The Synod of the Diocese of Edmonton
PLANNED GIVING PROGRAM
Guidelines for Accepting
Planned Gifts to Parishes
A parish may accept any planned gift, provided it falls within the Diocesan Planned Giving Program Policy and Guidelines. This document is intended to answer the question, “What do we do with a gift when we receive it?”
There should be no circumstance under which a planned gift is placed into a parish’s general revenues or used for the day–to–day running of the church. Rather, all planned gifts should be set aside for specific purposes, whether capital projects or programs. If a parish uses a planned gift for its day–to–day operations, then the parish will probably be in difficulty when the money from the gift runs out.
Gifts of securities must be handled by a licensed broker. As the Diocese of Edmonton employs a broker to manage the Consolidated Trust, gifts of securities should be administered by the Diocese on behalf of the parish.
If a gift is large enough, consideration should be given to creating an endowment wherein the principal of the gift remains intact in perpetuity, and only the income becomes available for parish use. Once an endowment has been established, future gifts may be added to it.
When the gift is a bequest it will often come without directions about how it is to be used. In many cases, however, the donor will specify how s/he would like the gift to be used. This makes dispersal easy for Vestry as the decision about what to do with the gift has been made for it.
In still other cases, a donor may specify that the gift is to be used for something that is no longer in use, or for some function that does not exist. This latter situation might occur if the donor had not checked with the church when preparing his or her will, or if the will is quite old.
Even though a donor may not have specified how his/her gift is to be used, consulting with the family, or with close friends, will often provide a hint of what the deceased was passionate about. Vestry could then choose to apply the gift to that purpose.
A Better Approach
Often bequests arrive without warning; however, if Vestry has considered the possibility of receiving such planned gifts, then deciding where to direct non–specific gifts will be made much easier. At a minimum, Vestry should maintain a “wish list” that can be consulted when a gift arrives. This would best be broken down by dollar categories; for example, a gift of $1,000 would be put toward project ‘a’ or program ‘x’ while a gift of $5,000 would go toward project ‘b’ or program ‘y’.
Another approach is to simply look at needs that have been identified in a parish strategic or five–year plan, especially needs that would require a one–time injection of funds.
Another way of determining how gifts should be used is for Vestry to appoint an ad hoc committee whose task it is to draft a policy for the administration of planned gifts. Many parishes that go through this process will conclude that non–specific gifts should be placed into an endowment created to support the “mission” of the parish. The income is then directed to a purpose outside of the church. This serves to remind parishioners not to cut back on their regular giving and helps them grow in awareness of mission as the church reaches out to new ministries.
Another option for dealing with endowments is to create a few major funding categories and encourage people to donate specifically to these. For example, a parish might create a Mission Fund to support mission activities in the community and beyond, or a Building Fund for the repair, renovation or construction of church facilities and grounds improvements.
One last item to consider when creating an endowment is whether to protect the endowment from inflation. One way of doing this is to add a portion of the income to the principal of the endowment each year.