FB11. Does this mean that our church cannot focus its charitable activities on members of its own congregation?
If your church is engaging in programs or activities exclusively for its members it is possible that the CRA will find that these activities are not charitable under the law, because they lack sufficient benefit to the public. Outreach to the broader public is frequently an element in church’s beliefs or rituals. However, potential inclusion of non-members should also be a feature of the church’s other programs and activities.
Organizations that confer a private benefit disproportionate to their public benefit are not regarded as charitable. For example, a family cannot establish a charitable organization just to benefit family members. It is acceptable however, if members of the congregation benefit from their church’s charitable activities, as long as the public benefit provided is not outweighed by the private benefit. The private benefit must be reasonable, no more than is necessary to achieve the charitable purpose, and occur in the delivery of charitable benefits to properly chosen beneficiaries.
A church sets up a food bank in the church hall. The food bank is open to all needy people in the city where the church is located. Members of the church congregation may use the food bank when they need to because the food bank is open to the public and does not exist just to serve the needs of members of the congregation.