The benevolence fund is established according to the church bylaws and constitution with the purpose of meeting people's basic needs. It has no budget for either income or expense. Its receipts consist entirely of designated giving, and its expenses consist of funds disbursed at the direction of the Benevolence Committee.
The Benevolence Committee is a subcommittee of the Church Board. Its members serve for a term of one year. There is no restriction on the number of consecutive years a board member may serve on the Committee. The Committee may comprise at least three members. The maximum number depends on the expected work load.
The objective of this document is to set forth the responsibilities of the Benevolence Committee and the guidelines for discharging those responsibilities. It is not intended to cover all circumstances under which monies may be disbursed from the fund. The Benevolence Committee has ultimate responsibility and accountability over the benevolence fund.
Oversight and Accountability
The Benevolence Committee is accountable to the Church Board. The Committee will interface with the Pastoral/Elder Board when necessary through the Pastor, or the Chairman of the Church Board. The Benevolence Committee chairman will serve as liaison with the senior staff and Church Board. He will meet with the Benevolence Committee when the committee convenes to consider disbursing funds.
Deacons: Deacons for the committee shall be chosen on an annual basis by the Deacons committee. One deacon will be assigned as committee chairman for the year.
Lay Members: The church's nomination committee shall present suitable candidates for consideration. An interview process shall be conducted to determine suitability, willingness, and spiritual maturity. All members will be trained to understand the committee's purposes, policies, and procedures.
All members will be apprised of the need for extreme confidentially when dealing with personal issues of the needy. All matters should remain within the confines of the committee members. Only the Chair should divulge personal information to appropriate individuals outside of the committee such as to the Pastor and to specific financial, family, or spiritual counselors.
The only regular source of income for the fund is through special or designated offerings. Members of the congregation, however, will not be encouraged to give to the benevolence fund in lieu of giving to the general fund of the church.
The benevolence fund is intended as a source of last resort, to be used when a family or individual requesting assistance has explored all other possibilities of help from family, friends, savings, or investments. It is intended to be a temporary help during a time of crisis.
Assistance from the benevolence fund is intended to be a one-time gift. In unusual circumstances, the Benevolence Committee may decide to help more than once. But under no circumstance is a gift from the benevolence fund to be considered a loan. No gift may be repaid, either in part or in full, in money, or in labor.
If the recipient desires to give to the church at a later time, this individual should be encouraged to give directly to the general fund of the church. At the discretion of the Benevolence Committee chairman, the individual may be informed that the fund accepts designated giving, but only if the person understands this is not a payback of what originally was given.
Those requesting assistance must also be willing to receive financial, family, or spiritual counseling. The Benevolence Committee will not provide help to anyone who, in its estimation, will have negative or irresponsible behavior reinforced by receiving financial assistance.
Those requesting help must be willing to give the committee permission to follow up on any of the information provided to the committee.
Basic Qualifications for Recipients
In order of priority, recipients of funds disbursed from the benevolence fund at the direction of the Benevolence Committee are:
The stated purpose of the benevolence fund is to meet peoples' basic needs, such as:
Needs that may not be met by the benevolence fund include:
Financial assistance for counseling will be considered if it is perceived that counseling would directly enable the individual to address a current financial situation. In most cases, this would be limited to an initial counseling appointment. Under special circumstances, additional financial help could be given.
Generally, assistance from the benevolence fund will not exceed $1,500 per person or family (this is a cumulative cap in the unusual case of someone who receives more than one gift from the fund). In very unusual circumstances, families and individuals who are in need of substantial funds (over $1,500) and who have the opportunity to make a life-changing decision can continue to be assisted up to whatever limit the Benevolence Committee deems appropriate. Such cases should be reviewed carefully and, when appropriate, additional accountability should be sought.
Special projects, funded by special offerings designated for the Benevolence Fund, might include supporting local outreach ministries to the poor or providing assistance during times of catastrophe or major crises.
Benevolence Request Process
Source of Request
A Request for Assistance application must be filled out by the person requesting help or by someone who is assisting the person in need. In either case, the person must be in the presence of a representative of the church. This church representative will record references and contacts to validate the need.
Processing the Request
1. The Request for Assistance application is returned to the Church Office in preparation for presentation to the Benevolence Committee. The process takes approximately one week.
2. The committee shall select at least one member to appropriately investigate and verify each request. The information shall be brought back to the committee in a timely manner for assessment and validation.
3. In a meeting or by a telephone conference, the committee reviews the request and comes to a decision.
4. The person making the request is informed of the decision by the Chairman or a designee
5. Checks are written and disbursed. As much as possible, checks from the fund will be payable directly to vendors rather than to the individual requesting assistance.
Types of Assistance
Short-Term Financial: Short-term financial assistance shall consist of payment of specific bills to the applicable vendor. For accountability's sake, no checks or cash shall be given directly to the requestor without approval from the Chair and consensus from the senior Pastor.
Emergency Assistance: All requests for emergency assistance must be first investigated, verified, and validated by at least three committee members, including the Chair. Emergency assistance may take the form of automobile repair, bill payment, purchase of groceries, or other tangible means as allowed by the Chair with consensus from the Pastor.
Transient Assistance: All requests for transient assistance must be first investigated, verified, and validated by at least three committee members, including the Chair. Transient assistance may take the form of automobile repair, bill payment, purchase of groceries, or other tangible means as allowed by the Chair with consensus from the Pastor.
Non-Emergency Assistance: All requests for non-emergency assistance must be first investigated, verified, and validated by at least three committee members, including the Chair. Assistance may take the form of automobile repair, bill payment, purchase of groceries, or other tangible means as allowed by the Chair with consensus from the Pastor.
Non-Financial Assistance: Non-financial assistance may take the form of spiritual, financial, or family counseling; moving assistance; job search, or other forms as deemed appropriate by the Chair with consensus from the Pastor.
Long-Term Assistance: Long-term assistance shall take the form of nursing home care, hospice care, or other form of care as deemed appropriate by the Chair with consensus from the Pastor.
The Chair shall inform the Pastor of any recommendation for a policy exception.
The Chair and at least one committee member shall assess the need for counseling and forward the recommendation to the Pastor.
Referrals to Community Resources
The committee shall keep a data sheet of locally available community services such as utility payment services, emergency shelters, food and clothing programs, etc.
—Rod O'Neil; adapted from Guide to Benevolence Giving for Church and Family, © 2009 by the author and published by Holy Fire Publishing. Used by permission.
share this page
Also of Interest
Giving Help to the Hurting
Assess how your church can offer healing and assistance to those who are hurting, and ensure the support it gives really makes a difference.
Answer the questions that will lead to a successful capital fundraising campaign.
Too Busy to Serve?
Can a purposeful church leader stop long enough to personally help individuals along the road?
How to Be Heard
Mastering six overlooked fundamentals of clear communication.
Join the BuildingChurchLeaders.com Facebook groupFollow us on TwitterSubscribe to the Building Church Leaders RSS feed
Meet Our Editorial Advisors
More from Christianity Today