Benevolence programs in churches stem from the church’s desire to help others, extend kindness, and to show charity to those in need. This program is there to identify and meet the needs of under-resourced individuals or families. This program sometimes fails to meet the standards set by the IRS and even sometimes will cause a church to lose their tax-exempt status.
The key to running a successful benevolence program is in the structure surrounding this program. After the structure has been set forth, does the church operate under these guidelines? If not, then it could cause the church to find itself in trouble with the authorities.
Below you will find a number of suggestions regarding a structured benevolence program. Some of these ideas come from an article I read in a pamphlet called, “Church Finance.”
Here are some thoughts to guide you in having a positive benevolence program?
1. Does the benevolence program have a way of verifying that a person or family is in need and does not have the available resources to meet his/her own need? A church should have some way of proving that these people are in need. According to the IRS, a church should not help persons or families who are not literally in need.
2. Within the program you may need to have some of these guidelines:
- Who has the authority to approve a request?
- What type of needs will be considered and how?
- What proof of need will the church require?
- Who is your target group?
- What may disqualify a person or family?
- Is there some form that the person will need to fill out?
- How will multiple requests from the same person or family be handled?
- Will this program be available to employees?
3. Finally, I would ask this question. What steps do you take in trying to guarantee that your gifts are used appropriately? In my last church we would get requests for gas and other concrete items. We finally went to a local gas station, just down the block, and put a plan together. If we were going to help them with gas then we would give them a gas voucher for a certain amount and the gas station would know how much to give them and then bill us. We also had some covenants with other stores. These covenants really helped us in the area of benevolence.
I found a sample Benevolence fund policy during some of my reading and I have included it below. This policy is being used by permission and is there to guide you in creating your own benevolence policy.