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University Recognition Through Naming

  • Responsible Office: Development and Alumni Relations
  • Current Approved Version: 05/14/2021
  • Policy Type: Board of Visitors

Policy Statement and Purpose

This policy establishes guidelines for the naming of physical and nonphysical entities at Virginia Commonwealth University.  The VCU Board of Visitors approves naming opportunities to honor individuals, families or organizations that make extraordinary contributions through service or philanthropy. The Board of Visitors may delegate authority to approve honorific recognition of nonphysical entities other than a college, school, department, or degree program to the president or the president's designee. The Board of Visitors can also approve exceptions to this policy as requested by the president and, as described in this policy, may remove a designated name from a physical or nonphysical entity.

This policy’s overarching objectives are to create a transparent system through which naming decisions are consistent and timely, respect the expectations and intentions of all parties, and do not conflict with the university's values.

Noncompliance with this policy could result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. VCU supports an environment free from retaliation. Retaliation is prohibited against any employee who brings forth a good faith concern, asks a clarifying question, or participates in an investigation.

Table of Contents

Who Should Know This Policy
Policy Specifics and Procedures
Related Documents
Revision History

Who Should Know This Policy

All university employees engaged in development, facilities planning, and university athletics and those who accept and administer named funds should know this policy and familiarize themselves with its contents and provisions.


Gift Acceptance Committee: A group of university administrators convened by the vice president of Development & Alumni relations (DAR) to advise the president of VCU. See the VCU Gift Acceptance and Administration Policy in Related Documents below.


Gift agreement: An agreement between the donor(s) and the university or an affiliated foundation that defines the purpose of the gift, the gift amount, a schedule of contributions and other terms deemed appropriate by either party.


Irrevocable pledge: Legally binding promise to pay a set dollar amount over a specific time period with cash or negotiable securities without conditions or the expectation of return of funds. This does not include donor advised funds, insurance pay-outs, planned gifts, or revocable trusts.


Matching gift: Donation made by a business in response to the voluntary contributions of its employee or other eligible participants. For the purpose of stewardship, the employee donor is recognized for the sum total of the gift and the matching employer contribution.


Naming opportunity: A specific donor recognition level, set by the Board of Visitors, bestowed on a physical entity, academic program, center, institute, department or any other area of the university or upon an endowment or other fund.


Nonphysical entity: A college, school, department, institute, center, program, teaching award and/or prize; academic or nonacademic position, including but not limited to deanship, professorship, directorship and/or lectureship; or student support, including but not limited to scholarship, fellowship and/or other student award.


Physical entity: A building or facility, discrete components of a building (wings, lecture halls, auditoriums, foyers, classrooms, laboratories, studios, offices, conference rooms, etc.), athletic facilities and fields, residence halls, campus spaces, fountains, parking facilities and/or other real property. This may also include collections of significant size and continuing educational, scientific, historic, artistic or cultural value owned, wholly or partially, by the university or by a VCU-affiliated foundation, if used by the university.


The Office of Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) and the Divisions of Administration officially interpret this policy. DAR is responsible for obtaining approval for any revisions as required by the policy Creating and Maintaining Policies and Procedures through the appropriate governance structures. Direct policy questions to the Office of Development and Alumni Relations or the Office of Facilities Management that oversees facilities on all campuses of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Policy Specifics and Procedures


Honorific name recognition

The majority of university naming recognition is a result of irrevocable philanthropic commitment. However, under certain circumstances, the university can honor individuals for extraordinary and lasting contribution to the university or society.   

The VCU Committee on Commemoration and Memorials, the university Gift Acceptance Committee or cabinet can recommend to the president that a physical or non-physical entity be named in honor of an individual whose extraordinary contribution to the university or society aligns with VCU’s values.  If the president agrees with the recommendation, the president brings the honorific name recommendation to the Board of Visitors for approval.  A physical or nonphysical entity cannot be named to honor active members of the university faculty or staff, sitting members of the Board of Visitors, the sitting Governor of Virginia, or current elected officials and state employees concerned with the functions, oversight or control of the university. 

