by Rev. Charles (Chuck) W. Savage II, retired GUMF President/CEO
As disciples of Jesus Christ, it is our sacred duty to honor and respect the final resting place of the saints who have passed before us, and yet many of our United Methodist churches in Georgia are struggling with the care and upkeep of their cemeteries.
One reason our churches are having difficulty is because they lack an endowment program. An endowment is a fund that can be invested to establish a permanent source of income to support programs and ministries such as cemetery maintenance, missions, scholarships, and other needs.
It has also been my experience that many churches have not established a cemetery association, which holds legal title to the physical property of the cemetery. In the case of The United Methodist Church, giving title to the cemetery association, removes the possibility of the cemetery becoming the property of the District (Annual Conference).
GUMF, which provides professional funds management and investment services, can also assist churches with the establishment of a permanent endowment fund.
How to Establish a Cemetery Association
1. Elect a Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees should be a multi-generational group of persons who share a desire to maintain and care for the cemetery. The Board of Trustees should develop and enforce a set of rules regarding the cemetery’s use. These rules should include the hours the cemetery is open, as well as the types of tombstones, flowers, shrubs, lighting, and fencing that is allowed.
2. Adopt a Set of Bylaws
Bylaws govern the operation of the cemetery association.
3. Register the Association/Officers with the State of Georgia as a Nonprofit
Visit the Georgia Corporations Division website at https://ecorp.sos.ga.gov/ in order to register the association. Registration allows tax deductible donations to be made to provide for the upkeep of the cemetery. It also creates a legal entity that will hold title to the physical property and funds associated with the cemetery.
After the association has been registered, next register the names of the officers who serve on the cemetery’s association.
4. Register with the IRS for an EIN
An EIN or employer identification number is required in order for the cemetery association to open and maintain a banking relationship. Visit the IRS’s website at https://sa.www4.irs.gov/modiein/individual/index.jsp.
5. Deed Property to the Cemetery Association
When property is deeded to the cemetery association, it allows the association to hold title to the cemetery property. A survey establishing a legal description of the physical property of the cemetery may be required.
6. Establish an Endowment Fund to Build Long-Term Financial Support
An endowment provides a permanent source of income to fund the ongoing operation and maintenance of the cemetery.
Please also see related documents for assistance in forming a cemetery association.