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Frequently Asked Questions

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod   •   Mission Advancement


I heard LCMS missionaries have to raise all of their own funding on their own. Is that true and, if so, why?

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  • The statement as presented (“missionaries have to raise all of their own funding on their own”) is inaccurate and, unfortunately, causes a great deal of confusion.

    As with everything the LCMS does, or indeed any congregation does, the work of missionaries is made possible by people who cheerfully give. There is currently no other funding mechanism besides voluntary donations. It would be more accurate for a missionary, for example, to say, “My work is entirely dependent on God’s people joyfully and voluntarily donating as a part of their personal stewardship.”

    The words “own funding” could be an attempt to convey that each missionary or missionary position has a unique LCMS account and the donations credited to that account may only be used to fund that specific position. The LCMS, operating under the regulations for good financial accounting established by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, does accept gifts and offerings from contributors who wish to support one or more specific missionaries. It also maintains accounts where donations can be used only to fund missionaries, with the selection of the missionary receiving funds being made by the LCMS rather than the contributor.

    The words “on their own” is also inaccurate. While it is true that our missionaries actively communicate with God’s people about their calling and work, and will even travel the U.S. to give presentations to those interested in Synod’s mission efforts, missionaries are not raising funds “all…on their own.” The more accurate way to interpret such travel is for the purpose of raising awareness of LCMS mission efforts (helping God’s people be more conscience of the good efforts taking place on their behalf) and providing direct accountability for the donations given to support LCMS missionaries. Nothing is better than being face-to-face with the missionary who is blessed by those donations and is able to answer questions directly.

    But when it comes to inviting and facilitating donations, staff in LCMS Mission Advancement — including Mission Central in Mapleton, Iowa — can and DO make every effort to connect interested individuals, families, groups, and congregations to our dear missionaries through personal or group contribution. Mission Advancement personnel (like Gary Thies) are authorized to travel and give presentations about LCMS mission work and missionaries, joyfully doing so when invited. Thanks be to God, missionaries do not have to do all the work (which has a greater meaning than just fundraising) “on their own.” In fact, the primary ‘person’ doing the heavy lifting of fundraising is - the Holy Spirit.

    We invite anyone who hears that “missionaries have to raise all their own funding on their own” or “I have to raise all my own funding (by myself)” to contact LCMS Mission Advancement if the response here is not sufficient to address their concerns.

    Learn more about the LCMS Network Supported Missionary (NSM) model and how LCMS missionaries and mercy workers are financed.


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What (Who) is “Mission Advancement”?

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  • Mission Advancement (including Mission Central in Mapleton, Iowa) is a stand-alone unit/department of the LCMS. The staff in Mission Advancement serve and support those who voluntarily contribute time, talent and financial resources to the mission and work of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and connect to people willing to consider contributing to the Synod’s stated mission. Mission Advancement’s overarching goal is to carry out its assigned duties in the manner that is most faithful to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, and respective of both the Donor Bill of Rights and a Christ-centered Code of Ethics. Because the primary “customer” or “client” is the current or potential contributor, Mission Advancement is a programmatic unit/department under the supervision and oversight of the Synod’s Chief Mission Officer, per Synod Bylaw (Handbook, 2019 edition, pg. 121).


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How much of my gift will go to what I want to support (project, missionary, program, etc.), and how much is used for “overhead”?

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  • We share your desire to see as much of every donation going to share Christ’s love and mercy with others. We also have a strong desire to fulfill the legal/regulatory, ethical and moral obligations we have to those who partner with us. Fulfilling those obligations means the LCMS bears some necessary costs, which must somehow be financed.

    In 2016, the LCMS Board of Directors established a policy that sets a minimum percentage for each charitable gift that must be allocated to directly fulfill donor intent ("ministry"), and a percentage that sets a ceiling for how much can be expended to engage and serve those who make charitable donations to the LCMS (the latter is our definition of “overhead”). The policy gives the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) authority to set the percentage ratio between ministry and overhead based on data drawn from the Synod’s audited financial statements.

    For the LCMS current fiscal year ending June 30, notwithstanding any exceptions for a special campaign authorized by the Board of Directors, the Board endorses a determination from the CFO that no less than 89.5% of any gift will be used to fulfill the purpose the donor intends to support, and not more than 12.5% of any gift can be reinvested back into our relationship with faithful contributors and engaging new contributors. No portion of any donor-restricted gift may be used for costs unrelated to the purpose the donor intends to support or for expenses that must, under Board policy or Constitution/Convention mandate, be funded by unrestricted resources supplied primarily by member congregation worship offerings. If there are additional questions about this topic, please contact the executive director of LCMS Mission Advancement.

    The maximum ceiling the Board would ever allow across the board or for a special campaign is 33% — the limit of “prudence” defined by several donor advocacy/protection groups like the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator and Guidestar.