Philanthropic name recognition

The Board of Visitors approves all donor recognition levels before these opportunities are shared with prospective donors. The vice president of Development and Alumni Relations may convene the Gift Acceptance Committee to review complex naming opportunities or situations. The Board of Visitors sets the minimum recognition levels for establishing endowment funds, at the recommendation of the vice president of development and alumni relations, no less than once per decade.

The university honors philanthropic contributions by naming physical and nonphysical entities for the lesser of 75 years or until the entity exceeds its useful life. The donor entity may have a first right of refusal to maintain the name, if applicable.

Gift levels to establish endowed funds

General scholarship fund (talent, merit, need)


Named student scholarship (with restrictions)


Lectureship, department or research fund


Graduate student or postdoc


Junior faculty fellowship/term professorship


Discovery Innovation Fund


Departmental Professorship


Research Professorship


Faculty Chair


Department Chair


Research Chair




Department, center or institute


Schools or colleges



Minimum gift level to name a current, non-endowed fund:  $25,000

Cash gifts smaller than $25,000 do not generate permanent name recognition, but these donors may be recognized on walls, plaques, bricks, furniture or on perishable items, such as trees and small gardens .

Name recognition on physical and nonphysical entities

Deans and university leadership may submit requests, in partnership with the Office of Facilities Management, to set donor recognition levels for new and existing physical and non-physical entities. Upon acceptance of an irrevocable gift, the president, or designee, then recommends that the Board of Visitors honor the donor by naming a physical or nonphysical entity on any VCU campus or the president or the president's designee approves the naming if the Board of Visitors has delegated such authority. All gift agreements must state that donor recognition through naming requires approval by the Board of Visitors. Should an honoree’s name change, the university is not obligated to change the name but, in its sole discretion, can change the name at the donor’s request, and potentially at the donor’s expense.

The following considerations determine appropriate donor recognition:

  • Completed gift agreements must outline payment terms if it is not an outright gift and must clearly explain that donor recognition requires Board of Visitors approval.
  • At the discretion of the president, VCU initiates donor recognition, including signage, once 51% of an irrevocable pledge is received.
  • For contributions that include a corporate matching gift, in order for recognition to proceed, the donor must agree to fulfill the pledge should the corporation not pay the expected amount or not agree to donate to the same fund.
  • Donor recognition may not result from gifts already made and recognized for other purposes.
  • Name recognition lasts only for the useful life of a physical entity or for 75 years, whichever is shorter, unless otherwise specified in the gift agreement.
  • Sponsorships restrict name recognition only for the set period of time of that sponsorship.

Removal of name recognition

The VCU Committee on Commemoration and Memorials, the university's Gift Acceptance Committee, or administrative leadership can recommend the removal of name recognition to the president. The Board of Visitors, in its sole discretion, can remove name recognition of a physical or non-physical entity if (i) the entity ceases to exist in a functional state, exceeds its useful life, or changes usage or location; (ii) the name recognition reflects negatively on the university’s reputation or standing; or (iii) the name recognition ceases to be consistent with the moral or educational values of the university.


Gift agreement templates are available to university development personnel on the internal DAR intranet or on the university’s institutionally-related foundation websites. Current forms are also available by emailing

Related Documents 

VCU Policy: Gift Acceptance and Administration 

Revision History

This policy supersedes the following archived policies:


Approval/Revision Date                                   Title

May 2010          Advancement Policies and Procedures                            [BOV policy]

January 2013     Policy on naming university facilities and programs           [DAR local policy]

May 14, 2021     University Recognition Through Naming  BOV Policy



1.       How long is a program or structure assigned a name?

Naming recognition lasts for the lesser of the duration approved by the Board of Visitors or until the physical entity reaches its useful life.

2.       Can a donor be recognized for a gift-in-kind of large value?

The vice president of DAR may recommend recognition for a substantial in-kind gift, with specific restrictions and time periods.

3.       Can a donor contribute less than $50,000 to a scholarship endowment?

Yes, a donor or group of donors may contribute to an unrestricted scholarship at the endowment level of $25,000. The scholarship can be for talent, merit, or need with no restrictions beyond the school.

4.       Can a donor be recognized for a planned gift?

Only an irrevocable planned gift may be considered for name recognition, with conditions set by the vice president of Development and Alumni Relations and, at the discretion of the president, when 51% of the total gift is received.