The Win-Win of the Charitable Remainder Trust

I don’t want this to sound like a gimmick or some slick way to raise money from gullible elderly church members. That is not what a Charitable Remainder Trust is. The Charitable Remainder Trust can be an wonderful part of a person’s retirement/estate plan. What makes it so wonderful? Here’s a list:

  1. Guaranteed Income for Life: This will supplement social security and pension income. Rule of thumb is that you will receive 5% back on any assets you entrust…for life…and it will likely grow.
  2. Protection of Assets: No one wants to see the financial assets that they accumulate during their lifetime dwindle away paying for nursing home care. These Trusts are irrevocable which protects them legally.
  3. Lowering your Taxes: I don’t understand all this part, but it’s pretty clear that you will be lowering your tax bill considerably.
  4. Supporting the Charities you Love: Many people fail to do any estate planning. After you pass, the assets of the Trust will go to benefit the charities of your choice.

Check out the video below:

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Year Round Stewardship Plan

Hopefully this is timely and helpful for any church struggling financially. Here’s the bad news: There is no silver bullet when it comes to raising up generous givers. If your church is struggling financially, there is no quick fix. There is a strong spiritual element connected to our relationship with money…and practically nothing happens quickly in the spiritual world. Even when you first came to faith, for how many years were people praying for you and planting seeds in your life?

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything…just don’t expect an immediate turnaround. First of all, there needs to be the right conditions within the church to grow generous givers. Has leadership proven themselves trustworthy? Do they have a clear idea of where the church needs to go (i.e. their mission)?

The next thing is to give attention to these six areas: 1)Engaging; 2)Inspiring; 3)Teaching; 4)Asking; 5)Thanking; and 6)Reporting. There’s no fixed schedule. All areas need attention…especially the areas where you are weakest. In this webinar, Sheri Meister and I share the principles of each area as well as some practical steps the church can take.

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Rebecca Trefz and I did this video some time ago. While a lot of church leaders want to know where apportionments go, this video actually gets at the heart of what apportionment giving is all about. I figure that folks could just watch the budget video or read the budget if they want to know where the money goes. I think there are some more fundamental questions that need to be answered first though. If you want to have a simple video to share with your congregation or leadership, this is for you.

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Learning to say “Thank you” with the IRS in mind

What’s the worst thing that could happen if I don’t keep the IRS in mind when issuing Giving Statements or something to acknowledge gifts? Well…the IRS could disallow the donors charitable tax deduction which would lead them to have to pay more taxes. This would probably lead to a ticked off donor who will likely share this with other donors. You’ve basically discouraged anyone from wanting to give too generously to your church.

It really isn’t that hard to keep the IRS happy. All you need to do is properly document the gift (what did they give, who did they give it too, when did they give it) and include a simple statement that the donor didn’t receive any goods or services in exchange for the gift except for intangible religious benefits. You can sneak these element in and still have a nice “Thank you.”

Check out the video below:

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Preaching on giving IS NOT like Peeing on an Electric Fence

I decided that every tenth post/video would be on Stewardship Education. I realize that the title of this post and the picture probably don’t make you think, “I bet this an educational video.” One thing I run into over and over again is pastors and church leaders being afraid of preaching on money, giving, and stewardship. It’s almost always churches that struggle financially that are afraid to talk about giving…because it might hurt their finances. You never hear this from a church that is financially strong. They don’t see the connection between their financial struggles and their avoidance of teaching on money and giving.

I’m convinced that these leaders, while trying not to appear greedy or money grubbing, are robbing their church. They are robbing their churches in two ways: 1)their church will be robbed of the resources to better carry out the mission; and 2)their people will be robbed of much joy and closeness to Jesus that comes from being able to trust the Lord with your finances. This video delves into it more:

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How to win as a Finance Committee

This was from a training that I did in the Fall of 2019 for United Methodist churches in Southeastern South Dakota. While most finance committees focus on reviewing reports and looking at cutting expenses, some are making a huge impact in helping their churches succeed. They are growing the church’s income, improving operations/decision making, and much more.

How are they making such an impact? The gist is, they staff the finance committee with the right people and set goals. It’s not that complex. I also give some ideas on how to fix the income problem, reporting, auditing, and budgeting. Enjoy!

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Unrestricted, Designated, and Restricted Gifts

Are donor-restricted gifts a blessing or a curse? Often they are a blessing…especially when the church’s leadership is trying to raise money for a cause or project. A lot of churches take special offerings for specific missions (e.g. Mission of the Month). Others raise money for capital projects or to retire debt. But what about those gifts with strings attached that we aren’t asking for? What about those strings church boards put on certain unrestricted gifts?

The less strings, the better…as long as you have quality leadership. My general strategy is to use up any funds with strings attached first. The more freedom our leaders have, usually the better. They know the challenges and opportunities more than anyone else. I can already hear someone saying, “But what about accountability?” Donor restricted gifts are trying to control the leadership’s decisions…not hold them responsible (i.e. accountable) for those decisions. You hold them accountable by confronting poor decisions…usually through the Staff-Parish Relations Committee…and maybe voting for them to no longer be in leadership.

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