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Risk Insights – Protecting Donations at Religious Organizations

Donations or tithes are a critical part of operations at a religious organization. The money collected may be used to keep your organization afloat or give back to the community. While most people view their religious organization as a place of peace and trust, there are those who may take advantage of that atmosphere to try and steal tithes and donation money. Researchers estimate the amount of money stolen from religious organizations will reach $80 billion by 2025.

Theft can come from outsiders or church members alike. Here are some tips to reduce the likelihood of theft at your organization.

Potential Risks

The openness and visual nature of the donations can be a tempting target as it is passed through the church. This may result in small crimes of opportunity. More significant crimes in which a large sum of money is taken over a long period of time are also possible. Thieves can prey upon different sources, such as:

  • Offering plates—The offering plate is seen as an easy target for theft. It is touched by most of the congregation.
  • Organizational accounts— Larger thefts usually occur when people gain access to resources through their position in the church. From there, they may steal from your organization’s checking account, credit cards or investment accounts.
  • Public deposit boxes or mailboxes—Many religious organizations became more remote during the pandemic. As a result, more donations were sent through the mail, making these deposit boxes and mailboxes sources for theft.
  • Monitor people who handle finances—Conduct background checks on people who will be handling money. Track financials and schedule regular audits conducted by someone outside of the organization. You may also want to run annual credit checks on the people who handle church money.
  • Create a written financial policy—Expectations should be clear and consistent. The written policy should be given to everyone involved in financial matters. This will prevent them from pleading ignorant if they violate financial policy.
  • Secure donations—Ask people to place their donations in envelopes. This will reduce the amount of loose cash and may decrease the risk of opportunistic crimes. Use at least two unrelated people to collect and count money.  The collectors shouldn’t work together during the week or be in a state of personal financial turmoil.
After-collection

Here are some after-collection procedures:

  • Marking checks—Stamp checks as deposit-only. This will reduce the chances that they will be copied or misused.
  • Depositing checks—Deposit checks immediately. Keep cash in a lockbox until it can be deposited. Consider alternating deposit schedules to reduce the likelihood that your organization will be targeted for theft. Compare deposit slips and internal records frequently. This will help your organization identify discrepancies quickly.
  • Responding to theft—Report thefts immediately. Investigation can and should begin as soon as possible.

Religious organizations hold a great deal of financial responsibility in addition to their spiritual duties. An atmosphere of trust coupled with frequent donations makes these organizations easy targets for theft. Proper mitigation strategies can reduce the likelihood that your organization will be victimized. However, there may still be a risk.

ChurchInsure is a division of Anchor Insurance Agencies specializing in the unique insurance and risk management needs of religious institutions. Visit our website to learn how we can serve you at anchor-insurance.com/churchinsure.

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