNF's executive director.
Acceptable Income Sources
- A gift is defined as a voluntary transfer of assets from a person or an organization to the Foundation.
- Gifts usually take the form of cash, securities, real estate or personal property. RNF may accept or decline any gift. The following criteria generally identify a gift:
- Gift is motivated by charitable intent.
- Gifts are irrevocable transfers of assets.
- Gifts are not generally subject to an exchange of consideration or other contractual duties between the RNF and the donor, except for certain split-interest gifts as set out in this Policy, although objectives may be stated and funds may be restricted to a specific purpose.
- Donors are not provided formal financial accountings. A general report to the donor stating the utilization or impact of the gift is appropriate.
- Generally, funds received from individuals, closely held corporations, and family foundations will be classified as gifts. Funds received from corporations, corporate foundations, and major foundations will be classified as gifts unless the grant requires performance or other consideration.
- A gift is not completed until it has been accepted by RNF, or in the case of securities, bonds or mutual funds, when deposited into RNF account.
RNF may solicit grants to fund projects, programs and general operating expenses of RNF. RNF maintains control over all grant fund use, provided it is in accordance with the mutually agreed-upon grant agreement. Records substantiate the amount of grants awarded and are maintained according to the RNF Document Retention Policy.
- Gifts or Bequests
RNF accepts gifts or bequests from individuals provided they are not from a religious institution such as a denomination or judicatory. Tangible personal property donated to RNF must be readily convertible to cash and pre-approved by the Board. RNF shall retain full control over the use of all funds.
A bequest to RNF is a gift made in the donor's will. Gifts made in a donor’s revocable trust that are effective at the donor’s death are treated the same as bequests. The donor can designate a specific amount, a percentage, or the remainder of an estate to the RNF. Direct unencumbered bequests shall be accepted by RNF if the underlying assets are in conformity with the guidelines set forth this Policy. RNF reserves the right to not accept gifts from the estates or trusts of deceased donors that are not in conformity with the terms of this Policy. Donors should be encouraged to notify the RNF when considering a bequest in order to ensure that the assets left to RNF meet the criteria set forth in this policy.
- Marketable Securities, Insurance and Retirement Funds
Securities that are actively traded on recognized stock exchanges and other readily marketable securities, including bonds and mutual funds, may be accepted as gifts according to the policies described below. Securities given to RNF will typically be sold as soon as possible. Insurance and retirement plans gifted to RNF and naming RNF as a beneficiary must have a minimum face value of $1000, be paid up, have a cash value and be marketable at the time the gift is accepted as such assets will be liquidated or sold.
- Non-Standard Contributions
RNF shall not accept real estate gifts, any interest in a closely held business or other gift that is not readily convertible to cash. Closely held or non-publicly traded securities or restricted securities, (unregistered securities, investment-letter stock, control stock or private placement stock) may be accepted only after prior review and approval by the Board of Directors.
Valuation of closely held or restricted securities may be challenging due to infrequent trading, which makes it difficult to establish fair market value. RNF will only consider gifts of closely held securities in amounts of $10,000 and above.
The following documentation must be provided to the Board before a gift of such securities will be considered for acceptance: a qualified independent appraisal as defined in the Internal Revenue Code and IRS Publication 561; copies of any shareholder buy/sell agreements; copies of transfer restrictions on the transfer contained in the bylaws and/or reflected on the stock certificates.
- Other Non-Traditional Asset Gifts
Gifts of nontraditional assets such as intellectual property or mineral rights are complicated and can carry with them additional risks and costs to both donor and RNF. Such gifts will not be accepted unless it can be demonstrated that acceptance will further the mission of RNF in an important way. This policy is meant to ensure that the RNF makes prudent decisions regarding the acceptance of these types of gifts such that maximum benefit is achieved.
- Matching Gifts
Many companies offer programs that match employee contributions to quality charitable organizations. As a 501(c)(3) organization, RNF is eligible to benefit from these matching gift programs. Donors will be encouraged to take advantage of this program when available to them.
Tax Status Policy
- To preserve the organization's 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, the Board through its strategic plan shall ensure that the organization is operated exclusively for qualified exempt purposes, including charitable and educational purposes, and that no more than an insubstantial portion of the organization's activities are devoted to the furtherance of non-exempt purposes. Examples of non-exempt purposes might include a members-only job bank or other activities that result solely in a private benefit without serving an overriding public interest.
- No part of the organization's activities may constitute intervention or participation in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office. No substantial part of the organization's activities may consist of political, lobbying or non-exempt purposes as defined in paragraph (1) above.
- The organization shall offer no guidance to donors about the deductibility of their gifts other than to inform them that RNF is a 501(c)(3) organization, gifts to which may be tax deductible under U.S. tax laws.
- As under current practice, each year's IRS Form 990 (which includes a listing of all donations of $5,000 or more) shall be made available to the public upon request.
Policy on Use of Legal Counsel
Use of legal counsel by both the donor and RNF is advantageous to all parties. The RNF cannot serve as both the donor’s advisor and beneficiary of the donor’s gifts. Therefore potential donors should be advised to consult independent tax and/or legal counsel before making gifts to the Foundation.
The Donor’s Use of Legal Counsel
RNF representatives (staff and volunteers) shall encourage donors to consult independent tax and/or legal counsel prior to making a contribution to the Foundation. It is the donor’s responsibility to retain appropriate independent legal and tax counsel in these transactions. Prior to signing gift agreements, such as gifts of partial interests, charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts and charitable lead trusts, counsel for the donor should be given the opportunity to review and approve the documents.
RNF's Use of Legal Counsel
Counsel should review in advance any split-interest gifts and outright gifts of assets other than cash or publicly traded securities.
