One of the more important aspects of church financial management is establishing an appropriate method of handling offerings. There are certain Internal Revenue Service rules that must be followed regarding handling cash and acknowledging and accepting donations.
Receiving the offering
Offerings can be received by “passing the plate,” allowing attendees to place their offering in a receptacle as they exit the church, and many other means of collecting tithes and offerings from present church attendees. Yet, in order to protect the integrity of those who handle the money, a certain degree of caution should be exercised when receiving offerings.
Since most churches in America collect their donations by “passing the plate,” we will restrict this article to means of collecting contributions.
Ushers, who are generally responsible for collecting the offerings, must exercise extreme caution when collecting offerings.
* A single usher should never collect the offering; there should always be at least two ushers.
* If ushers must carry the offering receptacles away from the main auditorium (closed circuit television viewing area, balcony, nursery, overflow rooms, and so on), they should proceed in groups of no less than two. Ushers should never collect funds alone.
* At no time should ushers be left alone with one or more of the offering receptacles.
* Under no circumstances should ushers make change or give change. If it is necessary for a donor to receive change, they need to consult with the treasurer or business administrator either before or after church services.
Counting the offerings
The offerings should be counted soon after the collection is taken. This should be done in a secure place away from public view. At least two, but generally no more than four, ushers should count the collection and then recount a second and a third time.To maintain the confidentiality of the givers, it might be wise for the ushers who count the offerings to rotate on a regular schedule.
Offering envelopes should be opened and checked to determine if the amounts indicated match those placed in the envelope. The correct amount given should then be recorded so that each individual will be correctly credited.
The same recording process should be followed for checks not given in offering envelopes. All unidentified funds (cash and coin) should be allocated into a special predetermined account.
All funds should be divided and allocated to specified categories or funds.
After counting is complete, a summary report should be prepared for accounting purposes. This summary should be divided into categories and concluded with a grand total.
Making the deposit
After offerings have been counted and reconciled, the funds should be deposited in the bank as soon as possible—preferably in a night depository after Sunday morning services and then again after Sunday evening services. An individual should not make this deposit. At least two people in two separate cars should drive to the bank and deposit the funds after each service.
Collections should not be kept in the church under normal circumstances. If a collection must be kept for a limited amount of time in the church, it should be locked in a safe, not in a file cabinet or desk drawer.
The safe combination should be known by only two people (the pastor should not know the combination). If there are others who are selected to deposit money on a rotating basis, the combination of the safe should be changed periodically.
Although caution regarding collecting and handling the offering may seem to be unnecessary, according to recent statistics, churches are some of the most lucrative sources of funds targeted by thieves. Therefore churches would be wise to take extra precautions when collecting and depositing collections.
Originally posted 9/1/12.