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May 10, 2012

10 Tips for Counting Cash

Plus, best practices for making cash payouts

When churches receive tithes and offerings, there's more going on than meets the eye. Along with physically collecting people's money and bringing it to the bank, you should be tracking how much comes in, who it comes from, what it's used for, and how much each individual gives during a year.

This requires substantial record keeping and an effective internal control structure to ensure that the information is accurate and the money stays safe. Here are 10 ways to strengthen control of your cash receipts, and some tips on making cash disbursements:

  1. For your offerings, enlist money counters (tellers) who aren't related by family and don't work at the same place during the week.
  2. Avoid selecting someone experiencing a financial crisis. This kind of responsibility may expose such a person to temptation.
  3. Rotate tellers periodically. Try using teams.
  4. When offering plates are emptied, have at least two tellers present. Ask them to count and bag offerings on church premises.
  5. Designate a teller to record the money received. Ask another to review and initial the record.
  6. On a regular basis, have someone other than the tellers reconcile the bank account and list of money received (to the bank deposit, donor records, and general ledger).
  7. Immediately stamp all checks "for deposit only" and place the funds received in a lockable canvas cash bag. Use a bag with only two keys—one you keep at the bank, the other at the church.
  8. Deposit cash daily in your bank account. Never keep cash on the premises unless you use a lock box.
  9. Compare deposits from the regular services to previous services, noting the consistency of amounts. The amount of money received during morning worship services usually doesn't vary greatly from week to week.
  10. Send periodic statements to donors detailing the dates and gift amounts received. If a discrepancy arises, resolve it immediately by securing the assistance of someone other than the teller who originally counted the money.
Procedures for Controlling Cash Disbursements
  • Make all disbursements, except from petty cash, by check or draft.
  • Require two signatures on all checks over a stated dollar amount.
  • Prepare cash disbursements only when someone has approved and documented payment.
  • Mark supporting documents "paid" to prevent resubmission.
  • Lock up all blank checks.
  • On a regular basis, have someone other than the individual preparing disbursements reconcile check registers to the bank statements.

Find more help with the
Essential Guide to Money for Church Boards
and Internal Controls for Church Finances.

Laura Brown is a communications specialist for Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company. This article originally appeared on BrotherhoodMutual.com. Used with permission.

Related Tags: bookkeepers, business administrators, church finance, embezzlement, fraud, internal controls, treasurers


I'm a big advocate of insuring the integrity of the church and all those involved in the handling of money. These are good tips, but they can be improved upon.

a) Not all churches have the ability to immediately count cash received. When that happens you want multiple unrelated people placing the offering in locked bags and then placed in a drop safe or something similar where the cash is secure and cannot be retrieved by anyone until it's time to be counted (example: timer, security camera).

b) On item #8, I would not consider a lock box sufficient for cash on site. AS IMPORTANT is that someone have an independent record of what is in the lockbox/safe. That can be accomplished by a multi-part deposit slip made out by the counters or posting in the church accounting system (so long as the person posting is NOT the person caretaking the cash).

With regards to #8, I think any church with more than 100 weekly attendance should have a safe.
With regards to #9, our offerings vary greatly from week to week. We have a lot of members who get a monthly payroll or pension check. The first Sunday offering of each month is always much higher than the other Sundays. I see this as a good sign, that people are giving "first fruits." If the month has 5 Sundays, we get a very small offering on the 5th Sunday. We get larger offerings in December.

I like this a lot - but one inaccuracy: #9, the weekly offering amount varies significnatly week to week for any church I have done financial service for. Some tithe monthly, some tithe weekly, some tithe every time they are paid. Plus, some members are on vacation and miss service, and make up tithe th next week. In fact, it is not uncommon to see the amount vary by 30%+ every week. Thus, if your average $5,000/week in sunday service offerings, it would not be uncommon to receive $3,000 one week, $6,500 another, and $5,000 another.

Regarding #9, our offering vary significantly based on two week iterations. We serve a military area who receives pay on the 1st and the 15th of the month. Not weekly or every two weeks. The other points were well stated.

#9 is still VALID...measure Week Ones against other month's Week Ones, etc., etc. learn the frequency, and level of giving on a particular week, to see the signs.

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