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500.19 - Donations to USGS from Outside Sources



Issuance Number:     500.19

Subject:                        Donations to USGS from Outside Sources

Issuance Date:             9/26/2022

Expiration Date:         9/24/2027

Responsible Office:    Office of Administration

Instruction: This revises Survey Manual (SM) chapter 500.19, Contributions and Grants to USGS from Outside Sources, dated August 21, 2000.  Policy for grants to USGS from outside sources (“funds-in”) is relocated to SM 500.18, Grants (Funds-In) – Application and Acceptance.

Approving Official:    /s/ Shari DeLung

                                       Acting Associate Director for Administration


1.    Purpose.  This SM chapter establishes the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) policy and general procedure for USGS to accept donations (also called contributions or gifts) for which funds or resources are provided to USGS from outside sources.  

2.    Scope.

A.  Applicability.  This SM chapter applies to any USGS employee involved in the acceptance of donations (may also be referred to as “contributions” or “gifts”) to USGS from outside sources, which generally involve no further activity by the donor beyond the donation itself.

B.  Exceptions.  The following items are outside the scope of this policy:

(1)  Cooperative work with State, Federal, Tribal, and local government agencies (refer to SM 500.1, Policy of USGS in Cooperative Work with States, Counties, Municipalities, and Other Political Subdivisions and SM 500.3, Policy on Work for Other Federal Agencies) or non-Federal entities (refer to SM 500.2, Policy on Work for Non-Federal Agencies).

(2)  Donations received as part of an agreement entered into under Technology Transfer Authority (refer to SM 500.20, Technology Transfer Authority).

(3)  Grants or Cooperative Agreements from the USGS to third parties (refer to SM 205.4, Acquisition and Financial Assistance, and SM 500.18, Grants (Funds-in) – Application and Acceptance).

(4)  Specimens or data which are normally exchanged among professional colleagues.  Such donations are in no way to be discouraged or impeded.

(5)  Services of individual volunteers or groups of volunteers provided to USGS under Volunteer Services Agreements.

(6)  Reports or analyses prepared by or funds received by the Department to prepare such documents pursuant to applicable authority (for example, a National Environmental Policy Act analysis funded by an applicant).

(7)  Donations of expenses related to official travel covered by 31 U.S.C. § 1353 for attendance at a meeting or similar function (subject to separate approval under 43 CFR Part 20.302).

(8)  Gifts to individual employees that are separately governed by the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch at 5 CFR Part 2635.

(9)  Communication materials from outside sources such as quotes, blogs, videos, photographs, or news releases.

3.    Authority.  USGS authorities to accept donations include:

A.  43 United States Code (U.S.C.) § 36c authorizes the USGS to accept contributions from public and private sources.

B.  5 U.S.C. § 7342, Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, authorizes the USGS to accept a gift from a foreign government.

C.  Code of Federal Regulation 104-42-10, Utilization Donation, and Disposal of Foreign Gifts and Decorations

4.    References

A.  Departmental Manual (DM) 374 DM 6.2, Donations.

B.  SM 205.13, Delegations of Authority to Enter into Agreements and to Accept Contributions, Appendix A, establishes the delegated authority for accepting contributions.

5.    Policy.  

A.  The USGS will only accept donations from public and private sources that support scientific research, technological development, or data systems pertaining thereto. 

B.  No data or information will be provided to the donor in advance of being placed in the public domain in research situations funded by donations.

C.  USGS employees may not solicit donations from outside sources.

D.  USGS employees may inform outside parties of the existence of the USGS donation authority but may not request or negotiate contributions.

E.  All donations must be addressed to USGS, not to an individual employee.

6.    Definitions.  For purposes of this policy the following terms are defined as:

A.  Donations include real, personal property and in-kind contributions from public and private sources.  These may also be referred to as gifts or contributions in other USGS or Department of the Interior (DOI) regulations or guidance material.

B.  Personal property includes tangible and intangible personal articles such as furniture, equipment, jewelry, intellectual property (for example, copyrights, inventions, patents, trademarks, or trade secrets), stocks and bonds, equipment, and money.

C.  Real property means any interest in land or buildings which would require the transferring and recording of title to the USGS.

D.  In-kind contributions include, for example, goods, services, and expertise, including time.

E.  Prohibited Sources can include a person or entity who:

(1)  Is listed in the most current Financial Guide for USGS Employees;

(2)  Has litigation pending with USGS; 

(3)  Conducts operations or activities that are regulated by USGS; 

(4)  Appears to be offering the donation with the expectation of obtaining an inappropriate advantage or preference in dealing with the USGS; and (or)

(5)  Offers a donation, which if accepted, would adversely reflect on the USGS.

7.    Acceptance Criteria for Donations.  Donations must meet the following criteria for USGS to use in determining whether the circumstances of the donation and its acceptance would maintain the integrity and impartiality of the USGS and public confidence in the USGS.  This list is neither intended to be exclusive nor to imply that any one of these factors absolutely requires acceptance or declination of a donation, but rather to illustrate what should be considered when evaluating the totality of circumstances and making donation-related decisions.