RNF will acknowledge the receipt of all gifts in writing and in a manner which satisfies the IRS's substantiation requirements set forth in IRC Section 170(f) for the deduction of charitable gifts by individual donors.
Religion Newswriters Association Membership Policy
Approved by the board of directors on May 1, 2009.
SECTION I. PRINCIPLES
RNA is a media organization. RNA is not a public relations or a religion advocacy organization. The RNA board, through its membership committee, determines eligibility for one of two categories of membership—Active and Associate—by implementing these policies in accordance with the Bylaws. When reviewing an application for membership, the committee:
A. Does not render opinion on the journalistic quality of the applicant's work. RNA is a membership organization and not a credentialing agency;
B. Does consider the applicant's job duties and the applicant's employer. RNA's active members do not lobby or perform public relations work relating to religion, religious issues, or on behalf of religious leaders. For an explanation of how RNA defines lobbying and public relations, please see Section VI;
C. Seeks to keep RNA's membership as open as possible in order to promote
more journalism by more people about religious issues.
SECTION II. ACTIVE MEMBERS
To qualify for active membership, an applicant must cover religion consistent with the principles outlined in Section I, primarily as:
A. A journalist who covers religion for a publication or news outlet that is
generally available to the public, or;
B. A freelance journalist who covers religion, the majority of whose work appears
in media outlets whose employees would normally qualify for active membership,
C. A self-employed author, documentary filmmaker, blogger or other media
content producer who covers religion consistent with the principles outlined in
Section I, or;
Active membership is also open to:
D. Students at universities or other accredited schools with an interest in religion
reporting or in learning about media coverage of religion, or full-time educators
on the faculty of such institutions.
Examples of qualifying media outlets include:
- TV or radio stations
- newspapers and magazines that are available on newsstands, through the Internet or another electronic device, or through general subscription or unrestricted membership (open to anyone)
- blogs written by self-employed journalists or authors
- Scholars who research religion news or students taking religion reporting courses
SECTION III. ASSOCIATE MEMBERS
To be an Associate Member you are not eligible for active membership. Associate members may not vote.
Examples of potential Associate Members include:
- Public relations professionals, including those who work for the press arms or official news services of religious institutions
- people for whom journalism is a secondary occupation
- journalists who work on behalf of a university
- officials at journalism organizations
- part-time faculty at universities
- general public
SECTION VI. PUBLIC RELATIONS & LOBBYING EXCLUSION
You cannot be an Active Member of RNA if you engage in lobbying or public relations work relating to religion or religious issues or products.
A. Lobbying is considered to be professional work primarily designed to influence legislation or government regulations.
B. Public relations is considered to be professional work on behalf of an organization—including a university, government agency, religious leader, religious organization, non-profit organization or business—that promotes its views on issues affecting the organization. It often involves media relations, such as issuing press releases or other statements to journalists.
SECTION VII. PROCEDURES FOR DENIAL, TERMINATION, NON-RENEWAL OR RECLASSIFICATION OF MEMBERSHIP
Members will be notified by first class or electronic mail if their membership is to be terminated for cause, and applicants will be similarly notified if their application for membership is denied. Such notification will also occur if a membership is to be not renewed based on ineligibility due to changes in jobs or job duties, or if a member is to be reclassified for the same reason.
A. Termination for cause: Membership may be terminated for cause if a member has failed to be honest and complete in filling out application forms and in answering annual surveys and other inquiries, misrepresented her or his job status, or otherwise violated important rules or policies of the organization, including but not limited to intentional misuse of on-line services such as the listserv.
Opportunity for a Hearing: If within 60 days of notice by RNA, a member facing termination for cause requests a hearing, as stipulated in the Bylaws, the hearing shall be conducted before the Board of Directors at the subsequent board meeting, if possible, but no later than the second board meeting following the date of the original termination notice. The member has a right to bring an attorney or other representative to the hearing. The member bears the obligation for his/her own travel and other expenses related to the hearing, including the cost of legal counsel. Whether or not a hearing is conducted, the final decision shall be made by the board members present at a legally constituted meeting, with a two-thirds majority vote necessary to terminate a membership for cause.
B. Non-renewal/reclassification of membership: Members who become ineligible for RNA membership or who are subject to a change in membership status based on a change in jobs or job duties, shall have the opportunity, within 30 days of notice by RNA, to present countervailing written evidence prior to any final decision by the board or its designee (typically the RNA membership committee). Non-renewal or reclassification of membership is an administrative action, enforcing the eligibility provisions of the Bylaws and related membership policies. It is not to be confused with termination for cause or for non-payment of dues. In cases of membership nonrenewal/ reclassification, the board is not obligated to conduct a formal hearing, beyond extending the opportunity to submit written evidence. However, any member is welcome to attend any RNA board meeting (at their own expense) and will be accorded reasonable opportunity to be heard on membership issues or other matters.
C. Non-payment of dues: Members whose annual dues remain unpaid for longer than one (1) month are no longer considered members in good standing. Dues-delinquent members may continue to receive certain mailings and be carried on the books as members, but may be precluded from full participation in certain RNA activities and privileges, including but not limited to voting in elections, receipt of the newsletter, and use of on-line services. After dues are delinquent for one year, RNA staff shall drop the member from the membership rolls.
D. Non-member applicants: New applicants to RNA may appeal membership
committee decisions to the RNA Board of Directors, in writing, within 60 days of noticeof the membership decision. The RNA board will consider that submission at the subsequent board meeting, if possible, but no later than the second board meeting following the date of the original membership decision. As with nonrenewal/ reclassification of membership (see Section VII. B.), reviewing a new applicant is an administrative action and the board is not obligated to conduct a formal hearing when considering appeals from new applicants.