Frequently Asked Questions

LCMS Mission Advancement


Important information about year-end giving

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  • The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is observing the Christmas and New Year’s holidays by closing the International Center headquarters on the following days:

    • Monday, Dec. 25: Closed
    • Friday, Dec. 29: Closing at 2 p.m.*
    • Monday, Jan. 1, 2018: Closed

    * For your convenience, the LCMS Donor Care Line, 888-930-4438, will be staffed to accept donations over the phone using a credit or debit card, except on the days outlined above. Messages received Dec. 23 through Dec. 25 will be returned by staff on Tuesday, Dec. 26.

    The Donor Care Line also will be staffed on Dec. 29 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Central time. No voice messages can be accepted after 2 p.m. on that day.

    Gifts of cash/securities

    U.S. Postal Service offices and banks also will be closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. If you are planning to make a 2017 year-end, tax-deductible donation, the following information may be helpful:

    In recent years, the U.S. Postal Service has been inconsistent in placing a Dec. 31 postmark on all mail. We recommend mailing gifts on or before Wednesday, Dec. 27, or taking the gift and envelope to your local post office and verifying that the envelope has been postmarked, if it is being mailed Dec. 29-31.

    Cash gifts or securities gifts that are mailed via the U.S. Postal Service must arrive with a postmark of Dec. 31, 2017, or earlier. The mark must be from the U.S. Postal Service. Gifts received Jan. 1, 2018, and later with a 2018 postmark — as well as those gifts with no postmark at all — will be treated, per IRS regulations, as a calendar year 2018 gift.

    Hand-delivered gifts will be accepted at the LCMS International Center until the last full day when the building is fully operational, which is Friday, Dec. 22. Business hours are 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. The reception desk can receive the donation, which should be contained in an envelope to protect confidential donor and contribution information.

    Online and telephone gifts by credit card

    Making a credit card donation at year-end can qualify as a 2017 charitable donation even though the cardholder’s payment on the credit card balance is made in calendar year 2018.

    Online credit and debit card gifts may be made via lcms.org/givenow. This option is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through 11:59 p.m. Central time on Dec. 31. The electronic time stamp for a donation, created when the “submit” button on giving form is pressed, will determine its eligibility as a tax-deductible gift for 2017 or 2018.

    Credit and debit card gifts also can be made by calling our Donor Care Line at 888-930-4438 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday, excluding the holiday schedule listed above.

    Text-to-give gifts by credit card or using PayPal

    Text SHAREJESUS to 41444 on your smart phone or cellular device to make a gift to the Global Mission Fund using your credit/debit card or through your PayPal account. 2017-eligible gifts may be made via text through 11:59 p.m. Central time on Dec. 31. 

    Gifts of appreciated or depreciated securities

    Contact the LCMS Foundation at 800-325-7912 to initiate a gift of appreciated securities (stocks, bonds or mutual funds) in support of the LCMS or its various ministries. 

    Gifts from mutual funds require longer lead times to complete.

    In cases where the value of stocks, bonds or mutual funds have appreciated, it is better to donate the shares directly to avoid incurring capital gains taxes. Consult with your accountant or financial adviser to determine your potential capital gains tax savings and the impact of a charitable donation on your tax return for 2017.

    Conversely, in situations where stocks, bonds or mutual funds have depreciated, it may be better to sell them outright at market value and donate the cash proceeds. In addition to claiming a tax deduction for the gift of cash, you may be able to claim a loss on your income tax return. Again, consult with your accountant or financial adviser to determine whether this is in your best interest.

    IRA direct charitable transfers

    In 2015, the U.S. government saw fit to make permanent the provisions of the Pension Protection Act (2006) that grant individuals age 59 ½ or older the ability to use Individual Retirement Account assets to make charitable gifts via a transfer directly from the IRA management firm to a qualified charity like the LCMS. A direct charitable transfer counts toward a donor’s annual Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) but is exempt from income taxes! For information or instructions on how to make a qualifying charitable transfer, contact Mission Advancement via our Donor Care Line at 888-930-4438.

    Do you itemize your charitable contributions?

    If you itemize your charitable contributions, you need to know significant tax changes appear to be on the way. Negotiations are ongoing and nothing has been signed, but here are some key concepts before 2017 ends.

    1. The changes would take effect in tax year 2018.

    2. The standard deduction may almost double to $24,000 for married couples ($12,000 for single).

    3. The deductions for state and local income taxes would be eliminated, unless incurred in a trade or business.

    4. The deductions for real property taxes would be limited to $10,000 for personal residences only.

    5. The deduction for charitable contributions will likely remain.

    6. The deduction for interest paid on a home mortgage will likely remain, although limited to $10,000 and not include interest on a home equity loan.

    7. Other deductions, like medical expenses, will likely be eliminated.

    Approximately 40 million people itemize their deductions when calculating and paying their federal income taxes. If the tax changes happen as expected, it is estimated that it will only make sense for 9 million people to itemize in 2018.

    If you are one of the estimated 31 million people that will no longer be itemizing your deductions, it may make sense to make your 2018 charitable contributions before Dec. 31, 2017. That will allow you to claim them as an itemized deduction this year, and it would avoid wasting the deduction if you make the contribution in 2018 and use the standard deduction.

    For significant gifts, consider adding to or starting a donor advised fund, which can be used to complete your tax deductible gift now, but then hold and invest your contribution until the ministry that you want to benefit is ready to receive the gift.

    For questions or for assistance establishing a donor advised fund, contact the LCMS Foundation.

    A note about year-end cumulative statements

    As a courtesy to our cherished partners and supporters, LCMS Mission Advancement will be sending a consolidated receipt to all of 2017’s individual contributors for gifts made in 2017. Because of the generosity of our supporters — and because ALL gifts from 2017 must be recorded prior to generating these cumulative statements — you may not receive your 2017 statement until mid- to late-February. We appreciate your consideration and patience.

    On behalf of those who hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus through the efforts of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, thank you.

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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 2018 (FY18), 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 overheadmyth.com to learn more.

    Update:

    In the wake of successive natural disasters in 2017, the Synod’s Board of Directors is anticipating a greater-than-normal charitable response for LCMS relief and recovery efforts than was originally budgeted for FY18. In a unanimous vote, the Board authorized a change in the allocation ratio for disaster-response gifts (Harvey, Irma and Maria Relief) to 94%/6% for the duration of the initial relief effort, and reserves the right to make additional adjustments moving forward. This means a minimum of 94% of every donation for LCMS Disaster Response must be made available to carry out disaster relief, recovery and restoration work. No more than 6% may be spent on engaging donors and fulfilling the obligations we have back to donors.

    This ratio should be viewed as an estimate of final outcomes, when the true picture of charitable response and related costs is known. The allocation of 6% funds only those costs incurred to solicit and receive disaster-related gifts, care for and communication with contributors, in compliance with FASB Statement 116 (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). No portion of a disaster gift can or will be used to fund LCMS administrative expenses that are separate from disaster-related work.

    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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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: We are moving in that direction. In the response to Hurricane Harvey, donors who used our text-to-donate option were provided the option of using PayPal, as a test of that system’s integration with our accounting, banking and donation record-keeping systems. The results of that initial test could lead to the integration of PayPal into our standard online donation forms.

    PayPal is a partner with Blackbaud — the company we use to provide donor support systems — in providing nonprofit donation options. As we continue to examine the integration options, know that the forms and processes we currently use (including the use of Blackbaud Merchant Services) meet the same industry 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:

    43-0658188

    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?

 

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 on-line 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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