Non-Refundable Donations/Accounts

Discuss questions around local unit policies for budgeting, reconciling, etc. This forum should not contain specific financial or membership information.
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gregwanderson
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Postby gregwanderson » Sun Nov 14, 2010 6:31 pm

The problem with the Jones family making a payment directly to the Smith family is that you run into a very messy situation involving the "charitable donation" situation. It would be much better (and it's apparently acceptable) to change the donation(s) made by the Smith family so that $300 of it becomes Tithing or Fast Offering (or some other charitable donation) instead of "Ward Missionary." Consult the Smith family but leave the Jones folks out of it. It's none of their business and it doesn't need to be.

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Postby jonesrk » Mon Nov 15, 2010 10:13 am

funaddict wrote: Another missionary gave his farewell talk today, (Nov. 14) but I noticed his $400 was already taken out on Nov. 4.

That is standard. The first payment is taken out for the month they are leaving. The payments are taken out the first part of the month like all the rest, even if they aren't entering the MTC until the end of the month.

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Re: Non-Refundable Donations/Accounts

Postby lisavawdrey » Sat Jul 20, 2013 1:59 am

My husband had someone tell him today that they had prepaid their entire mission beforehand and then didn't end up going out and when he tried to get his money back he was told he wouldn't be reimbursed is this true?

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aebrown
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Re: Non-Refundable Donations/Accounts

Postby aebrown » Sat Jul 20, 2013 5:32 am

lisavawdrey wrote:My husband had someone tell him today that they had prepaid their entire mission beforehand and then didn't end up going out and when he tried to get his money back he was told he wouldn't be reimbursed is this true?

The Tithing and Other Offerings donation slip makes it clear that "all donations become the Church's property and will be used at the Church's sole discretion." It is the longstanding policy of the Church that donations cannot be refunded. In particular, missionary donations cannot be refunded, since doing so would mean it's not really a charitable donation, and would put at risk the tax deductibility of all missionary donations.

Note, however, that although donations cannot be refunded, they can be recategorized. So if a donation is not needed for missionary purposes anymore, its category could be changed to tithing or fast offering, or some other charitable donation category.

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Re: Non-Refundable Donations/Accounts

Postby gregwanderson » Sat Jul 20, 2013 3:45 pm

From the way you described it, lisavawdrey, the donor is not happy with the "no refunds" policy. And, since you used the word "reimbursed," it seems that we're not on the same page about the church's concept of how missionary funds work.

Let's deal with the problem of the unhappy donor first. Considering that the ward missionary fund (in the USA) would be charged $9,600 if someone is a full-time missionary for 24 months, I presume you mean that a young man put in that same amount before serving. Usually, a family that can afford to donate that much all-at-once will be more wealthy than the average donor, so it's conceivable that the parents would pay that much in tithing within a one or two-year period anyway. The donor should request that the donation category be changed from "Ward Mission Fund" to "Tithing" and then not pay any additional tithing for a while "until it all balances out." The donor could also request that the money be divided between multiple charitable categories to include Fast Offering and Perpetual Education Fund, for example.

If, however, this is a young donor who worked three summers as a teenager to earn that money and it's effectively his "life savings" and it's financially devastating to have donated that money, then I would suggest that he work with his Bishop to request a refund. We have seen examples on this forum of members who mistakenly donated more than they intended to and it was financially devastating. Like this example where someone donated 100% tithing one month instead of just 10%. There is a chance that, on a case-by-case basis, such a refund would be approved (…and we've read about examples of that in these forums).

The other issue is how the church uses missionary funds. Again, the ward mission fund is responsible for $400 per month per missionary. But I suspect there isn't an area in the whole world where the church actually spends exactly $400 per missionary per month to support missionaries. It's an arbitrary number. That's why it's charitable… because the donor has no control over that money once it goes to the ward fund and the ward has no control over it after it's taken by Church Headquarters each month. If I had a son on a mission and it cost exactly $400 per month to support him and I paid that exact amount then the tax authorities would take issue with the idea that my donation is "charitable." Instead, the funding for full-time missionaries is far more complex than that and, within the charitable structure, it works out.

