Church Benevolence: Public or Private?

Churches have always been active in benevolence, doing acts of kindness or compassion for those in need. However, care must be taken to ensure that such ministry is in compliance with Canada Revenue Agency guidelines.
The Canadian Income Tax Act requires a charity to use all its resources, receipted or not receipted, for charitable purposes – purposes that benefit the public. Benevolence funds must be used to help the poor and needy in the community and not just the church members. It is not appropriate for a church to be involved in private benevolence or to act as a channel for private benevolence. Gifts received by a church for benevolence must be for the church’s program and use and should not be designated for a specific individual or family.

Your church should have a policy in place that governs benevolent ministries and guards against such activity becoming private benevolence. Often the emotion attached to a particular situation governs the action of the body and puts the church at risk of engaging in activity that is not in line with her policies or charitable purpose. 

Churches should consider writing a clear benevolence fund policy to help with this ministry of the church. This policy would include information on the following:

  • How will your church assess the need?

  • Who is eligible to receive such funding?

  • What kind of support will you offer?

  • What kind of support will you not offer?

  • What will the priorities be?

  • How will you document the need and the action?

  • Who will administer benevolent funds?

Download a sample policy here, that may be helpful as you develop ministry guidelines for your church in this area.

Probably the best way our CNBC churches can help is through Canadian Global Response (CGR). Please contact CGR,, for ways you or your church might be involved in the relief efforts.