Of all the challenges COVID-19 created for churches, keeping finances on track may have been one of the toughest.
With suspension of in-person services, many Florida Conference congregations struggled to maintain the same level of giving. And if they didn’t have an online giving program in place, they had to quickly implement one, while getting their members on board.
But one type of support has stayed strong: the transfer of stocks.
“It’s a viable option that we need to publicize more,” says the Rev. Mark Charles, pastor at Memorial United Methodist Church in Fernandina Beach. “The process is easy, and it’s a win-win for both the donor and the church.”
No pain, all gain
Stock gifts were included in Memorial’s recent capital campaign, which raised $1.4 million. The funds from the sales of those stocks helped the church build a new playground.
Charles credits the Florida United Methodist Foundation for its role in facilitating the gifts.
After donors complete a required form provided by the foundation, either on their own or through their financial advisor, the foundation sells the stock through its agent, with no transaction fee. The proceeds are then sent to the church or other designated charity.
There’s no cost to donors throughout the process, nor do they pay a capital gains tax.
Most appreciated stock, with exceptions, can be given to a charity, and the donor receives a deduction at the appreciated value without having to pick up the gain. By giving appreciated securities directly to a church or the foundation, donors avoid 100 percent of the capital gains tax that would be due if they sold the securities themselves.
“I think some people might be intimidated by getting into their savings for a big donation, especially when the economy is a little shaky,” Charles said. “But if you have some stock that really took off and can be sold and the proceeds transferred without a tax penalty, that can be a very attractive way to support your church without impacting your day-to-day budget.”
Monica Pomeroy, Memorial’s office manager, says members have typically increased their pledges and given stock transfers at the end of the year. But now, as more people learn about the option, stock sales are more common throughout the year.
“If you have some stock that really took off and can be sold and the proceeds transferred without a tax penalty, that can be a very attractive way to support your church without impacting your day-to-day budget.” — Rev. Mark Charles
About $100,000 has been given to Memorial through stock gifts so far this year.
“My suggestion is that churches be proactive and promote the stock gifts,” Pomeroy said. “We do it in our brochures under the ‘How Can I Give’ section, and that gets people’s attention.”
Working with the foundation eliminates the expense of dealing with a brokerage firm, which typically charges for the service.
“We’ve developed good personal relationships with the people at the foundation,” Pomeroy said. “Any questions or concerns we have are addressed quickly. We know they are looking out for our best interest.”
Viable, long-term option
Twenty-nine Florida Conference churches were recipients of stock gifts sold through the foundation in 2021, according to Margaret Cox, the foundation’s treasurer. And those gifts added about $1.4 million to church coffers.
Cox is hoping the number of participants will keep growing.
“I think a lot more people would do this if they knew about it,” she said. “Right now, these gifts typically come from bigger and wealthier churches. But smaller congregations could really benefit from this.”
Shirley Huffman, treasurer at Satellite Beach United Methodist Church, appreciates how stock gifts benefit donors and recipients.
Before moving to Florida, she lived in Virginia and worked with the Virginia United Methodist Foundation. When she relocated, she learned the Florida foundation offered the same option and told her church about it.
“Doing this yourself makes no sense when you have the foundation’s expertise and willingness to do this without a cost to the church,” she said. “It comes down to getting the word out and letting our members know just how easy this process is and how you can avoid a tax penalty on the gains.”
And she says the process is a “quick turnaround” — from the time of submitting the paperwork to the foundation to selling the stock and sending a check to the designated church or ministry.
When the stock market is robust and profits are soaring, this form of giving is an easier sell. With Wall Street a little shaky right now, it might not get the same attention.
That may be a temporary obstacle, Huffman admits, but for the long term, she believes it’s a viable alternative for members who are looking for different ways to support their church.
Last year, Satellite Beach received $45,000 in stock sales. That extra cash helped the congregation enlarge and remodel its fellowship hall.
“We make announcements about stock gifts from time to time, and word-of-mouth is another way to promote it,” she said. “Going forward, I would like to be more proactive about getting the word out. We know from experience this is a good way to bring in funds for the church.”
Churches or members who would like to learn more about stock gifts may contact Margaret Cox, the foundation’s treasurer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-904-2970, extension 7109.