    For more information about this allocation ratio policy and its impact, please contact the executive director of LCMS Mission Advancement at 800-248-1930, ext. 1315.


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How does the LCMS use my personal contact information?

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  • As of July 2014, LCMS Mission Advancement established a policy that prohibits the direct sale, rental or exchange of donor data to non-profit organizations outside of Synod, Inc. Please see LCMS Mission Advancement’s (forthcoming) version of the Donor Bill of Rights, which specifically addresses Synod’s intent to use donor names and contact information.

    From time to time, LCMS Mission Advancement will partner with other Lutheran organizations to share additional giving opportunities our contributors might want to learn about. These organizations may include LCMS universities, seminaries and Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs).

    In these partnership mailing instances, your contact information is NOT shared with the partner organization. Through a formal agreement (contract) written to protect personal contributor information, the partner organization will send their contributors a letter on our behalf. The LCMS will then reciprocate, sending our contributors a letter on their behalf. These partnership mailings are one-time and conditional.

    If you do not wish to participate in this kind of activity, or would like to update your LCMS donor communications plan, please contact LCMS Mission Advancement at 888-930-4438 or We are glad to honor your privacy.


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Do you store my credit or debit card information when I make an online gift?

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  • Partially. We do not receive enough personal financial information about you and the card you use to risk an unauthorized transaction being made against your card

    The LCMS does NOT receive, cannot access and thus could not store: the full credit/debit card account number; the type of card used (Visa, Master Card, American Express, Discover Card), the expiration date of the card used, or the CSC code (card security code). The forms we use transmit payment information directly to Blackbaud Payment Services, the vendor we’ve selected to process an authorized donation by credit or debit card. Blackbaud Payment Services has access to the merchant services system common to business and nonprofits for credit and debit card transactions.

    All data you provide is entered into an encrypted form (look for the URL to begin with “https://” not “http://”) and transmitted in an encrypted form directly to Blackbaud Payment Services, not to the LCMS.  Our vendor uses the same security protocols and procedural standards used by more familiar payment companies such as PayPal.

    From our processing vendor (Blackbaud Payment Services) we DO receive and securely store the minimum amount of information required to accurately record and receipt your donation under IRS regulations and other laws, and to help us resolve any donor services issues. The only information we receive is your: name (as you provided it in the donation form), the mailing/billing address you provided on the donation form (to ensure you and not someone else receives credit in our records for the donation), the amount of your donation, any restrictions placed on the use of the gift, your telephone number (to use in the unlikely event there is a problem), your e-mail address (so that the e-receipt can be sent to your preferred e-mail account), the last four digits of the credit/debit card you used and a unique transaction code for the specific donation.

    We believe the approach we’ve taken to receive donations by credit or debit card offers industry standard protections on your personal financial information, and can be trusted to place appropriate privacy controls between you and the LCMS. Contact us at 888-930-4438 if you want to know more about the systems, policies and procedures we use to protect you and your privacy.


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Do you accept donations from digital wallets?

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  • Yes, those with digital wallets who wish to donate can use Visa Checkout, Masterpass, and Apple Pay on any of our main site donation forms; however, our text-to-give system (GiveSmart/MobileCause) does not currently support donating by digital wallet.

    We are currently unable to set up recurring gifts using debits to digital wallet and encourage those who desire automatic recurring giving support to contact Mission Advancement.

    Note: The Apple Pay button will only appear for donors who are using a compatible Apple device on which Apple Pay is set up.

    Wallet Payment Options


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Can I update my credit card information online for a recurrent (sustaining) gift or pledge payment?

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  • In short, you cannot. Because we do not receive, access or store your credit card information (see the FAQ above), we do not have an established process by which anyone can opt to enter and submit their credit card information online. Should your credit card information change, please call our toll-free Donor Care Line at 888-930-4438 as soon as possible to avoid a lapse in your recurring gift payments.

    Concerning pledges, we are unable to provide pledge set up or management via If you wish to set up a pledge to support the work of a missionary, please contact the Senders Coordinator at 314-996-1046.


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Will the LCMS allow donations to be made using my PayPal account?

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  • PayPalAnswer: Yes. We continue to move that direction. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey (2018), contributors who used our text-to-donate option — hosted by MobileCause — to support LCMS Disaster Response were provided the option of using PayPal as a test of that system’s integration with our accounting, banking and donation record-keeping systems.

    In 2019, we extended the PayPal option into six additional, most significant giving opportunities: Together As Synod (Unrestricted), the Global Mission Fund, LCMS World Relief and Human Care, the LCMS Joint Seminary Fund, International Mission (Where Needed Most) and National Mission (Where Needed Most).

    On each of these seven donation pages, look for a banner under the photo that says “Donate with PayPal”.

    Clicking the banner will take you to the MobileCause form that has the PayPal donation option, selected as the default. You can also switch to “Pay with a Card” if you want to use a different credit or debit card than your preferred PayPal card.

    Extending this structure to other opportunities (specific missionaries, projects, programs, restricted disaster funds like “flood” or “tornado,” etc.) is largely based on contributor interest and activity.

    The LCMS currently offers over 800 giving opportunities, not all with an online donation credit/debit card option. Future expansion of the PayPal option will progress as contributor interest and response dictates.

    PayPal is a partner with Blackbaud — the company we use to provide donor support systems — in providing nonprofit donation options. MobileCause is a trusted provider of online and text-to-give services that are PCI compliant.

    As we continue to examine the integration options, know that the forms and processes we currently use (including the use of Blackbaud Merchant Services and MobileCause) meet these same industry PCI standards as PayPal and other well-known trusted financial services providers.


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What is the LCMS tax identification number?

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  • Answer: The tax identification number (also called an EIN) for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122 is:


    We are a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization under the Internal Revenue Service code.


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What reassurance can you provide that the LCMS will use my donation for the purpose I intend?

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  • It is in our best interest to abide by donor intent(!). We understand that future donations hinge on trust between donors and us as the recipient, and the redirection of any donation without the knowledge and consent of the donor represents a breach of that trust.

    The LCMS abides by the ALDE Donor Bill of Rights and ALDE Code of Ethical Principles and Practices (Association of Lutheran Development Executives), and the AFP Code of Ethical Standards and AFP: A Donor Bill of Rights (Association of Fundraising Professionals), which include commitments to honor donor intent. The LCMS is also audited annually to ensure compliance with nonprofit generally accepted accounting principles, which includes ensuring we have honored donor intent under Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) regulations.

    The bottom line: If we are unable to utilize a donation according to the restrictions imposed by a donor, we will be forthright in stating so up front. We will explain our position as clearly as possible. We will present alternate uses in an attempt to find a use that is mutually-beneficial and agreeable to both parties. Failing at that, we will decline the gift, return the gift (uncashed check), or execute a refund of the donation (cashed check, credit card, etc.).


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What is a “tribute” (memorial or honorarium) gift?

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  • Answer: A “tribute” (memorial/honorarium) gift is a donation which specifically remembers or acknowledges someone other than the donor. These kinds of gifts are made on special occasion, like a birthday, anniversary or wedding; or in memory of someone a loved one who has been called from this earthly life.

    The LCMS will notify the individual honored, or the closest relative (spouse, children, etc.) of the deceased being memorialized when the donor provides the relevant information (name, address, city, state, zip, etc.).


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Will I receive a tax receipt for my online donation?

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  • Answer: When you give online, an electronic confirmation acknowledgment is automatically sent to the email address you provide in the giving form. For contributions where no goods or services were received in return, the acknowledgment serves as your tax receipt.

    If you wish to receive an official LCMS tax-deductible gift receipt, simply call Mission Advancement at 888-930-4438. Online gifts will also be reported to donors on the year-end summary statement of donations, typically mailed in mid- to late-February.

    In certain situations, the LCMS is prohibited by IRS regulations from acknowledging a donation as a qualified tax-deductible gift. These situations are outlined in IRS Publication 526 and typically involve donations that do not directly benefit the budgeted work of the LCMS or its programs. Online donation options are consistently tax-deductible.


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Is my online gift safe and secure?

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  • Answer: We take information security very seriously and make every reasonable effort to ensure that your online transactions at our website are safe.

    The forms we use capture and transmit personal and financial data directly to our credit/debit card processing company (Blackbaud Payment Services) using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption to protect information you may submit on our site. SSL is the industry standard protocol.

    When making an online donation, check to make sure the donation form web address, or URL, begins with “https” which indicates you are entering data into a secure, encrypted form. We do not receive detailed information from Blackbaud Payment Services about the card you use that would allow a person to initiate unauthorized transactions.

    We do receive and store in a secure environment those pieces of information required to accurately record (credit) your donation, issue you an IRS-compliant deductible gift receipt, and perform any additional donor-care that may be necessary or helpful.

    Read more about our Privacy Policy.


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What is a “security code”?

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  • Answer: A security code is requested and required when completing an online donation form. A security code is a feature on most credit cards to help secure and validate online credit card transactions.

    A security code is a three or four-digit number that usually appears on the back of the card on or near the signature block. American Express card users will find it on the front of the card.

    The security code is not the raised account number on the card. It is typically printed on the card and appears as the last three or four digits after your account number. The security code verifies that you have the card in your possession while making a transaction.

    Visa, MasterCard, Discover

    American Express®

    This piece of information is required in our online donation forms to ensure that the individual completing the form is in possession of the actual credit card, to prevent a hacker from using the online donation form to harvest valid credit card numbers by entering randomly generated 16-digit numbers, or similar fraudulent activities.


