December 13, 2013

Designating a Donation on the Face of a Check

Question:

I have read that donors should not write the name of a missionary directly on their checks to churches or mission agencies.  Rather, they should include it on a separate piece of paper.  I have always believed this to be an urban legend.  Isn't the real issue whether the church or agency has direct control over the gift, and therefore gifts would still be deductible even if the missionary's name was written on the check?

Answer:

You are absolutely correct; this is a myth. While it may give an appearance of impropriety, the question at issue here is not the designation, but rather control over the gift. A designation becomes an issue if it is made in such a way that it serves personal purposes. A donor who writes the missionary's name on the check does not endanger the deductibility of the gift, as long as 1) the missionary has already been identified by the church as a worthy recipient or 2) the church subsequently confirms, of its own volition, that worthiness. In other words, it is (or becomes) the church's decision to support the missionary. As noted earlier, the key in this situation is control. If the church/organization has identified the missionary as a target of support, then the organization is exercising control over those gifts, and they are deductible. 

However, if after making the gift, a donor is still able to direct the use of the funds, the gift is most likely not deductible. A church or mission agency must avoid becoming a conduit, particularly for someone who may otherwise be expected to assist the recipient regardless of a charitable motivation. For example, a father who donates to a church school seeking for the donation to cover his child's education should not receive credit for a charitable contribution. 

For more details on this issue, follow the links below:

1 comment:

jtc said...

I appreciate this post. I had come to the same conclusion but it helps to have someone with your expertise say the same thing.