5 things to watch ministries and donors

People usually donate to religious causes or institutions out of conviction. That high-minded intent does not insulate religious entities from scrutiny by such bodies as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

In fact, “conviction” could be the fate of religious leaders who play fast and loose with the donor’s largess. Such cases, even though quite rare, are never pretty.

Because religion is about higher purpose than everyday earthbound life, religious leaders are very concerned that churches not only set the highest standard but also be seen as setting that standard. That goes for donors as well.

Part of that perception includes communication between churches and donors, and

in their book “The Guide to Charitable Giving for Churches and Ministries” Dan Busby, Michael Martin and John Van Drunen offer the following advice:


* The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and courts pay close attention to ministry communications and donor responses when determining intent.

* There should be consistency in a ministry’s fundraising appeal, and all other communications related to the appeal.

* “Challenge gifts” are not contingent upon gifts by other givers. They are often an encouragement to others to make gifts.

* “Matching gifts” are contingent on additional gifts being made by donors, either restricted or unrestricted, either with or without time limit.

* Beyond legal and accounting implications, clarity in charitable gift communications is required for ministries to operate with integrity.