For many, the current economic downturn is not just a news story or financial setback; it’s a harsh reality. Inflation is cutting away at individuals buying power and making it harder to put food on the table, keep the lights on, pump gas in the car, and pay the rent or mortgage. As the Pastor overseeing our church’s benevolence fund, it always breaks my heart when someone comes to us needing assistance. A lack of financial resources often causes people to wonder where God is and if He cares. A benevolence fund is one way in which a church can, in a very tangible way, show that God is there and that He does care.
What is a Benevolence Fund?
As a way to provide short-term care for the under-resourced, show charity to those in financial need, and ultimately share the Gospel, many churches designated a fund to provide this kind of care. It’s a way for the church to live out many of the “one another’s” found in the Bible. Look at James 2:14-16 “What use is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” as followers of Jesus, our deeds reveal our faith. Telling someone cold and hungry to be warm and well-fed without providing for their practical need of food and clothes does not show the love of Jesus. The benevolence fund allows the church (the people, not the building) to “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the Law of Christ,” as commanded in Galatians 6:2.
Don’t Include the Benevolence Fund in the Church Budget
John Maxwell said a budget tells your money where to go instead of wondering where it went. A church budget works the same way; think of it as a blueprint for allocating money for the fiscal year based on a realistic projection or target to achieve the mission, vision, and values of the church. A designated fund is different; it is not confined to fiscal years and does not necessitate budgeting since the number of requests is unknown. During economic downturns, churches often find the number and frequency of financial aid requests from the benevolence fund increase. Setting up a separate fund outside the budget provides flexibility and sustainability to meet the ongoing needs of this vital church function.
Ways to Build the Fund
Since the benevolence fund is not part of the church budget, it allows for several creative ways to build the designated account. View this as an opportunity to encourage first-time giving and introduce generosity into the church. For example, every time the church serves Communion, ask everyone to put a dollar into the offering, and all one-dollar bills go directly to the benevolence fund. Share stories during the church service of how the benevolence fund is making a difference in the lives of the people it helps. Do not disclose names, but telling the stories will inspire the congregation to want to join what God is doing in and through your church – through their financial contributions. Sharing these stories demonstrates generosity, stewardship, and fulfilling the church’s mission. It’s strategic to make it easy to provide several ways to give to the benevolence fund. Add options to give to the benevolence fund on your church app, online giving, or on the giving envelope and watch God build this fund.
Have a Solid Policy
When people entrust their money to any organization, especially a church, a solid policy that meets or exceeds the IRS guidelines is paramount. Organizations like CapinCrouse can help provide direction, but in general, a benevolence policy should define:
Policy Statement: Provide the policy’s purpose and define the policy’s why.
Criteria: Define the requirements to qualify for financial assistance through the fund. Determine limits in the amount and frequency of assistance provided through the fund.
- Document how people can apply using a standardized and comprehensive form.
- Determine who and how the initial request via the form is received.
- Create an approval process that includes more than one person to remain above reproach.
Document: Keep a record of everything.
The list above is a very high-level overview of a benevolence fund policy. I highly recommend researching all the ins and outs to ensure compliance in something this important.short url: