Q&A: Can restricted funds be used for anything but their intended purpose?

My church currently has a large surplus in its benevolence budget but a shortfall in its missions budget. The board is planning to transfer a substantial amount from benevolence to missions. But isn't it illegal to use restricted funds for anything other than their intended purpose?

Every state except Pennsylvania has adopted a version of the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA), a model law that addresses, among other things, investment of assets by nonprofit organizations and the handling of restricted funds. Each state's version can vary a bit (it was up to each state's legislature to determine whether to modify the model law).

UPMIFA contains language that addresses what to do legally when an organization has determined that it is "unlawful, impracticable, impossible to achieve, or wasteful" to carry out a donor restriction for a fund covered by the law. It might be somewhat challenging to prove that your church meets one of these four criteria with respect to its benevolence fund. It is one thing to deal with a building fund where the building project is canceled, but the needy are always among us.

Log In For Full Access

Interested in becoming a member? Learn more.

Posted: November 22, 2016
View All
from our store
Church Finance

Church Finance

Learn about budgeting, financial reporting, tax compliance, insurance coverage, and more.
Benevolence Fund Basics

Benevolence Fund Basics

Help your church develop a tax-compliant benevolence ministry.
Best Practices for Receiving Charitable Contributions

Best Practices for Receiving Charitable Contributions

Practical help and clear understanding on issues surrounding charitable contributions.

ChurchSalary

ChurchSalary

Let ChurchSalary do the work. Get personalized compensation reports for staff and pastors.