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How do I put the LCMS, or one of its ministry areas, in my will or part of my estate plan?

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  • Answer: We recommend working with our Gift Planning staff and your attorney to develop or update a charitable giving plan that meets your long-term financial goals and estate planning needs.

    For a simple will, a statement like the following is almost always sufficient:

    I bequeath (percentage of my estate) to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, Missouri 63122.

    The staff of Mission Advancement can recommend additional wording to direct an estate gift to a specific ministry or program area, or a specific use that fulfills your intent. We commend unrestricted or other ‘where needed most’ types of estate gifts rather than named programs, as programs and ministry names may change or even end over time.

    At LCMS the Gift Planning staff will work with you to develop a charitable giving plan that meets your long-term financial goals and estate planning needs. Learn more about Gift Planning.


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Is LCMS World Relief and Human Care the same thing as Lutheran World Relief? Is LCMS World Mission the same thing as Lutheran World Missions?

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  • Answer: In both cases, no.

    LCMS World Relief and Human Care is a giving opportunity with its roots and legacy going back to the days of the LCMS Board for Human Care, when it was a formally structured organizational department named LCMS World Relief and Human Care.

    When the LCMS by convention action chose to implement a major organizational restructuring beginning in 2010, the Board for Human Care was dissolved. The mercy work previously performed under the name LCMS World Relief and Human Care was reassigned and co-managed under the newly established Office of International Mission and Office of National Mission, still using “LCMS World Relief and Human Care” or simply “Mercy.”

    Due to the number of loyal contributors who remain passionate about this kind of ministry, the LCMS retains the use and ownership of LCMS World Relief and Human Care for branding and identifying LCMS mercy efforts aimed at humanitarian needs both in the U.S. and overseas. The aim, per convention mandate, is that this work is always accomplished in close proximity to Word and Sacrament ministry.

    Lutheran World Relief (LWR) is a separate nonprofit organization operating out of Baltimore, Md., and closely aligned with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), as well as with a conglomerate of social service and social justice agencies connected together under the name Corus. The LCMS is not an active partner in, nor a beneficiary of, Lutheran World Relief’s work. LWR does not, by its own statements, engage in Christian evangelism, and it performs its work solely in countries other than the U.S.

    Similarly, the LCMS retains ownership rights to the brand LCMS World Mission (singular “mission”) even though the Board for Mission Services was dissolved in the Synod’s 2010 restructuring. The work previously performed by the Board for Mission Services through the formally structured department named LCMS World Mission is now carried out through both the Office of National Mission (domestic) and the Office of International Mission (overseas) as the chief Gospel-proclamation and outreach-focused mission and ministry of the LCMS.

    Contributors are cautioned that another organization exists with a similar (but not identical) name: Lutheran World Missions (plural “missions”) located in Upper Marlboro, Md. (Washington D.C. area). That organization is a separately governed, independently operated nonprofit that does not hold any official status with the LCMS; it neither coordinates nor collaborates on any of its efforts with the LCMS Office of International Mission or the Office of National Mission.

    Because this situation may cause confusion among contributors, by policy the LCMS considers every donation mailed to 1333 S. Kirkwood Road or to Post Office Box 66861 in St. Louis, Mo., as gifts intended by the donor for the support of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, EIN 43-0658188. We strongly urge donors to verify the address they wish to use in conjunction with the organization’s Tax/Employer Identification Number (EIN) to ensure they are sending their donation to the organization they wish to support.

    Organization LCMS (also LCMS Foundation) Lutheran World Relief (LWR) Lutheran World Missions
    Pre-restructuring names LCMS World Relief & Human Care; LCMS World Mission    
    EIN/Tax ID number 43-0658188 13-2574963 80-0356194
    Location St. Louis, MO Baltimore, MD Upper Marlboro, MD
    PO Box 66861 17061 400
    Zip code 63166-6861 21297-1061 20773
    Affiliation LCMS ELCA Independent


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The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Inc., including Mission Central (in Mapleton, Iowa), is an IRS registered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity.

A contribution designated (restricted) for a specific purpose, when accepted, will be used only to fund expenses related to that purpose. Occasionally, we may receive more in contributions for a particular purpose than can be wisely applied to it in the foreseeable future or the purpose may cease to be feasible. In these situations, the LCMS will make reasonable attempts to contact contributors to apply their contribution toward another aspect of ministry that aligns closely the contributor’s goals and values. If a contributor cannot be contacted, the LCMS will use the gift to meet a similar pressing need that most closely matches the contributor's original intent.

Consistent with Synod Board policy and in recognition of a more challenging economic and philanthropic/fundraising environment due to inflationary pressure, not more than 12.5 percent of any charitable contribution will be allocated to administering gifts and communicating with contributors. Contributions received and accepted by the LCMS are deemed to be in agreement with this statement.

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