Risk Reporter for Religious Institutions
Winter 2014 Vol. 13, Issue 1
Collecting donations and offerings is a weekly, sometimes daily, responsibility for many congregations — and a role that is regularly entrusted to volunteers with little oversight or direction. Unfortunately, theft happens more often than many congregations realize.
Establishing a secure collection and handling process for donations is a simple way to protect one of your organization’s most valuable assets. Risk Reporter spoke with Jack Cohn, treasurer for the Jacksonville Bible Church in Jacksonville, N.C., about the process they use to handle cash collections.
Risk Reporter: What security measures do you have in place to ensure the safe and secure handling of offerings?
Cohn: We ask our members to place their offering in a sealed envelope with their name and date written on the outside. Once the offering collection is complete, the money is immediately and directly transferred to the congregation office where the offering is counted. Knowledge of this location is limited to only those directly involved in the process.
Each collection is documented on a preprinted inventory balance sheet. The balance sheet accounts for every detail of the collection, including checks and cash denominations. The collection is counted twice by separate people, and the inventory balance sheet must be signed by both individuals. We perform this process after every collection.
Risk Reporter: Who is responsible for overseeing the collection process?
Cohn: My No. 1 rule for safe handling of the offering is that two people must be present at all times. We never allow a situation where only one person is handling the money — beginning with the collection of the offering during service through the deposit at the bank. Having two people present removes any suspicion and encourages accuracy.
Risk Reporter: What steps do you take to ensure safe storage of the money?
Cohn: After the documentation is complete, the cash is placed in a sealed moneybag and, ideally, immediately deposited at the bank. If that isn’t possible, the money is stored in a safe that is kept in a locked office. Access to the safe is limited to only four people in our entire congregation.
If any additional accounting work is required before the money is deposited, a congregation elder or deacon must be present.
Risk Reporter: How is money securely transferred from your congregation to the bank?
Cohn: We try to deposit the money as soon as possible to minimize the risk of mishandling. If possible, we’ll deposit the funds the same day as the collection. We also require that two people are present for the money transfer and deposit.
Risk Reporter: How do you recommend maintaining an organized accounting system?
Cohn: Beyond the inventory balance sheets we use to document collections, I recommend using accounting software that is specifically designed for congregations. Our system helps track all of our funds and budgets, making it easy to balance everything monthly. It is worth the investment and has helped us accurately monitor the flow of cash through our organization.