Worldwide evangelism and discipleship are part of our Foursquare DNA. Today, Foursquare leaders around the world minister to their communities in a variety of creative ways, including Bible distribution, Christian schools, medical care, agricultural training and provision of disaster relief necessities such as food, shelter, education, clothing and water. However, sending financial aid from other nations to support these activities has become a more challenging task in recent years.
Ever since the attack on New York’s World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 (9/11), national governments have steadily enacted new guidelines and regulations to monitor the flow of money across borders. Moreover, these regulations require faith-based organizations to provide reasonable assurance that all of the organization’s domestic and international operations are carried out ethically and do not provide any direct or indirect benefit to bad actors in other nations. The burden of proof falls to ministry leaders to demonstrate that all financial activity is directly tied to the ministry’s tax-exempt purpose.
These laws require ministers and ministries to be directly involved with the management of any funds they solicit from donors. A U.S. charity may not act merely as a conduit of funds for a foreign recipient because it would result in indirect contributions to a foreign organization or individuals who are separate legal entities. Therefore, when support funds are sent across borders to a foreign person or entity (even those in the global Foursquare family), the IRS requires these funds to be managed under a “grant” agreement.
The burden of proof falls to ministry leaders to demonstrate that all financial activity is directly tied to the ministry’s tax-exempt purpose.
What does the IRS qualify as a “grant?”
The IRS uses the term “grant” to describe any support, gift, transfer, disbursement, contribution, stipends, scholarships or monetary advance to a foreign person or organization. If your ministry sends funds or provides any services internationally, these requirements apply.
Foursquare Missions International (FMI) has established grantmaking relationships with many Foursquare national church movements around the world. Financial support routed through FoursquareMissions.org offers the following assurances:
- Funds are stewarded in accordance with substantiation requirements, counterterrorism measures and oversight rules outlined by the U.S. Treasury.
- Funds sent to all foreign partners are managed under legal grant agreements.
- FMI workers and NGO partners are accountable to ministry elders within the global Foursquare church.
- FMI has cultivated relationships and a global support network that can get support to regions of the world that are otherwise closed to the gospel.
Ministries that send direct financial support to a pastor or church outside the U.S. should carefully read this resource published by the Church Tax and Law Group, enlist legal help and find the additional resources or webinars offered by the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability (ECFA).
Disaster relief considerations during a pandemic
The ability to band together and provide aid to relieve human suffering caused by a natural or civil disaster or an emergency hardship is one of the most significant benefits that denominations offer to member churches. Administering disaster relief through a global network of contacts is an area where the Foursquare family is clearly “better together.” Foursquare Disaster Relief is equipped to efficiently deliver humanitarian aid to most regions of the world.
As with international grantmaking, the administration of foreign aid for disaster relief has some specific rules that churches must follow. These rules are outlined in IRS Publication 3833 and describe groups of individuals who are eligible to receive assistance from a tax-exempt charitable organization as “charitable classes.” A charitable class must be large or generic enough to demonstrate that aid is distributed equitably and not simply benefiting a targeted group of insiders.
A charitable organization that is distributing short-term emergency assistance would only be expected to maintain records showing the type of assistance provided, criteria for defining the charitable class, date, place, estimated number of victims and the dollar value of the aid provided. Churches distributing longer-term aid are required to follow the more robust grantmaking procedures outlined above. Church leaders are encouraged to leverage the family connections through Foursquare Disaster Relief rather than going at it alone.
The best way for Foursquare churches to support FMI workers and projects
Your church doesn’t need to send a check. In fact, please don’t send checks! Payments by check are slow, less secure and more prone to human error. The fastest, safest and most efficient way for a Foursquare church to send any form of financial support, including extension tithe, disaster relief or missionary support, is to use the “payments” tab under your church’s profile in The Foursquare Hub. All you need is the church’s bank account and routing number, and you can process an electronic check instantly through The Hub.
Technology to help navigate the labyrinth of financial and legal requirements:
International payments with built-in vetting against the global terror watchlist
Software that can help you to gather receipts and submit reimbursements from anywhere in the world
A church-centric accounting software with built-in tools to track donor-restricted funds
Prepaid reloadable debit cards with strong accountability tools that can be used in accordance with Foursquare’s policy on electronic card payments
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