Frequently Asked Questions

LCMS Mission Advancement

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 2019 (FY19), notwithstanding any exceptions for a special campaign authorized by the Board of Directors, the Board endorses the CFO's determination that a minimum of 88% of donated funds must be used to fulfill the purpose the donor intends to support, and no more than 12% may be reinvested back into our relationship with contributors or to engage new contributors. No portion of a donor-restricted gift may be used for costs unrelated to the purpose the donor intends to support, such as cutting the lawn at the International Center, purchasing new or replacement furnishings, or paying the salaries of Convention-elected officers.

    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. Visit to learn more.

    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 out 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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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 acknowledgement 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 acknowledgement 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 an attorney and the LCMS Foundation 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 (dollar amount) (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 restrict 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.

    The LCMS and Mission Advancement also recommend working with or through the LCMS Foundation, which provides specialized estate planning and trust management services.

    The staff at LCMS will work with you to develop a charitable giving plan that meets your long-term financial goals and estate planning needs. Learn more about Planned Giving.

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 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7226


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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 differently. 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, no more than 13.5 percent of a charitable contribution may 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.

Our Tax Identification Number: 43-0658188

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