Policy for Sponsorship of Washington University Academic Events

Introduction

Washington University welcomes sponsorships in the service of the University’s mission and principles, as well as in the service of collaboration to advance society at large. Support from external entities for sponsorships of conferences, symposiums and other events can enhance the University’s mission. The University also has an interest in protecting its name and reputation and the goodwill attached to them.

For the purpose of this policy, an “event” is an activity or gathering of individuals to learn, share ideas or collaborate around a common theme that furthers the University’s mission such as a seminar, symposium, or workshop.  (Please note: This policy is not for Continuing Medical Education events, which are covered by a separate policy. For other events, such as social or athletic events, please see guidelines supplied by University Advancement, Student Affairs, and Athletics.)

“Sponsorship” refers to an external party’s willingness to offer resources – financial or in-kind – to support an event with an expectation of sponsorship acknowledgement during the event. (See Appendix 1 for definition of “Gift In Kind.”)

Principles

This policy is guided by the following principles:

  • Commitment to University compliance with all laws and regulations related to areas of activity covered by this policy (see also Appendix 2)
  • Adherence to the highest ethical and professional standards of conduct
  • Transparency for constituents and stakeholders
  • Alignment with the University’s practice of avoiding the appearance of endorsing companies or their products or services
  • Collaboration toward shared goals
  • Gratitude and appropriate acknowledgement of sponsor support

Procedures

  • Projected sponsorships must be communicated in advance to the appropriate University or School of Medicine offices of Corporate Relations and Marketing & Communications.
  • Communication will be initiated by means of a brief, convenient web form. The form will automatically route to the appropriate University or School of Medicine contacts.
    • The form will facilitate implementation of these necessary steps:
    • Early approach to sponsors (at least three months prior to an event, the earlier the better) with information that includes the program, speakers, description of target audience, and anticipated number of attendees
    • Engagement in advance with the appropriate University Advancement teams on
      • The creation of sponsorship documentation in the form of a memo of understanding (MOU) or agreement
      • The development of a sponsorship package, including any tiered sponsorship package (See Appendix 1 for definition of “Tier.”)
    • Conversations with sponsors focused on the benefits of supporting the University’s mission
    • Engagement with University Marketing & Communications or Medical Public Affairs on press releases, logos, videos, social media, photography & filming, websites and printed materials
    • Adherence to applicable laws and regulations in the case that a sponsor considers its funding to be a gift to the university (See Appendix 2.)
      • Most importantly, the funding must be spent in accordance with the donor’s intent and the sponsor cannot receive any substantial benefits in return.

Wording used to describe sponsorship

  • Do
    • Be factual and objective.
  • Don’t
    • Use language that endorses the external party or promotes its products

Planning and content

  • The content of an event, including decisions about speakers or panelists, will be determined by University faculty. Sponsors may have no editorial approval involvement.
  • The event brand will be “Washington University” or one of its Schools, departments, or programs.
  • Sponsors may not receive special access to University faculty, staff, or student information. (For example, if a sponsor wants to participate in a reception for University attendees, no faculty or student names or contact information, including email addresses or phone numbers, will be furnished.) An exception for the release of student-related information may be made if written consent from the students has been received in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). School-level policies apply, including Danforth School career services protocols, the Faculty Practice Plan policy RE: Pharma & Medical Device relationships and the Clinical Conflict of Interest Policy.
  • The main event will be free from marketing of products or services. (See Appendix 1 for definition of “marketing.”)

Benefits for sponsors

By sponsoring conferences, symposiums or other educational and scientific events, sponsors have the opportunity to demonstrate alignment with the University’s academic mission and, more broadly, contribute to the continued progress of a healthy, diverse and equitable society.

Sponsors may have their sponsorships recognized in the following ways, which must be specified and agreed to in a sponsorship MOU or agreement created in consultation with the appropriate University or School of Medicine offices of Corporate Relations:

