Gift acceptance experiment

May 7, 2021
Martin A. Schmidt, Provost, 2014–2022 |

Dear colleagues,

In January, Chair of the Faculty Rick Danheiser and I announced that President Reif had established an ad hoc group of faculty, Corporation members, and senior staff to advise him on next steps regarding the recommendations of the so-called Suri and Fisher committees.

Following deliberation, and with the advisory group’s support, President Reif has accepted recommendations 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 (of seven) of the Fisher committee’s report and asked me to develop a plan for implementation. He has asked me to work with Professor Fisher to further explore recommendation 5. And he has commissioned a six-month experiment to expand the membership of the Interim Gift Acceptance Committee (IGAC), which I chair, and adjust certain of its processes, a step that responds to recommendation 4. (The recommendations appear in the the report's executive summary, pages 2-3.)

Gift acceptance process changes during the experiment

The experiment includes three changes:

  • The IGAC, whose membership also includes Executive Vice President and Treasurer Glen Shor and Vice President for Research Maria Zuber, will welcome Professors Peter Fisher and Li-Huei Tsai as members for the duration of the experiment;
  • The gift thresholds for IGAC review will be significantly lower than they are presently; and
  • The IGAC will use the tools recommended by the Suri committee in evaluating gifts. For gifts at levels below the IGAC thresholds, a group of senior staff in the Recording Secretary’s Office (RSO), Resource Development (RD), and MIT Alumni Association (MITAA) will utilize the same tools.

Impact for faculty and staff

The impact for those beyond the IGAC and the RSO/RD/MITAA review group should be minimal. Consistent with current practice, staff fundraisers should enter a gift solicitation plan in the Advance database (MIT’s fundraising database of record) prior to solicitation. We encourage faculty to work with their units’ advancement staff to enter a plan; those without advancement staff may contact the RSO for help.

During the experiment, faculty and staff are not expected to complete the tools recommended by the Suri committee. However, we ask all fundraisers, and any faculty and staff involved in gift conversations, to consider the questions the committee articulated for themselves when soliciting a gift or prior to acceptance.

After six months

The advisory group has identified a range of metrics to assess the experiment. In November, President Reif will reconvene the group to review the impact of the experiment and advise him on a path forward. The group will also consider a potential role for students and postdocs in the gift acceptance process at that time. Gift information will remain confidential; only details in the aggregate will be provided as part of the group’s review. Once the review is complete, we will share the outcomes and also detail plans for the longer term.

* * *

On behalf of President Reif, I extend my thanks to the members of the advisory group, named below, for their thoughtful input. Thank you also to Professors Fisher and Tsai for their willingness to join the IGAC for the next six months. Despite their extraordinarily full portfolios, they consistently prioritize service to our community. For that I am deeply grateful.


Martin A. Schmidt, Provost

Advisory Group

L. Rafael Reif (chair)

Peter Fisher
Professor, Physics

Suzanne Glassburn
Vice President and Secretary of the Corporation

Diane Greene SM ’78
Chair of the Corporation

Eric Grimson PhD ’80
Chancellor for Academic Advancement

Adedoyin Olateru-Olagbegi ’20
Member of the Corporation

Tavneet Suri
Professor, Sloan School of Management

Lily Tsai
Professor, Political Science; Chair-elect of the Faculty

Mark Wrighton
Member of the Corporation

Julia Topalian (advisor)
Director of Gift Administration and Recording Secretary

Aaron Weinberger (staff)
Special Advisor to the Vice President