the shape of leadership

FAQ: Can a donor designate a gift to a church member?

Doug Clay answers frequently asked questions concerning church business practices.

Doug Clay on May 16, 2017

Unfortunately, no. As is true with a donor who wishes to designate a contribution to the benefit of a church staff member, a donor may not receive charitable contribution credit for an amount given to the church that is designated to an individual in the church.

Normally, a gift from one individual designated for another individual would not constitute funds being spent by the church “in the furtherance of the church’s exempt purposes.” The IRS would view this payment from the donor simply as a non-taxable gift from one individual to another. In this case, it is normally best for the church simply to communicate to the giver of the gift that the church does not need to be an intermediary in the transaction and that the gift should rather be given directly to the intended recipient without the church’s involvement.

However, the church may raise funds for a particular benevolent need that it has identified and may issue charitable contribution credit to donors for contributions made in response to a special appeal by the church to meet this benevolent need. For example, a family may have considerable unreimbursed medical expenses related to a child’s illness, or a family may be in great need due to a house fire. Under the following circumstances, a church could give charitable contribution credit for donations to a benevolent need:

1. The church board pre-authorized the offering.

2. The recipient (or his/her family) is financially needy, and the unreimbursed medical expenses are substantial.

3. The offering is used exclusively to pay these expenses.

4. Immediate family members are not the primary contributors.

5. No more than one or two offerings are collected for the same individual.

This article was originally published on and has been adapted with permission. The purpose of this FAQ is to provide basic information regarding church administration. Information contained within is generic in nature and is intended as a guide, not a substitute for seeking professional advice specific to your church or any state laws. If you have explicit concerns, please consult a professional.

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