Best Practices for Handling Your Church Offering
“Everyone involved in church is 100% honest, right?” That is usually the thinking when it comes to counting offering. Unfortunately, it isn’t always the case. So the church needs to have guidelines for handling the offering to protect itself AND to protect the counters. The following is suggested guidelines for a church to use for the best practices for handling your church offering.
· At least two unrelated people should always be present to handle the collected offering. This allows one person to count while the other observes then the observer counts while the original counter observes.
· If possible, there should be a rotation in counters.
· The people responsible for maintaining the accounting records and preparing the financial reports (financial secretary and treasurer) should not be counters.
Handling Cash and Checks
· Church funds should NEVER be taken to anyone’s private home.
· Cash should be counted by two people and the total amount agreed upon.
· Checks should be stamped “For Deposit Only” with the name of the church and the appropriate bank account number (No checks collected will be cashed under any circumstances.
· A standardized form should be used to record collections. A deposit slip recording the cash and checks should be prepared. (All cash should be deposited. No cash should be set aside for use or otherwise applied to expenses).
· The counters should give the totals to the financial secretary or treasurer.
· The offering should be deposited as soon as possible. If the deposit cannot be made the same day, the offering should be kept in a secure, locked location at the church.
· All involved with the counting of money must be instructed on the importance of keeping any financial information confidential.
· Periodic statements will be provided to regular donors in a timely manner
· The statements must include:
o The name of the donor
o The date and the amount of each contribution of $250 or more during the year.
o If no tangible goods or services were provided to the donor in exchange for the contribution, a statement to that effect should be included.
o If tangible goods or services were provided to the donor in exchange for the contribution, the written statement must inform the donor that the amount of the contribution is limited to the excess of the donation above the value of goods or services from the organization and provide the giver with a good faith estimate of the fair market value of goods or services.
· The IRS does not provide or require a specific form for the written acknowledgement, but does mandate that it be provided to the donor on a timely basis. Most churches typically provide annual giving statements no later than January 31. The statement does not need to include the donor’s social security number and may be provided to donors electronically.
For more information on handling church finances, the role of the treasurer, the role of the financial secretary, etc, look for Guidelines on Finance on www.cokesbury.com. Also, www.umc.org/GCFA has local church audit guide with helpful guidelines.