When you use the word "reimbursed" it makes it sound like a donor is buying something specific with their donations. This is not the case. Your donation is used by the church as the church's authorities see fit. You will not "receive what you paid for" from the church and there is, therefore, nothing to "refund" when you don't get what you paid for. The tax statement you receive from the church each year specifies that you received no specific, tangible, material benefits as a result of your donation.

But this is yet another reminder that it is not a good idea to donate to the ward missionary fund in advance. Bishopric members and clerks should advise donors carefully about this before blindly accepting a $9,600 contribution to the ward mission fund. (In other discussions on this forum we learn that wards aren't even supposed to have excess missionary funds for more than a few months anyway.) There are countless reasons why a missionary might not complete the full 24 months of a mission. (Did you ever know anyone who was injured playing sports at the MTC and, thanks to necessary surgeries and physical therapy, had to leave missionary service for several months? Did you ever know anyone who, in that situation, resumed college and/or got married and never went back to being a full-time missionary? There was no scandal but, nevertheless, they didn't serve for very long.)

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Re: Non-Refundable Donations/Accounts

Postby lisavawdrey » Sun Jul 21, 2013 7:25 am

Thank you for the replies. I have a better understanding of how it all works. And now get why it's not so easy to refund this money. Since I don't know this guy personally, maybe he did work on getting it back through the bishop, if he was in dire need of it. I was just curious about it. And your replies put it in a better light now. BTW, have any of you seen this upfront donation for a person's entire mission before? Or is it pretty obsolete?

Thanks again!

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Re: Non-Refundable Donations/Accounts

Postby gregwanderson » Sun Jul 21, 2013 9:06 am

Yes, I did know a family that donated $400 each month when Son #1 was on a mission and, when he finished, they kept donating about $200 per month in anticipation of Son #2 going on a mission (so that the monthly hit to their finances would be smaller during the second son's mission). In the end, it all worked out and the second son served a mission as expected.

But this is tricky for the ward financial clerk to track. The software currently used for tracking ward finances cannot account for donations to cover the obligation for a missionary who hasn't even received his call yet. So the clerk will have to track that in a separate spreadsheet or some other manner. Meanwhile, the stake leaders do regularly check the account balances in the wards and they will notice when the ward has "more than they need" in the missionary fund. They will ask the ward to give that money to some other ward that really "needs" it or to send it to the church's general missionary fund. The stake leaders don't know from the bank statement that some family is donating "in advance" and if the ward clerk isn't paying close-enough attention he'll give that money to another unit… and the family's "missionary savings account" that they were trying to have within the ward's mission fund is gone.

I'm also aware of a situation where a missionary's grandfather donated about $2500 at the start of the mission but then that missionary was injured in the MTC, came home and never returned to complete the mission. So that money just eventually went to the general missionary fund under orders from the stake.

It's better if the donor sets the money aside in a regular savings account of their own and then draws from it when it's time to make donations to the church.

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Re: Non-Refundable Donations/Accounts

Postby funaddict » Sun Jul 21, 2013 2:30 pm

There are ways a missionary could recover an overpayment of funds. If "Missionary A" overpaid by say, $400, that money could be reassigned to "missionary B" who is still in the field. Then Missionary B's family could give $400 to Missionary A.

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Re: Non-Refundable Donations/Accounts

Postby russellhltn » Sun Jul 21, 2013 2:45 pm

funaddict wrote:There are ways a missionary could recover an overpayment of funds. If "Missionary A" overpaid by say, $400, that money could be reassigned to "missionary B" who is still in the field. Then Missionary B's family could give $400 to Missionary A.

I'd consider that ill-advised. For starters, there's no paper trail for "Family B" to take a tax write-off if they ever got audited.

Re-classifying is much cleaner.
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Re: Non-Refundable Donations/Accounts

Postby russellhltn » Sun Jul 21, 2013 2:48 pm

lisavawdrey wrote:BTW, have any of you seen this upfront donation for a person's entire mission before?

The only time I've seen that is when the missionary was being supported by the stake. They'd cut the ward a check for the year.

Of course in that situation, if anything happened, the stake wouldn't have a problem getting it's money back.
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