Combined Donor Names

Discussions around using and interfacing with the Church MLS program.
jdlessley
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Combined Donor Names

Postby jdlessley » Sun Aug 31, 2008 5:26 pm

I recently completed unit financial audits in our stake. I came across a practice in more than one ward/branch of combining members into one donor name. Husband and wife were combined into one donor name such as John and Mary Doe. This practice went so far as to combine entire families into one donor name such as Joe, Sue and Son Bloe. Since I could not find any guidance for or against this practice I could not instruct the Bishops/Branch Presidents on this matter. My immediate impression based on the fact that the combined name is associated with only one member number tells me that combined names should not be used.

Further discussion with our stake financial clerk indicates the ability to combine names appears to be a feature enabling connecting a married sister with her maiden or before-marriage name.

Does anyone have any reference to documentation on this matter one way or the other?
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aebrown
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Postby aebrown » Sun Aug 31, 2008 6:00 pm

jdlessley wrote:I recently completed unit financial audits in our stake. I came across a practice in more than one ward/branch of combining members into one donor name. Husband and wife were combined into one donor name such as John and Mary Doe. This practice went so far as to combine entire families into one donor name such as Joe, Sue and Son Bloe. Since I could not find any guidance for or against this practice I could not instruct the Bishops/Branch Presidents on this matter. My immediate impression based on the fact that the combined name is associated with only one member number tells me that combined names should not be used.

Further discussion with our stake financial clerk indicates the ability to combine names appears to be a feature enabling connecting a married sister with her maiden or before-marriage name.

Does anyone have any reference to documentation on this matter one way or the other?


Since only one member record number can be associated with a donor record, the practice of comining names on a single donor record should be limited to a married couple that donates jointly. At least in the eyes of US tax law, a married couple can file jointly if they choose. They can't file jointly with their son.

The Record Keeping FAQ gives some guidance:

Question:
How do we handle husband and wife donations on the year-end Tithing Settlement Statement? Do we combine them?
Answer:
Before you print the statement, the husband and wife should decide if they want to donate jointly or separately. They can be merged together or remain as separate donors. If they want to donate together, you need to merge both records. Do the following:
1. Log in to MLS.
2. On the Finances menu, clickMore.
3. On the Donations menu, clickAdd/Update Donors.
4. At the bottom of the screen, clickMerge Donors. However, when you do so, the donor record you choose as Donor 2 will automatically be changed to Hidden.
To remove the merge, click on theHiddenlink for this donor and selectVisible. This merger will keep donor records you choose merged for tithing settlement as it did in FIS.
For units in Australia:Because of legal stipulations, husband and wife donor records should not be merged.



So clearly it is acceptable for a husband and wife to donate jointly. Although I can't find a reference that says this is the only case, I think we are to use a little common sense. Any other combined donor record is unreasonable.

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Postby russellhltn » Mon Sep 01, 2008 2:11 am

I couldn't find anything in the documents I looked at, but I'd say that without some communication from the member, that it should be recorded "as written". Same persons should be combined, so a sister's maiden name should be combined with her married name. However, I wouldn't combine her maiden name donations with a joint donation without talking to her.

When in doubt, record it separately. You can always combine them at tithing settlement. I don't think there's an easy way to separate them later.
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Mikerowaved
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Postby Mikerowaved » Mon Sep 01, 2008 4:30 am

RussellHltn wrote:...so a sister's maiden name should be combined with her married name.

Not a good example. In this case, the sister's name simply gets changed in the donor database. (You'll trigger a warning if you try to create a new donor record when one already exists with the same record number.)

RussellHltn wrote:However, I wouldn't combine her maiden name donations with a joint donation without talking to her.

When in doubt, record it separately. You can always combine them at tithing settlement. I don't think there's an easy way to separate them later.

This is the correct way. If a new slip says it's from John & Jane Smith, then I would create ONE donor record tied to the husband's membership record number and change the name in the donor database from "John Smith" to "John & Jane Smith" for future donations. If it only has one name on the slip, keep it separate unless specifically told otherwise by the donors.

Alan_Brown wrote:Since only one member record number can be associated with a donor record, the practice of comining names on a single donor record should be limited to a married couple that donates jointly.

That's it exactly. Think about it. If children's donations get made under their father's record number (which is what happens if they are merged), they have no way of individually reviewing their yearly donations, creating a rather difficult situation for tithing settlement. I would say this is NOT in the family's best interest, nor keeping with Church policy.
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Postby russellhltn » Mon Sep 01, 2008 2:25 pm

Mikerowaved wrote:This is the correct way. If a new slip says it's from John & Jane Smith, then I would create ONE donor record tied to the husband's membership record number and change the name in the donor database from "John Smith" to "John & Jane Smith" for future donations.


Well now, we've created a new problem. In the example of a couple that gets married, we're combining the couple with the husbands donations. I don't have an answer, but that doesn't sound right.
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aebrown
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Postby aebrown » Mon Sep 01, 2008 2:40 pm

RussellHltn wrote:Well now, we've created a new problem. In the example of a couple that gets married, we're combining the couple with the husbands donations. I don't have an answer, but that doesn't sound right.


It all depends on the couple's desires, but it is probably fine to combine the records. In the US, they can file jointly as long as they were married by December 31 of the tax year. So if they intend to file jointly, they may well want to get one joint tax statement from the Church. In this case, all their Church donations, made as individuals or as a couple, will go in the same place on their joint tax return, so a joint tax statement would be convenient.

In any case, they can't have one donor record with the husband as an individual and also another record with the couple listed that is also connected to his member record number. So they have to decide to stay as individuals for the entire year, or have a joint donor record. If you have to make an assumption, it seems reasonable to combine the records as Mikerowaved indicated. However, if they can be contacted, it's probably a good idea to call and make sure. You could make a new donor record unconnected to any member record number for the couple in this situation and wait to associate the joint donation with that donor record until you can contact them to be sure.

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Postby russellhltn » Mon Sep 01, 2008 3:25 pm

Alan_Brown wrote:You could make a new donor record unconnected to any member record number for the couple in this situation and associate the joint donation with that donor record until you can contact them to be sure.


That's probably the safest move. That way you can sort it out near the end of the year instead of right at moment when you're processing the weekly batch.
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