Nearly every church has set up a fund for benevolence purposes, but often the program for disbursing those funds is not as effective as it could be at meeting people’s needs. By reviewing my church’s process and disbursements over the past many years, I’ve come up with this list of best practices for evaluating your benevolence program:
- Establish a benevolence policy that empowers or delegates authority, ensures accountability and confidentiality, and sets boundaries rather than rules.
- Use a separate budget to track benevolent donations and disbursements.
- Take a team approach to benevolence ministry without creating a burdensome process.
- Report success stories to your donors but maintain confidentiality.
- Identify resources in advance, such as local businesses or individuals who have agreed to assist with specific needs.
- Keep records of assistance provided and follow up with those you help.
- Learn from your mistakes.
- Allow room for God to guide.
- Identify real needs, not just temporary issues or symptoms, then look for ways to help recipients “learn to fish.”
- Help recipients be accountable with agreed-upon next steps.
- Integrate your existing ministry outreach programs as well as other local churches into your benevolence efforts.
- Set aside funds to be used in case of local community disasters.
Providing a helping hand to those in need is a critical part of what we are called to do as followers of Christ. However, as you have probably learned, providing money by itself rarely meets people’s real needs.
What have you found to be critical success factors for your benevolence ministry?
PS: You are only required to do any tax reporting when benevolence gifts are provided to a staff member. Those gifts should be reported on IRS Form W-2.