Many churches have a benevolence fund. What a blessing such a fund can be, but it can also be divisive. It is important for every church to have a policy that clearly defines the purpose of benevolence in a way that matches the church’s mission and purpose.

The benevolence policy should state that contributions from all church members are welcome and that members may suggest specific people who would benefit from the church’s benevolence fund. However, the policy should also clearly state that the church decides who meets the qualifications for receiving benevolence. Some churches’ policies state that a board must make that decision; most churches appoint deacons to oversee the benevolence fund. No matter who has oversight, it is important to state that the church handles the administration and disbursement of all funds.

Occasionally donors contributing to a church will designate a certain person or family as the recipient of the money. While the heart behind such giving is admirable, the church and donor must understand that this kind of gift is not tax deductible. The donor should give the gift directly to the person they want to receive the funds. However, if a donor suggests that someone needs help through the benevolence fund, the gift will be tax deductible if the donor gives toward the benevolence and leaves it to the church to distribute the money according to its policy. A donor could contact a CPA to ask about the tax deductibility of such a gift.