Guidelines: How To Tell If Your Benevolence Program Is Being Bilked

Reprinted From The Christian Chronicle, May 1985

“Give, but give wisely,” seems to be the best advice offered by people with experience in benevolence.

No one claims it is possible to avoid fraud entirely, but “the Lord knows our motives are right” is no excuse for inadequate research, they say.

Here’s the best of the advice we found:

– Don’t rush. If you are being rushed, something may be wrong.

– Insist on positive identification including a social security number.

– Don’t be afraid. Ask the hard questions. If they are offended, that’s a good sign something is wrong.

– Be cautious when callers seem to have a wide acquaintance with brotherhood names, elders, issues, etc. These are used to disarm. Do not accept them as proof.

– Be sure to check phone numbers given for references. Call forwarding can be used to redirect calls to others involved in the confidence game.

– Never give money. If you purchase a ticket, mark it “non-negotiable for cash.”

– Let one person handle benevolence. Consistency and experience reduce fraud.

– Be wary of references who cannot be reached. Professionals often give references who are on vacation.

– Be objective when dealing with emotional requests like “the stranded, new Christian,” holiday pleas, etc. “it is much better not to get emotionally involved,” said Bill Mealer, head of the benevolence program at Madison, Tenn. Church of Christ.

– Be aware that criminals often impersonate faithful Christians. Be sure to check telephone numbers and identities carefully.

– Always call nearby churches and congregations to see if they have received similar requests. Share information, networking helps to foil dishonest schemes.

Said Robert Sharpe, author of a charitable-giving guide, “Before You Give Another Dime:” “By not demanding accountability, the individual makes charitable mismanagement possible.”

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 12, p. 372
June 20, 1985