Navigating Faith and Regulation: Compliance and Competency in Religious Grantmaking

Session materials from PEAK2019.

In 2017, 75 percent of all giving in the United States was directed to houses of worship or religious-oriented charities. According to the Giving USA Special Report on Religion, religious motivation not only serves as the basis for many philanthropic decisions but also as one of the strongest predictors of charitable giving across all non-profit subsectors. Despite religion’s important role in charitable giving, many secular foundations shy away from making grants to religious organizations due to the ambiguity around determining whether houses of worship or other religious organizations are considered charities for federal tax purposes. Explore tactics for reaching a broader and more diverse community of grantees by including religious organizations. Identify strategies for minimizing risk in faith-based giving. Hear about the experience of a leading, national faith-based grantmaker in developing due diligence for religious institutions.

Participants will learn about:

The IRS definition of church structure and 14 characteristics of a house of worship or religious-oriented charity

Practices that allow foundations to meet IRS regulations for grants to faith-based organizations

Tips for addressing due-diligence scenarios in religious grantmaking, e.g. group exemptions, independent congregations, and individual missionary support

Kaitlin Ostlie

Grants Associate

InFaith Community Foundation

Kaitlin Ostlie started her career in philanthropy working for the Minnesota Council on Foundations in 2011. In late 2014, she joined InFaith Community Foundation team as their grants associate where she is responsible for supporting all grantmaking activities across the Foundation, including due diligence and compliance for grants from donor advised funds and community foundation initiatives. During her time at InFaith, Kaitlin has helped streamline the grantmaking process, implemented and improved due diligence procedures for church and church-affiliated grantees, and provided project management for grant initiatives. Kaitlin received her B.A. in East Asian Studies and Anthropology from Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and is an active member of the PEAK Grantmaking Minnesota Steering Committee.

Grants Management Professional Competency Model

Cross-Cutting Competencies

  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in grantmaking practices.
  • Strategic Management: Promote organizational mission and goals and inspire colleagues to achieve them.