  • In the event brochure, event sponsors may display an appropriately sized and placed external logo and text on an acknowledgement page. An “event brochure” is understood to mean a program, agenda, or flyer presented on paper at the event. All use of external logos in event material are subject to approval of University Marketing & Communications or Medical Public Affairs.
  • In cases where there will no event brochure, sponsors may receive the display of their logo on a poster displayed on an entrance easel. The poster must clearly state “sponsored by” and may appear at no more than three doorways. Best practice: The poster should display a statement of a mission or value or principle shared with the university, such as “Working together toward lower greenhouse gas emissions” or “Finding paths to greater diversity and inclusion in research.”
  • A sponsor may receive the display of its logo on an event slide. The slide must clearly state “sponsored by” and must appear in no more than 10% (percent) of general slideshows before, after, or between sessions. This is the only digital logo display offered. Best practice: Slide would read “This learning opportunity sponsored by . . .” Slide deck should not be included on website, unless sponsorship slide is removed.
  • Sponsors may display informational material about their organization and mission. To avoid the appearance of endorsement, the display may not include promotion of products or services and should be placed in a room separate from the main event space. If the event is virtual, sponsors may provide links on an acknowledgement slide or page that can be printed or digital material on a file-sharing site. (See Appendix 1 for definition of “endorsement” and “promotion” and Appendix 2 for consequences for gifts.)
  • Sponsors may show external videos. To avoid the appearance of endorsement, videos may not include promotion of specific products or services and should be displayed in a separate space from the main symposium space. This may be the same room as used for displaying sponsor materials. If the event is virtual, videos may be shown through a separate link and at a time that doesn’t conflict with other events. In either case, attendance is strictly voluntary. All videos are subject to approval from the University Marketing & Communications or Medical Public Affairs, submitted at least one month in advance of the event. (See Appendix 1 for definition of “endorsement” and “promotion” and Appendix 2 for consequences for gifts.)
  • Factual acknowledgement of the sponsorship may occur — in text only — in a wide variety of formats, including email communications, digital signage and printed material (other than the event brochure, which may use logos).
  • While University logos may not appear on sponsor websites, sponsors may note their sponsorship in the form of an article or blog post on their websites. This content is subject to prior approval by University Marketing & Communications or Medical Public Affairs.
  • No mention of sponsorship will include the word “partner” or “partnership” to describe the relationship. This word is reserved for the university’s relationship with our hospital partners.

Quick References

Logo Quick Reference

  • All use of external logos is subject to approval of University Marketing & Communications or Medical Public Affairs.
  • If appearing on the same page or sign with any University logo, approved external logos must be clearly separate from University logos, must be smaller in size than University or school logos, and must not appear above or at the same level with University logos.
  • An appropriately sized and placed external logo and text may appear on an acknowledgement page in the event brochure.
  • In cases where there will no event brochure, sponsors may receive the display of their logo on a poster displayed on an entrance easel. The poster must clearly state “sponsored by” and may appear at no more than three doorways. Best practice: The poster should display a statement of a mission or value or principle shared with the university, such as “Working together toward lower greenhouse gas emissions” or “Finding paths to greater diversity and inclusion in research.”
  • External logos may not appear in printed material other than specified directly above.
  • A sponsor may receive the display of its logo on an event slide. The slide must clearly state “sponsored by” and must appear in no more than 10% (percent) of general slideshows before, after, or between sessions. This is the only digital logo display offered. Best practice: Slide would read “This learning opportunity sponsored by . . .” Slide deck should not be included on website, unless sponsorship slide is removed.
  • Event materials may not link to sponsors’ websites, but they may link to printed or digital material on a file-sharing site when events are virtual.
  • External sponsors may not use any University logos. Sponsorship may be mentioned in the form of an article or blog post on their websites.
  • The use of the University’s academic center logos (e.g., BJC HealthCare, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital) are not permitted without prior approval form their respective communications offices.
  • If permitted, those academic medical center logos are displayed at a higher visibility than those of other external sponsors. Please avoid “logo soup.” See “co-branding” section in logo guidelines.
  • To avoid any appearance of co-branding or endorsement (see Appendix 1 for definition of “endorsement”), external logos may not appear:
  • In videos produced on behalf of the University.
  • In social media published by accounts that represent business units at the University.
  • As part of a co-brand with the University, school or business unit.
  • In University email.
  • In printed material other than the event brochure.

Video Quick Reference

  • Sponsors may show external videos in a separate space from the main symposium space. This may be the same room as used for displaying sponsor’s informational materials – Not to include promotion of specific products or services.
  • If the event is virtual, videos may be shown through a separate link and at a time that doesn’t conflict with other events.
  • Regardless of whether an event is held in person or virtually, external videos should not be shown as part of event presentations; watching an external video should be strictly voluntary.
  • All videos are subject to approval from University Marketing & Communication or Medical Public Affairs, submitted at least one month in advance of the event.

