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Benevolent Fund Review

Question:

I have currently been made aware of a family in our church that has experienced some serious medical issues. One of our members would like to pay for these expenses. The only stipulation that I can find in the Internal Revenue Code is that the money cannot be given with a particular designation. Can the church receive these funds, give a tax-deductible receipt or acknowledgement to the donor, and disburse the funds to pay these medical expenses?

Answer:

Churches maintain ongoing Benevolent Funds to prepare to meet these type of needs. All members are generally encouraged to give monies to the fund to allow the church (through an authorization process observed by church officers) to respond.

The caution that I offer is that the church must avoid becoming a conduit for donors to convert their noncharitable obligations into tax deductible gifts. For example, if one family member "donates" a substantial portion of the benevolent monies given to another immediate family member (even stipulating that the funds may only be used to do so), then the church may find itself being "used" to convert his or her obligation to pay for family medical bills into a chartible contribution.

I recommend that churches communicate that gifts to their benevolent funds are disbursed solely at the discretion of the church. This does not mean that members cannot communicate needs of others that they have discovered and that they are willing to help meet.

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