Intended use of the general Ward Missionary category

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Postby lajackson » Sun May 29, 2011 12:28 pm

funaddict wrote:I've never been completely comfortable with the Stake sweeping surplus "Ward Missionary" funds. When members of the ward donate to the Ward Missionary category, I feel that they have an expectation that that money is specifically going to assist missionaries (and their families who are supporting them) from their own ward. Otherwise, they would donate to the 'General Missionary" category if they want their donations to support the missionary effort in general.

There are two "missionary" funds. The Ward missionary fund is used to support missionaries in the US and Canada that are on the equalized program where the same amount (currently $400) is used each month to support those missionaries. The General missionary fund is used to support missionaries throughout the world from countries that are not on the equalized program.

So it is not really true that the Ward missionary fund supports missionaries from the local ward and the General missionary fund supports other missionaries in general.

And the stake does not sweep the funds for stake use. Church Headquarters asks the stake to collect excess Ward missionary funds and send them to ChQ for use within the Ward missionary fund (equalized US and Canada) system. This allows the Church to maintain the current monthly rate longer and make more effective use of these missionary funds.

Finally, while it is nice to think I am supporting a specific missionary when I contribute to the Ward missionary fund, this is not the case either. All donations to the Church's missionary fund become the property of the Church to be used at the Church's sole discretion in its missionary program. This is a very important statement with grave tax implications for the Church in the US.

Yes, we do ask the family of a missionary to contribute a certain amount each month to the Ward missionary fund to fund the Church's missionary work. When the family cannot, we ask others to help. Strictly speaking, however, the contribution is a contribution either to the equalized Ward missionary fund or to the General missionary fund, and not for a specific missionary.

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Postby funaddict » Sun May 29, 2011 1:07 pm

Thanks for clearing this up. Although since I, the finance clerk in charge of processing these donations and accounting for them, didn't understand this, do you think that the membership of the church does? I still think that when someone choose to donate to "Ward Missionary" vs. "General Missionary" they are expecting that money to go to those missionaries whom they have watched grow up, perhaps along with thier own kids, or taught in primary or mutual, and want to help those missionaries personally.

So, again, if a ward member wants to contribute to a specific missionary, can they specify the money to go to that missionary's subcategory, and not have it swept out, even if it exceeds the 3 month surplus? Say a member wants to donate $2000 toward a certain missionary. This exceeds the $1200 allowed to remain in that missionary's subcategory if and when the money is swept. Since it was specifically allotted, can it remain there above and beyond the $1200 allowed?

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Postby Mikerowaved » Sun May 29, 2011 2:11 pm


When I was a finance clerk, we would take "Ward Missionary" donations from obvious parents and relatives of a missionary and put them into that missionary's sub-account. Also those who wrote a specific missionary's name on the slip. With that said, there was no guarantee to them, or anyone else, that excess funds couldn't be used to assist another missionary, or be sent in to the church for that matter. As required by the tax code, once donated, they lost control over the ultimate direction of those funds.

As far as "sweeping" goes, as Brother Jackson pointed out, there is no automatic sweeping of the ward missionary fund by the stake or anyone else. They don't know each missionary's situation. One might have funds prepaid for an entire year or mission. I've had two experiences with my stake that might help illustrate this.

In the first one, my bishop was actually approached by the stake asking if he had any specific needs in his ward missionary balance. They had a surplus in the stake and wanted to see if other wards had any specific needs before mailing the excess to CHQ. As it turned out, our ward missionary fund did have a need, so we arranged to accept a check.

A couple of years later, after several of our missionaries returned home, an auditor pointed out that we were carrying a larger than normal balance for the amount of missionaries we had out and suggested I cut the stake a check for any excess we could spare. The bishop and I looked at the up and coming young men and decided we could spare quite a portion of the funds, holding back only what we needed.

I hope you can see, there is no cut-and-dry solution or percentage that allows for an automatic sweep to take place. Instead it's a careful assessment of needs done mostly by the bishop under the direction of the stake.
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Postby ckmcdonald » Mon May 30, 2011 6:55 am

We had an experience in our ward a while back the demonstrated policies concerning the Ward Missionary Fund.

We had a missionary leave and the parents paid for the entire mission with one check the first month ($9,600). It wasn't long before the Stake started sniffing around and requested some of these funds. The Bishop explained that it was in a particular missionaries subcategory and the Stake left it alone. I've seen something similar happen several times, with smaller piece of advanced payments. Although out of line with advanced payment policy, the Stake will typically leave funds tagged to a certain missionary alone.

Then, about 3 months later the missionary (who paid in full) fell ill and had to come home to recuperate. Long story short, the missionary was never able to return to the field. Donated funds are non-refundable so when it became clear the missionary would not return the parents were asked what they'd like done with the funds. They chose to put them in the general Ward Missionary Fund. We had no immediate needs for the funds and a short time later the Stake sniff them out and took the majority of them.

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Postby aebrown » Mon May 30, 2011 7:00 am

ckmcdonald wrote: Although out of line with advanced payment policy, the Stake will typically leave funds tagged to a certain missionary alone.

I don't see any evidence that advance payments are "out of line." Every letter we have gotten from the Presidency of the Seventy regarding excess ward missionary funds has specifically mentioned advance payments and recommended that we consider those as we calculate the amount of the surplus to send in to CHQ.

Of course, donors who pay in advance run the risk of the exact situation you mentioned, where a missionary terminates the mission early and the donation is not refundable, but that's the donor's choice -- it's not a policy problem.
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