End-of-year giving: good choices and a particular option

I stand for fiscal responsibility in non-profit organizations. Money entrusted for the common good should be used wisely and efficiently. Donors should — and increasingly do — seek out organizations with desirable missions and with the capacity to work efficiently.

I’ve been critical of churches that function like clubs as betraying this calculus; why, for instance, should a snug and private concern be tax-benefited? Church leaders have a responsibility to review their program against the public good they provide; in other words, through the eyes of taxpayers who support common infrastructure and other good organizations who are natural rivals for contributions. By which I mean general funds, building funds, organ funds.

That said, I have a warm place for ministerial discretionary funds. I’ve given them, given to them and received funds from them. (I graduated seminary so broke I didn’t have gas money from Texas to Georgia. Tough times.) World change won’t be funded through ministerial discretionary funds, but they do (or can do) a good job with the kind of emergencies that need a social net but for which there is often no kind of appropriate service organization. Money to pay for a prescription, travel funds to see a dying relative, transit fare for someone returning to work . . . very often that kind of thing.

As a matter of practice, I’d like to see financial controls in place, but in the end if you don’t trust a minister to be a good steward of the funds, then no amount of control will do much good to what end the funds are used.

So I’m getting my checkbook out and suggest you do too. That said, and not thinking of anyone in particular, there’s no rule you have to give to your minister.