Is your Church Ready to Receive a Large Gift?

It is something that every finance committee hopes for – the receipt of a large donation for the benefit of the church. But what should be a marvelous blessing for the church and surrounding community can sometimes turn into a source of angst and conflict among those responsible for managing church finances.

What if that large piece of real estate has a leaking oil tank that will require an environmental response costing more than the value of the land? What if longtime member, Mrs Williams, offers to pay for the new flooring that is needed in the sanctuary but only if she can choose the carpet color?

Having a well written gift acceptance policy that aligns with the vision and mission of the church is crucial so that church leaders have guidance on the types of gifts that can be accepted and can avoid critical issues that can be triggered by certain gifts. In addition, having a solid gift acceptance policy in place makes it easier to speak with potential large donors. It is reassuring for them to see that the church has a plan in place to use their gift responsibly.

The first step is to identify the body in the church which will regulate gift acceptance – will it be your finance committee or the trustees or an endowment committee that focuses solely on gifts? When that group is identified, they must work together to develop a policy that is clear and concise, so that donors understand how their gifts will be used and so that church leaders can direct funds appropriately.

You can find resources to help write a gift acceptance policy online or in books like “Church Finances for Missional Leaders” by Bonnie Ives Marden. It should outline procedures for the following:

• Handling cash gifts with appropriate accounting policies
• Setting guidelines for restricted gifts
• Reviewing non-cash gifts – it’s important to reserve the right of refusal.
• Liquidating non-cash gifts
• Acceptance guidelines for real estate gifts
• Acknowledgement of gifts

Giving is an act of worship and it should be the goal of the church to honor the wishes of the giver to the greatest extent possible, but it is also important that the vision and mission of the church are consistently represented in the application of gifts. Having a gift acceptance policy in place will ensure that both are possible and that will be a blessing to both the giver and the church.

Annabel Lusardi
Assistant Director, Customer Care