Helping Out: Benevolence Guidelines

Would you like to help someone who is experiencing financial troubles?  Do you know whether your gift would be tax deductible?  These questions raise a more fundamental one:  How can a well-intentioned individual or 501(c)(3) public charity best aid those with financial needs, while maximizing available tax benefits and otherwise exercising wise financial stewardship?  The answer to these questions is for a public charity, such as a church, to develop a benevolence policy to be funded through gifts from individuals and others.