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Creative Giving

DETERMINING WHAT TO GIVE

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Give out of income. While income is a logical place to start, our experience indicates that household budgets rarely have “extra” funds waiting to be allocated. Aside from redistributing savings, or tagging other “discretionary spending” monies, giving out of income is difficult to maintain over the course of the program.

Give appreciated assets. This category represents one of the best in which “creative gifts” may be found, however it’s one of the least explored. Stocks, bonds, and real estate purchased years ago frequently carry an appreciated value. Did you know you could give that asset directly to your church and avoid paying any capital gains tax, but still get a fair market value deduction based on its current value? A tax professional is vital to guiding both donor and church through this process.

Tax implications are an important consideration for givers.  Always consult your CPA, tax attorney or licensed financial advisor.  If you have an appreciated asset you would like to donate and need assistance, the church can help you find the correct resource.

Give “stuff.” You move it; you store it. You insure it and dust it. Collectibles (stamps, baseball cards, sports memorabilia, coins, etc.) and valuable heirlooms or antiques (jewelry, furniture, musical instruments, etc.) may be contributed to the church for sale.

Give by sacrifice. David, a “man after God’s own heart,” declared, “That which costs me nothing is not a sacrifice” (Acts 13:22, 2 Sam. 24:24). Challenge your people to give what they otherwise would spend – without a second thought – on a fast-food meal, or a cup of fine coffee. These real-world examples are almost universal to American culture and provide an opportunity for leaders to bring the principle of “denying oneself ” to the forefront.

Give proportional to blessings received. Scripture teaches that to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48b).  Those blessed generously in financial ways have a greater responsibility to sow into the Kingdom accordingly.

Give by revelation, not by reason.  Pray and ask God what He wants to do through you, and expect an answer (John 10:4).  Don’t be frustrated or disobedient if you can’t discern how you will produce that amount.  Walk by faith, not by sight, and make that your commitment.

As you feel prompted to consider charitable donations, it’s important to search your heart (Ps. 139:23-34) for what compels you to keep or give up possessions, make purchases, and set aside long-term investments.

CREATIVE GIFT EXAMPLES

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While giving from income is often the primary response to contributing to stewardship programs, many donors convert non-cash items into cash donations or, in some cases, contribute those non-cash items directly and let the church manage them accordingly.   The following true examples from Impact’s work with churches over the years will surprise and excite you, as testament to what creative giving looks like in real life.

Remember:  when considering these or other creative giving ideas, contact your tax accountant/advisor who can counsel you about tax credit strategies and about the most advantageous way to make a gift to (Church Name).  IRS rules are subject to change and a tax professional will be the most up-to-date on such changes.

Antiques.  (Tampa, FL)  A retired member thought he had nothing to give, then gave the church an 1836 Colt Revolver.  The church sold it for $400,000.

Automobiles.  (Mobile, AL)  A single adult who just lost his business thought he had nothing to give.  He owned a 1966 Shelby GT that just sat in his garage.  Church sold it for $200,000.  Ideally, individuals may consider selling a vehicle and gifting the proceeds to the church; if a tax write-off were desired, the vehicle would be donated outright.

Life Insurance.  Some individuals have accumulated cash value in insurance policies that may be given to the church.

Real Estate.  (Roanoke, VA)  An unencumbered piece of real estate that is readily sale-able can be a valuable gift.  An elderly married couple who thought they had nothing to give owned a four-plex apartment home purchased 50 years earlier for $50,000.   The church sold it for $300,000.  (Side note:  the couple avoided $50,000 in capital gains tax, recaptured the appreciation and received $300,000 contribution credit.)

Sports Memorabilia.  (Palm Harbor, FL)  A single adult who moved from Wisconsin thought he had nothing to give.  He gave his church a football signed by Vince Lombardi after the Packers won the first Super Bowl.  The church sold it for $25,000.

Stocks & Bonds.  Giving appreciated stocks or bonds in accounts subject to IRS income taxes can be advantageous to the donor and to the church. The donor may avoid paying capital gains taxes while receiving a charitable deduction, and the church will receive a beneficial and liquid asset. To claim these tax benefits, the stocks/bonds/mutual funds must be transferred to the church rather than selling and donating the proceeds.

Tax Returns.  Individuals may take a distribution from their IRA, count it as taxable income on their tax return, give it to the church and then take a charitable contribution tax deduction if they itemize their deductions.  If you are under 59 years and 6 months, there is a 10% penalty on the amount drawn.

Disclaimer:  When considering these or other creative giving ideas, please contact your tax accountant/advisor to advise you regarding tax credit strategies and to employ the most advantageous way to make a gift to your church.  Impact Stewardship consists of stewardship teachers, pastors, and counselors; we are not tax professionals.  Additionally, IRS rules are subject to change, and a tax professional will be the most up-to-date on such changes in the tax code.

CREATIVE GIVING SCRIPTURES

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Exodus 25:1–9

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering. And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; ramskins, and acacia wood; oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate. And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.”

Ephesians 3:20-21

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

MAKE A DECISION!

