Gift, gifts, and gifting

I got a cryptic DM from #2 son today… “hey, looking for something related to gifting, guidance for a co-worker…”” 

I replied, “Say a little more.  Are you talking about tax implications, gift certificates, or spiritual gifts?”

He said, “spiritual…why people give gifts, gifting with strings attached, that kind of thing”  I managed not to go down the Spiritual Gifts rabbit hole of 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and Romans 12, and asked for some more clarification.

He replied, “so, (his company) has been giving to org A, but several people don’t believe in that org any longer, so looking for another org, and people want to direct who gets gifts or how they will spend it…”

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.  First I tackled the question of how do we decide who gets our gifts.  This is what I said, “The answer is “it depends”… If the gifts are being made with payroll deduction, it has to continue to go to wherever the person specified. If it is a company gift that the employees voted on, you have to take another vote unless the company just wants to stop giving altogether. If it is matching funds, the employee can stop any time they want just like the company can.”  I thought that pretty well took care of that question.  It’s completely up to the donor who gets their money. 

Then he hit me with what the real question was in the first place – directed giving – and once it’s given, who decides how the money can/should be used?

My answer was…

“You (the donor) can direct that money be used for a specific purpose.   The not-for-profit can then either choose to accept the gift with those strings attached or not take the money.  Usually designated funds (the official name for that) are for things like – can only be used for building fund, or can only be used for scholarships, or can only be used for repairing housing.  

“If funds come in in response to a pledge drive or something like that, they are almost always undesignated, and can be used as the recipient prefers.  The main thing to remember is it is not good to designate funds that may cause the organization to have problems.  It doesn’t do a college/university any good to have an enormous endowment for the library, that can only be spent on books, when the college can’t make payroll, or repair the dorms, and consequently, the college goes bankrupt and has no students to use the “wonderful” library.  (Just an example of how designated funds can tie an organizations hands.)

 “Also, remember that if funds can only be used for books (using the same library example), then that’s where the funds will be used, but that doesn’t mean that money in the budget that would ordinarily go to books, can’t be used for something else.  You just switch the line item.

 “Basically, if you believe in an organization or a cause, you have to also believe that the people who are running it have its best interests at heart.  If you can’t trust them, then maybe you shouldn’t be giving them money in the first place.”

This speaks directly to some of our churches who withhold Presbytery head tax, or General Assembly money because they disagree with some stand taken by the board.  Sending designated funds to General Assembly, saying “Our money can’t be used to overseas mission if the doctors talk about abortion,” for instance, is counterproductive as well as mean spirited.  In any case, the General Assembly will simply move other undesignated funds over to that mission benevolence, and use the money that is designated not to go to that mission field for another line item.

It makes for difficult bookkeeping, but doesn’t basically change anything.

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