Process and Resources
Financial assistance is designed to provide the basics of food, shelter, clothing, utilities, or something otherwise required to get a family in a sustainable place. Financial assistance is a gift, not a loan. In most cases, we ask the participant to go through at least two MoneyWise sessions before a financial request is submitted. This will give the mentor the opportunity to observe the situation and determine whether assistance from the church is the best course of action at that time. If the participant’s problems are more chronic and long-term, then another solution may need to be found. In those circumstances, the staff and mentor work together to find community resources such as United Way, local food pantries, government agencies, or other community organizations to help stabilize the participant.
If you are going to offer financial assistance, there are a few things you should consider before getting started.
Decide your giving guidelines upfront. This includes discussing who can apply for financial support, any benchmarks for approval, how much will be given, and who will approve financial requests.
Checks should always be made payable and mailed directly to the company/payee, not to the participant.
Include your accounting team or bookkeeper in your discussions so you can work together to make sure you have adequate information to make a payment.
Many financial requests are time-sensitive, so it will be important to have a clear system for requests to be submitted, reviewed, approved, and paid. However, don’t be afraid to put boundaries in place. If checks are cut once a week, then it will be important to communicate that to participants to set expectations.
Set up a system for tracking these funds. A Google sheet or database system is the best way to track assistance.
We realized early on as a church that we were not equipped or staffed to be able to meet every need of every single person that walked through the doors of our church. We found that there were many organizations in our community that had the skills and resources to meet specific needs better than we could. Partnering with local organizations allowed us to provide more care because we had access to more resources.
When a person is faced with a financial crisis, every decision can be overwhelming. Our goal is to help navigate each person to the right community organization and, when possible, connect him or her with someone we know in that organization.
The first step is to identify organizations in your community that can help you meet basic needs: food, housing, rent, utilities, basic healthcare, and clothing. Be aware that each organization has a list of specific qualifiers.
Then, you might look for opportunities to partner with these organizations by providing things like donations, volunteers, or something specific the organization needs (e.g., a meeting space to train their volunteers). As you begin to develop relationships with these organizations, you will have a better understanding of how they can best assist you in meeting the needs of your participants.