Good financial practices - how to protect your treasurer. (Part 1)
Churches rely on trust to help them operate effectively. It is right that we should trust each other and especially our church officers and workers who deal with church funds. Putting good financial controls into place does not imply distrust but is actually more about about honouring them. Sound financial practices have three important benefits:
- Protecting the treasurer (and others) from false accusation or suspicion if money goes missing.
- Reducing the risk of an error and, where one does occur, allow it to be more easily identified.
- Reducing temptation on those involved.
There are two main sides to financial controls – income and expenditure. In this blog we look at the first of these.
For most churches the bulk of their income (other than standing orders) come through collections on Sundays and at other meetings. In such situations the following should principles should be followed:
- Use a standard form for recording all collection details. Rural Ministries has produced a standard template which can be downloaded and printed off. You may want to produce your own if this does not work exactly for your church.
- Count and record the giving on the day of the collection – it should never be left with one person before being counted.
- Counting should take place by two people who are together for the whole process. One should count and record and a second person should check and countersign. Different combinations of people should undertake the task each week.
- The counting should ideally take place discretely but where others can see rather than ‘hidden’ away in a shut room.
- Details of any gifts eligible for Gift Aid should be noted as should any specific requests associated with donations – eg for use in the building fund.
Banking should be done promptly however in rural areas getting to a bank may not always be possible before the next meeting. In the event of two collections being banked at the same time it is recommended that they are banked on separate paying in slips so that the collections records can be clearly matched against bank statements.
It is quite common for church members to present expenses forms at meetings where collections taken but it money for expenses should not come out of the collection and the giving should be banked in totality. This allows the different transactions to be traced. (We shall look at expenditure next month.)
The collection records and paying in slips should be retained for six years as required by the Charities Act.
Members of the church should be encouraged to put gifts in the collection plate rather than posted to the church office/pastor's home but where an appeal is likely to result in postal giving marked envelopes should be provided which can be left sealed in a safe or other locked cabinet until two people can be present to open them and their contents recorded.
Our attitude to financial controls – like many rules in life – depends on our view of them. We can either find them restricting or liberating. Why not help set your treasurer free!