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Want to be involved but not sure how? Are you enthusiastic about giving to this program, but not sure where to start?  Prayerful conversation with the Lord, your family, and your peers remains critical.  Ask the Lord, and be confident in His direction:  “God, what do you want to do through me to accomplish your will in my church?”  Be attentive, according to John 10.27; be humble, be willing, and then be obedient.

FIRST, DISCUSS. 

Your treasure is already where your heart is; ask yourself if both are submitted to His Lordship. Bringing your requests to God and receiving wisdom from Him is every believer’s privilege and responsibility. He wants to reveal His heart and His will to you; be proactive and ask Him. Similarly, engage those here on Earth that you trust and with whom you walk daily. Swap stories, ideas, and testimonies, and stir up generosity in one another.  As Paul exhorts us, “Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Heb 10.24)

THEN, DECIDE.

Giving out of your income is a great place to start; perhaps it’s a bonus or an unexpected commission that could be set aside. Consider assets: did you know you can give land or a home directly to your church and avoid paying any capital gains tax while still getting a fair market value deduction? Then there’s “stuff”: you move it, you store it, you insure it, and you dust it. Perhaps you could give it? Most importantly, consider a sacrificial gift. Set aside funds you normally would have spent on something you can do without or even something you think you can’t.

NOW, DO!

Follow through! Faith without works is dead; we must set it in motion to produce its results. Making a commitment is about anticipating what God will do with what you give through your humility and obedience, not about how or how much you give. Your job is to ask, listen, and respond. His role is to bring seed to the one who would sow. He is faithful, and we are to likewise model that faithfulness.

A BIBLICAL GUIDE TO GIVING

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Scripture provides a general framework for understanding giving and the responsible stewardship of resources. It also reveals specific instructions, such as those employed by Paul in leading the early church. Scripture teaches that giving should be:

Personal and generous.  Mary of Bethany, sister of the recently resurrected Lazarus, relinquished a very expensive bottle of perfume in what Jesus commended as an overt act of worship. Her behavior evidenced a premeditated plan to give in a creative way that bestowed great honor and expressed thanksgiving to God. Don’t let fear of man, nor the reprisal of those not involved in your decision, hold you back from giving what God asks of you.

Voluntary and full of cheer.  Giving of a “free will” arises from hearts that are stirred to participate, to fuel momentum, to worship. Paul reminds the early church to “give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Spiritual joy prompts a desire to give much, despite natural circumstances of lack: “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”

Consistent and according to blessing.  Paul gave simple instructions to the church at Corinth. “Each of you is to set something aside and save in keeping with how he prospers,” he taught them, “so that no collections will need to be made when I come.” In his second letter to that same group, he exhorts them to remain steady. “Now finish the work,” he writes, “so that your eager willingness… may be matched by your completion… according to your means.”

Sacrificial.  King David declared, “I will not sacrifice that which costs me nothing.” So the real question is not if we bring a sacrifice, but rather when we do, at what cost will it be to our comfort, convenience, and control? What is the state of our heart in the process? Paul recognizes true sacrifice in the early believers at Corinth: “In the midst of a very severe trial they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”

CREATIVE WAYS TO GIVE

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Giving creatively doesn’t have to be complicated, or take a long time to put into play. Ponder the following suggestions that Impact has seen implemented in hundreds of programs, often resulting in unanticipated, faith-stirring generosity. Consider:

  1. Eliminating “extra” expenses or spending and redirecting those payments. Consider early pay-off of short-term debt (loans, credit cards, tuition, etc) and replace those debt payments with charitable donations.
  2. Selling off excess.  Releasing appreciated assets is often accompanied by the blessing of avoiding capital gains taxes on the sale of said asset.  Additionally, you may receive an income tax charitable deduction on the donation.
  3. Donating valuable “stuff.”   Sell it and give the proceeds directly to the church, or donate it and trust the church to liquidate it in the most beneficial fashion.  Someone in leadership might have a better connection, or potential sale outlet, than you do.
  4. Dedicating unexpected income.  Perhaps it’s in the form of a surprise bonus, a favorable commission, an inheritance, or an increase in salary.
  5. Re-prioritizing your budget.  An honest rearranging of what’s important typically reveals available funds.  Perhaps it’s a matter of giving up something in your current budget – a hobby, habit, or routine – and redirecting those monies permanently, or for a season.
  6. Exercising self-control.  Postponing a planned purchase, vacation, or investment will free up resources to support the current needs and opportunities as presented in the campaign.  God loves a cheerful giver, and a content heart in the midst of self-denial results in glory to God.

A point to ponder:  You may decide that you can give a certain amount monthly in equal increments but also periodically donate a lump sum. Offer a liquidated or donated asset in addition to your regular gift.

Finally, consider leaving a financial legacy as you have the means.  If you have never considered including the church in your will or future estate planning (such as a charitable remainder trust), this is a great time to initiate the process.  Many people may consider a gift or tithe to the church upon their death to fuel continued kingdom work after they are gone.  Although these gifts do not immediately benefit the church, they will have great repercussions on future church ministry.