Helping Those in Need
Looking after the needs of the poor, the sick, the widows, and orphans is one of the primary tasks of the Church. It is also recognized by the Canadian government as one of it's distinctive charitable purposes and contributions to society.
Below are some quotes taken from information bulletins of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC) that are helpful in understanding how CRA views the Benevolence ministry of the church:
The purpose of the benevolence program should be consistent with the charitable purposes and objects of the ministry as outlined in the charity’s governing documents. The main purpose of a benevolence fund should be to further the work of the church. Some ministries have designed their benevolence fund policies to support their community outreach programs.
Benevolence programs must be based on helping the poor and needy in the community and not just members of the local church. To be legitimately charitable under the ITA, all activities undertaken by a charity must be available to a wide enough segment of the public to qualify as public benefit. If a church restricts benevolent assistance only to members, the church is conferring a benefit on members by virtue of their membership.....Churches may not be required to advertise the existence of such funds, but their availability must be generally known to all those attending the church, whether members or not.
Helping the needy is ALL good and an acceptable activity of the Church!
The CRA does however place some limitations for giving to individuals in need. These are mostly influenced by charitable receipting guidelines and the Income Tax Act (ITA) which applies to all Canadian citizens:
Donations for Benevolence:
- Under no circumstances is the church to receive and receipt gifts that are given specifically for an individual. The church is responsible to distinguish between gifts to a program of the church (which is allowed under the ITA) versus channeling a gift through the church that has been designated by the donor to a specific individual. Charities are not permitted to act as a conduit for passing resources.
- If the church wishes to take an offering for a specific individual the proceeds are to be given directly to the person and not deposited into the bank account of the church. Donors should be made aware at the time of the offering that no tax receipts can be given for gifts given towards the individual's need.
- See Charitable Receipting for further details on allowable gifts for receipting purposes.
Establishing a Benevolence Ministry in the church:
- It is recommended that each church establish a “Benevolence Fund” or “Good Samaritan Fund” to support those who are poor or needy. Most churches make provision in their yearly budget to meet the needs of those who require financial assistance.
- Members of the congregation should be encouraged to give regularly to this fund and when a benevolent situation occurs that requires support they can make the need known directly to the church. The church is then at the liberty to determine the appropriateness and the amount that is to be given without consideration of the person giving the gift.
- There is a distinction made between one-time gifts and continuous gifts and how they are reported.
- See Benevolence for further details.