Tips for Churches that Accept Donations of Goods

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Collecting goods for needy families is a great way for churches to contribute to their communities, form bonds between volunteers who manage the event, and establish links to local charities. A campaign may have modest goals, reaching out to members of a small congregation to collect specific types of items, or it may be an ongoing, routine process with a broad reach. Churches that are thinking about handling donations of goods should consider these tips:

  • Adopt a gift acceptance policy. It is a mistake to operate any charitable campaign without first giving thought to the potential problems that may arise and developing a policy that will guide decision making. By adopting a gift acceptance policy church leaders will have a chance to thoroughly examine their plans and protect the church from pitfalls.
  • Have an inventory plan. When it comes to asking for gifts of goods, there’s a lot to be said for the old adage about being careful what one wishes for. A donor might show up in the parking lot with a truck full of a deceased relative’s belongings. It’s important to have a plan for dealing with large volumes, furniture, and so forth. It’s also important to have a feel for how much inventorying the church plans to do.
  • Talk to your insurance company. It’s always a good idea to make sure that insurance will apply to any special program. Accepting donations may create risks that the church’s general liability insurance doesn’t cover. For example, if someone donates stolen property, the church may face a difficult legal circumstance that isn’t adequately covered by insurance.
  • Know where goods will go. Storing donated goods is expensive: it takes up otherwise useful space and imposes a burden on church staff who need to keep things clean and organized. Some churches may be comfortable operating as a distribution point for members of their community who can benefit from donated goods. But many will prefer to partner with a local charity that is organized to handle donations. If the plan is to accept goods on behalf of another organization, it’s essential that the church coordinate with the local charity. The charity’s gift policy and other practices should be taken into account during the campaign.

The Church Law Center of California provides legal counsel to churches throughout the state. If your church is thinking about holding a giving campaign we would be happy to help you work through the planning process. Call us at (949) 892-1221 or reach out to us through our contact page.

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