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Responses to frequently asked questions about Northwestern conflict of interest policies and procedures are provided below.  If there are other questions not addressed here, please contact for assistance.

Vendors and other external business partners of the University often offer gifts as genuine tokens of thanks for partnership on a project or to express gratitude for a valued relationship. It must also be acknowledged that gifts can be offered to win favor, or can be perceived as such. Decisions regarding the acceptance of a gift or offer of hospitality should be carefully considered in the context of the relationship, and with in consideration of the following policies:

Below are two guiding principles. In addition, we have a full list of FAQs covering tickets to events, holiday gifts, samples (e.g., products, textbooks), conference attendance, gifts among departments at the university, and use of private aircraft.

Note that these FAQs do not apply to charitable gifts to the institution, that is, those gifts managed by Alumni Relations and Development and processed by Gift and Record Services. For information on policies for charitable gifts, please see:

Guiding Principles

Is there ever a time that I must refuse any gift and/or hospitality?

If a vendor is seeking to become a business partner, is in the middle of a "bid" process with the university, or is renegotiating terms, you must refrain from accepting any gift or hospitality from that vendor.

How can I avoid conflicts of interest – perceived or real – in selecting a vendor or business partner for my Northwestern work?

Following standard Northwestern processes for selecting business partners is a good place to start.
  • Review the list of Preferred Vendors that are already thoroughly vetted partners of Northwestern.
  • If you need to establish a new relationship, reach out to Procurement and Payment Services to assist with the Invitation to Bid process and assessing the potential partner's offerings.
  • Avoid hiring or using the services of someone in your family and/or an organization in which you have a financial stake unless there are no reasonable alternatives (and be prepared to document that).