Best Practices for Handling Your Church Offering

Best Practices for Handling Your Church Offering

Burying Money: NOT a Good Financial Practice

Note: My Australian cousins are in town! I have been madly cleaning the house and showing them around the beautiful state of Oregon. Since it’s hard to write a blog while hiking (don’t try it, especially on a muddy path…the results are not pretty) I’m doing a “re-post.” This one seems especially relevant almost four years after it was written. I was talking to a clergy friend last Friday who mentioned that he knew of churches who were following (or not following) good financial practices. Insert a grimace right here. So, all the way back from July 2013...G’day!
Not long ago I was talking to a church financial administrator. She told me about a small church whose treasurer took the offering home and counted it every Sunday. Now I am no accountant (which should not come as much of a shock to anyone) but even I know that is a bad, bad practice. 
In a recent blog, “Recognizing First Time Givers,” I said that one of the ways you can reassure people that your church is worthy of their giving is by telling them that you “have established policies for secure handling and counting of weekly offerings.”  But, the question is: Do you have these policies in place?  If you do, fantastic!  But then you should ask, “When was the last time these policies were reviewed?” and “Are we following these policies?”

Just in case you don’t have anything in writing yet (because this should instantly become a high priority if you don’t), here are some best practices for receiving your church’s offering – adapted from the suggested policies of the Oregon-Idaho and the Rio Texas United Methodist Annual Conferences:
  • Two unrelated people should always be present to handle the collected offering.  Their relationship should be devoid of any potential conflict of interest or incentives for collusion (as could exist with spouses, employer-employee, business partners, members of the same family, etc.). One person counts while the other observes and the observer recounts while the original counter observes.
  • The same two unrelated people should not count the money every Sunday. There should be rotation among counters.
  • Church funds should not be taken to anyone’s private home.
  • Checks received should be immediately endorsed “For Deposit Only.”
  • The counters should give the offering totals to the financial secretary and treasurer and record the totals in a deposit log that should then be compared to the bank statement.
  • Bank deposits should be prepared by the counters (or church treasurer) and then deposited. A receipt filed with deposit information should then be given to your church financial secretary.
  • The offering should be deposited as soon as possible. If it is not possible to deposit the offerings on the same day, the offering should be kept in a secure (locked) location at the church.
  • Those persons involved with the local church collection and accounting process must be instructed on the importance of keeping any financial information confidential. The counting committee should be made aware of the sensitive role in maintaining confidentiality with regard to the giving levels of various members.
The purpose of these policies is to create confidence in the process and to protect the volunteers who are counting the money. Collecting the offering is a sacred trust. What you do with the money immediately afterwards matters.  Make you sure you put that in writing.
 Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past fifteen years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. And no, she did not grill anything on the barbie for her relatives. She was the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. She is available to consult with churches. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.