A.  Serve the public and be in the public interest;

B.  Be compatible with USGS missions and facilitate USGS programs and meet a legitimate need of USGS;

C.  Not adversely affect the scientific integrity of the USGS;

D.  Comply with all laws and regulations including the USGS Organic Act, as amended, current USGS Appropriations Acts, anti-trust laws or other applicable laws and regulations;

E.  Not violate OMB Circular A-76 which deals with policies for acquiring commercial or industrial products and services needed by the Government, or any pertinent interagency agreements which the USGS has with other Government agencies;

F.  Not violate any Federal ethics statutes or regulations; 

G.  Not appear to be an attempt to influence the exercise of any regulatory or other authority of the USGS;

H.  Not be used by the donor to state or imply endorsement by the USGS of the donor or their products or services;

I.  Not used by the donor to influence USGS research priorities or selection of research partners;

J.  Be structured, if it consists of personnel or funding to hire personnel, in such a manner that the donated or funded personnel do not inappropriately influence any regulatory action or other significant decision;

K.  Be neither an actual nor an implied commitment to take an action favorable to the donor in exchange for the donation;

L.  Not provide or appear to provide the donor with special treatment when working with the USGS;

M.  Not benefit any individual within DOI or other Government agencies, or benefit a Member of Congress;

N.  Not originate from a prohibited source; and

O.  Acceptance will not likely result in public controversy.

8.    Evaluation.

A.  Donations may contain restrictions on their use so long as such restrictions are consistent with USGS missions and authorities and otherwise meet the acceptance criteria outlined in this SM chapter.  When the acceptance of a donation will involve the work efforts of more than one USGS program, the sponsoring program is responsible for contacting the other impacted programs, reviewing the project work, and documenting in the file that the planned product can be accomplished by all programs within the donation level.

B.  All donations will be evaluated for value and purpose, the nature and interest of the donor, to determine whether to accept the donation.

C.  Potential donors should be advised that, before any donation can be accepted by the USGS, a review and evaluation will be made by USGS to determine its appropriateness.  The USGS evaluation will consider:

(1)  Whether the donor is involved in litigation or other controversy;

(2)  Whether the donor is seeking or is otherwise engaged in any type of financial or business relationship with the USGS; for example, a lease, contract, grant or cooperative agreement, and if the donation is appropriate to accept;

(3)  Whether the donor has been debarred, suspended, proposed for debarment, excluded or disqualified under the non-procurement common rule, or otherwise declared ineligible from doing business with any Government agency;

(4)  Whether the donation is a singular event or part of a series of donations; and

(5)  Whether the donation is expected to be involved with marketing or advertising.

D.  Any donation of property with a value of $5,000 or more must be accounted for pursuant to USGS property management requirements.

E.  All donation offers should be documented on the Contribution Report Form.

F.  Appropriate Program level signatures must be obtained per SM 205.13 before actual acceptance of any donation.

G.  For any donation valued at $25,000 or more, the donor will be requested to provide specific information via form DI-3680.

H.  Acceptance letters thanking the donor and outlining any directions for acceptance will be drafted by the center receiving the donation and signed by the highest approval level needed to accept it.

9.    Responsibilities.

A.  Associate Director for Administration.  The Associate Director for Administration is responsible for oversight of the USGS Donations program.

B.  Office of Policy and Analysis (OPA).  OPA assists with negotiations and consults with the DOI Office of the Solicitor as needed and provides technical concurrence on any contribution over $50,000.  OPA is responsible for managing records of USGS-owned inventions, patents, and other recordable Intellectual Property.  This includes any gifted or assigned Intellectual Property.  

C.  Office of Accounting and Financial Management (OAFM).  The Chief, OAFM servers as the Bureau Donations Senior Manager.  Donations valued $1 million or more will be referred to the Department Director of Finance for submittal to other Bureau senior managers for review and identification of any concerns.  OAFM is responsible for providing advice and guidance as it directly relates to this SM chapter and ensuring the program requirements within this SM chapter are consistent with laws, regulations, and applicable policy.  The Funds Management Branch within OAFM is responsible for processing financial donations in the USGS financial systems.

D.  Office of Communications and Publishing (OCAP).  OCAP is responsible for approving all USGS advertising.  In the case USGS receives a donation of time or space for the purpose of advertisement, OCAP will review the donation and determine whether approval is appropriate. Refer to SM 500.5, USGS News Release and Media Relations Policy.

E.  Office of Management Services (OMS).  OMS is responsible for procedures for documenting and tracking the receipt and disposition of real property and personal property donations and Foreign Gift reporting.  OMS will update policy with changes to minimal value reporting.

F.  Authorized Officials/Center Managers.  Authorized Officials as specified in SM 205.13, Appendix A, are responsible for complying with Bureau policy and procedures.  Authorized Officials provide signature approval on the Contribution Form.  Authorized Officials are also responsible for adhering to policy, procedures, and other established standards applicable to donations as covered by this SM chapter.

G.  Administrative Officers (AOs).  AOs, or other delegated administrative staff, are responsible for administrative oversight of the donation application and acceptance process at the Center level.  AOs notify OPA of any donation related to Intellectual Property. 

H.  Executive Leadership Team (ELT).  These individuals are authorized to approve donations of money and personal property valued at $50,000 or more when such donations are compatible with USGS missions and authorities.  The review and approvals built into the Contribution Form are designed to act as a certification that the signatory, on behalf of the Bureau, has considered the implications of accepting a contribution from the named source.  The redelegation of donation/contribution approval authority below the ELT level is not authorized. 

I.  Litigation Office.  The Litigation Office provides review and concurrence on any donation over $50,000.  Centers may seek Litigation guidance as needed.