The Boston Globe recently reported the results of its investigation of a celebrity NFL quarterback’s charitable foundation, an article that raised questions about the organization’s use of funds. When we read articles like this we may have questions about how the organizations we give to use our donations.
It’s easy to assume that an organization will use the funds consistent with our giving intent. But malfeasance or fraud aside, there a variety of reasons you could be in for a surprise. For instance, the leadership of a ministry could decide to broaden or shrink its ministry activities. Or an organization seeking to improve education in a country may learn that the area needs water wells for basic needs, so its leadership decides to begin a water well drilling program. If you are a donor, you may or may not support that activity.
As donors we may make assumptions when reading the materials from the organizations. For example, I once read communication from an organization that stated its purpose as “spiritual growth.” When a discussion with one supporter revealed an interest outside of the Christian church, I realized that “spiritual growth” was not limited to Christianity. Their activities could then be outside my area of interest.
So, how do we ensure funds are used for the purpose intended? Here are three areas to explore:
- Check the bylaws. What is the stated purpose? Often it may not be written narrow enough to satisfy your desires. In which case…
- …Be specific about the use of the funds when you make a donation. Examples: “For the construction costs for a ______”; for the “drilling of water wells”; for the operations of _________ organization.
- Follow-up after the donation to inquire about the use of the funds.
A final note: ministries may transfer funds to affiliated organizations. And a ministry is not prohibited from making its own donation to a different ministry. Neither of these is inherently improper, but you may want to ask an organization whether it does so and for what purpose, and then designate your giving consistent with your desires.
Need some help with your due diligence? Get an inside look at how preeminent Christian foundations approach this topic and follow their tips for your own giving.