The organization that coordinates, encourages, and facilitates donations to the Church and its various educational and service institutions has changed its name from LDS Foundation to LDS Philanthropies.
Bishop Richard C. Edgley, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, said the new name — designated by the First Presidency and communicated in a letter dated Sept. 8 to priesthood leaders — better depicts what the organization is all about.
The name LDS Foundation was misleading, he said, because the organization "wasn't in reality a foundation" and "really wasn't doing what foundations do." LDS Philanthropies, he explained, "more appropriately depicts that this is an organization that receives funds for Church-sponsored philanthropic activities to bless and change lives."
"We hope this new name better describes our purpose," he said.
Bishop Edgley met with the Church News recently to discuss LDS Philanthropies, its sister company, Deseret Trust Company, and the many members who sustain Church projects through financial contributions beyond tithing and fast offerings.
"As a Church we are very grateful that we have the resources today to do what we are able to do," Bishop Edgley said. "This capability is not a reflection on the Church, but it is a reflection on the generosity of the many people who contribute to these worthy causes. These gifts are sacred and they are treated as such. It helps us accelerate the Lord's work in every appropriate way and it is a marvelous blessing to all who benefit from such giving — both the giver and the receiver."
LDS Foundation — now LDS Philanthropies — was established in 1971 by the First Presidency and has coordinated voluntary philanthropic contributions to the Church and its related organizations and activities over the past 34 years.
"Some choose to give, through the assistance of LDS Philanthropies, to bless the students and programs of Brigham Young University in Provo, Idaho, and in Hawaii or to Humanitarian Services. We have offices established at all those institutions. Others choose to give to the General Missionary Fund, Church History, the Perpetual Education Fund, or other important Church-sponsored programs and institutions," said McClain Bybee, managing director of LDS Philanthropies. "All are important. All have a specific role in building the kingdom and blessing Heavenly Father's children. As a Church department, our responsibility is to help the saints know what opportunities they have to assist the Church, then help them do what they would like within the priorities established by the presiding leaders of the Church."
Deseret Trust Company was established in 1972 to assist Latter-day Saint donors by providing professional trust services. The company administers trusts established for the benefit of the Church and its entities.
Recently Deseret Trust Company began reporting directly to the Presiding Bishopric — as does LDS Philanthropies. These reporting relationships provide better "coordination and more visibility," said Bishop Edgley.
"As Deseret Trust Company and LDS Philanthropies both report to the Presiding Bishopric, there is now increased donor awareness as to the professional trust capabilities of Deseret Trust Company," said David Moore, President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Deseret Trust Company. "This relationship will also help to better coordinate the administration of deferred gifts to Church charities with the fund-raising activities of LDS Philanthropies."
Bishop Edgley said that as the Church began to grow and become more complex, the need for organizations like LDS Philanthropies and Deseret Trust Company became evident. Today, he explained, Church members and others who give of their means to the Church have the following assurances:One hundred percent of everything that is contributed through LDS Philanthropies goes to the specific purpose it was contributed for. "There is zero overhead" taken out of the donation for administrative costs, he said. For example, "The response to the tsunami in southeast Asia or the hurricane on the Gulf Coast has been most gratifying and tremendously appreciated." However, the administrative costs are not deducted from the donations, he said.
Money donated through LDS Philanthropies can be used somewhat differently than tithing. For example, since 1984 the Church has provided nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in materials and cash assistance to those in need in more than 150 countries throughout the world. "Not a single cent of that has come from tithing," said Bishop Edgley. "But what a great blessing it is to the Church to be able to provide these kind of humanitarian services throughout the world."
Specific priorities for philanthropic contributions to areas within the Church and its institutions are established by the First Presidency. Yet, even though the Church encourages and welcomes gifts to these established priorities, "we do accept donations for other appropriate projects within the Church or its related charitable organizations," he explained. Donors can earmark specifically where they want contributions to go.
Donations are often accepted from those not of our faith — mostly for the Church's humanitarian efforts. "Good people want to help," Bishop Edgley said. "The Church has a reputation of using the funds appropriately and wisely and for purposes that general populations feel good about."
One of the purposes of LDS Philanthropies is to help people understand the various giving options, often with favorable tax results. "We would like to get the message out that we are here and can help with estate and tax planning and help them take advantage of ways to give that are very beneficial to individuals, under existing tax laws, and helpful to the Church at the same time, all with great confidentiality," he said.
Finally, he said, members are invited to give when their personal circumstances allow any donation beyond tithing and fast offerings as they so desire. These are free-will offerings. Some donations are small and often reflect the widow's mite. Others are substantial. All are valued and appreciated.
"Frankly," he added, "we do find those donations helpful and necessary to do some of the things we are doing. Again, they help accelerate the Lord's work.
"We have a lot of members who are capable and want to do more," Bishop Edgley said. "They are consecrated. They feel like they have been blessed by the Lord and they know there is a need. What we want to do is facilitate by providing professional assistance in a manner in which the donors will have confidence."
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