Printed Material Quick Reference

  • An appropriately sized and placed external logo and text may appear in an acknowledgement page in an event brochure. All use of external logos in event material are subject to approval of University Public Affairs or Medical Public Affairs.
  • In cases where there will no event brochure, sponsors may receive the display of their logo on a poster displayed on an entrance easel. The poster must clearly state “sponsored by” and may appear at no more than three doorways. Best practice: The poster should display a statement of a mission or value or principle shared with the university, such as “Working together toward lower greenhouse gas emissions” or “Finding paths to greater diversity and inclusion in research.”
  • External logos should not appear alongside University logos in the event brochure or any other printed materials.
  • External logos may not appear in printed material other than the event brochure. 
  • Factual acknowledgment of the sponsorship is acceptable – in text only – in printed material other than the event brochure.
  • No mention of sponsorship will include the word “partner” or “partnership” to describe the relationship. This word is reserved for the University’s relationship with our academic medical center partners.
  • Sponsors may display informational material about their organization and mission in a room separate from the main event space. If the event is virtual, sponsors may provide links on an acknowledgement slide or page that can be printed or digital material on a file-sharing site. Such material will not include promotion of products or services. (See Appendix 1 for definition of “promotion.”)

Social Media Quick Reference

  • Any sharing of a sponsor’s post, as well as any tagging of a sponsor, should align with the University’s mission and values as communicated on our website and by our leadership. This would include importing aggregations of sponsor content into wustl.edu.
  • Social media content is subject to approval by University Marketing & Communications or Medical Public Affairs. External sponsors will provide a data privacy policy upon request.
  • There will be no expectation that the University’s central social media accounts will participate with further content distribution.
  • University social media accounts may tag an external sponsor’s account in an informational way consistent with the University’s practice of not endorsing external entities. No post that has a tag affiliation should endorse, sell or solicit, nor imply or promise.
  • An external sponsor listed on the event brochure’s acknowledgement page may — in text only and in a factual sentence — be mentioned in a post.
  • This policy applies to official University accounts and professional accounts of employees.
  • University and school social media policies apply.

Website Quick Reference

  • External sponsors may not use University logos or other University symbols on their websites (including photos).
  • Sponsors may acknowledge the sponsorship in a story on the sponsor’s website (text only).
  • As a general rule, in order to avoid the appearance of endorsement, event materials, including websites, may not link to sponsors’ websites.
  • Event websites may acknowledge the sponsorship in text in an acknowledgment section, without logos.

Appendices

Appendix 1: Definitions

  • Endorsement – A form of public approval and support. A marketing tool lending credibility.
  • Gift In Kind – An in-kind donation, also called gift in kind, refers to the provision of goods or services to an organization.
  • Marketing – To advertise, promote, offer for sale, defined by a context of the purchase and sale of provisions or commodities. Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers. It is the process of getting people interested in products and services.
  • Promotion – To publicize a product, organization, or venture so as to increase sales or public awareness. Promotion is a catch-all term that includes all the ways a business can attempt to enhance the visibility of its products, services, or brand. Promotion can be an action, a concept, or an item.
  • Tier – At the discretion of University Advancement, an event may offer sponsorship tiers.  The top tier would receive the greatest visibility described in this policy.

Appendix 2: Compliance with Laws and Regulations

As mentioned in the principles above, the University is committed to compliance with all laws and regulations related to areas of its activity. In the case that a sponsor considers its funding to be a philanthropic gift to the university,[1] special care is necessary. Most importantly, the funding must be spent in accordance with the donor’s intent and, for sponsorship funds to qualify as philanthropic, the sponsor may not receive any substantial benefits in return.[2]

Per the IRS, substantial return benefit is defined as any benefit other than a use or acknowledgement (donor mentioned or somehow displayed at the event) or disregarded benefits (if the aggregate fair market value of all the benefits provided to the payer during the organization’s taxable year is not more than 2% of the amount of the payment). If substantial return benefits are provided, such as event tickets, at a fair market value of more than 2% of the contribution, the fair market value must be deducted from the total to determine the charitable amount to be recorded and receipted. If donor’s products and/or services are promoted, the donor receives substantial benefits in the form of advertising, thus the gift becomes taxable advertising, not a philanthropic gift.


[1] A philanthropic gift is a transfer that (1) is voluntary, and (2) is motivated by a detached and disinterested generosity. A charitable gift is something that is donated by an individual or organization with the intent to benefit the public.

[2] The University supports the Donor Bill of Rights created by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), and the Giving Institute: Leading Consultants to Non-Profits.