July 21, 2014

Three Things to be Aware of When Establishing Online Giving Procedures

Question:
What items does our 501(c)(3) organization need to be aware of when establishing online giving procedures?

Answer: 
When a 501(c)(3) organization establishes online giving procedures, they should keep the following three points in mind:

1) Charitable contributions through an online merchant system should be recorded as the gross amount, not the net amount, when providing charitable giving receipts. 

For example, Joe Smith decides to donate $100 to ABC Organization, a non-profit organization, through the use of PayPal. PayPal will charge ABC Organization a processing fee of 2.9% ($2.90) for receiving the funds. Although ABC's net amount received is $97.10, Joe Smith should receive record of a deductible donation of $100. 

2) Contribution receipts should clearly meet IRS requirements. 

The following links will lead you to blog posts that relate to IRS requirements for contribution receipts:

Church Official Statements of Annual Giving

MinistryCPA Special Topic: What Does "Quid Pro Quo" Mean?

Also, read IRS Publication 1771 for more requirements of contribution receipts.

3) The 501(c)(3) organization must maintain discretion and control over all contributions. 

It is important that the non-profit organization maintain full control of the donated funds and practice discretion as to their use to ensure that the funds will be used to carry out the organization's functions and purposes. 

Accordingly, the organization may endeavor to honor donors' wishes that designate use of donated funds. However, the organization must maintain control over the ultimate determination of how all donated funds are allocated. Contributions become the property of the charity, and the charity has the discretion to determine how best to use all contributions to carry out its functions and purposes. 

According to IRS Publication 526, "Charitable contributions must be made to or for the use of a qualified organization in order to be deductible." If a contribution is made directly to an individual, it is not deductible. For example, if payments are made directly to individual missionaries, ministers, etc., the contribution is not deductible. 

The organization should also avoid becoming a conduit of funds. Read our blog posts on the matter:

Church as a Conduit for Non-Deductible Gifts

Church as a Conduit for Non-Deductible Gifts: Illustration

Unsolicited, Unilateral Gifts Directed to Individuals





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