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Can donors get money back?

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Can donors get money back?

The new pastor of our church has driven out half of the members and all the major donors, including me. He is now asking the members to sell the church building to fund his new video ministry. If they do so, can those of us who gave $500,000 to reduce the mortgage in the last two years get our money back?

Probably not. Once a donor has made a charitable gift, he or she gives up all right to the money.  Unless the donor has specifically retained power to enforce restrictions on the use of the gift, the donor generally has no right to do anything but watch and complain.  Usually the state Attorney General is the only person who has standing to enforce the terms of the gift.

In this case, since the gifts were apparently not restricted, in the event of a sale, the Attorney General is unlikely to get involved.  Even if the AG were involved, the issue would be whether the sale is appropriate or how to spend the proceeds of the sale, not how to give the money back to the donors.

If you are still a voting member of the congregation, or are friendly with the remaining members, you might be able to influence the members to vote no, or to oust the pastor.  That might make you feel better, but it won’t make you richer.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

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