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9 Steps to Protecting Church Cash

Pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church became a target for thieves in March.  According to the church, $200,000 in cash, and $400,000 in checks and credit card donations were stolen when thieves broke into the church safe and took the weekend contributions.

Churches and other nonprofit ministries receive a majority of their income through cash donations.  Typically, the donations are collected during the weekly service or mailed to the church office.

Tithes and offerings collected during the weekly services are certainly a desirable target for thieves. It doesn’t matter if you are a small church or large church.

Do you have adequate controls in place to safeguard your cash and contributions?

Here are several controls you can put in place to ensure the safety of your cash collection process:

  1. At least 2 people should collect and count the offering.  Additional eyes provide accountability and protection during the process.
  2. To reduce the risk of collusion, these people should not be related and team members should be rotated often.
  3. Have team members who count the offering, complete a count sheet, sign it, and prepare a deposit slip.
  4. If a deposit slip is prepared later, the deposit slip should be prepared by 2 people.  Any discrepancy between the count sheet and the deposit slip should be researched and reconciled.
  5. If the offering is kept in the church overnight, it should be placed in a safe that is mounted in a secure and permanent location.  Unfortunately, the locks on desk drawers and file cabinets can be easily defeated.
  6. Safeguard the deposit while it is in transit to the bank.  This protection is often overlooked, but very important, especially for the safety of the person who is taking the deposit to the bank.  If possible, two people should take the deposit to the bank.
  7. Reconcile the bank deposit receipt to the deposit slip and the count sheet.  All three forms should be reconciled by someone not involved in all three processes (collecting, counting, and deposit).  Any discrepancies should be researched.
  8. Segregate key duties to help ensure accountability and integrity in all financial processes.  Along each step in the cash collection, recording and reconciling process, make sure there are 2 sets of eyes on each transaction.  For example, the person who reconciles the bank account should be different than the person who makes the deposit.
  9. Lastly, contribution receipts should be sent to donors to acknowledge their gift.  These receipts will also provide another level of accountability by helping to find any discrepancies between the actual and reported donations.