By the Rev. Ralph Mero, updated 2000
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Office of Church Staff Finances frequently receives inquiries about how local congregations should manage their funds and disbursements. This brief summary is offered for congregations wanting to initiate simple steps to assure their receipts and payables are appropriately handled, and that their members are adequately informed.
Congregations are urged to seek more detailed information from their District Office field staff or from UUA Congregational Services.
As organizations largely staffed by volunteers, it is virtually impossible for churches to have complete financial security. Still, experts in church administration feel strongly it is irresponsible not to have in place a system of cash management that protects both staff and volunteers by instituting checks and balances to prevent the opportunity for misappropriation of funds. It is unfair to put people in situations where their reputation is their only protection against accident or allegations of dishonesty.
It may seem like these procedures involve an unnecessarily large number of people. However, involving several persons is a good safeguard in itself, and this practice is of great value should an unfortunate incident occur, if it proves that good faith management efforts were being made.
Embezzlement from congregations is not unusual, and it almost always occurs when one individual has been granted such a high degree of trust that no safeguards are considered necessary. If your congregation's money is managed by such a person, show respect and consideration for him or her by promptly initiating safeguards that offer protection to the person as well as the congregation.
What is most important is to have carefully thought-out written policies in place. It is hard to persuade members to contribute generously to a congregation, if we can't demonstrate that their gifts are being safely managed and accounted for. Fiduciary responsibility requires that we have a system worthy of trust, at the same time that we trust the people to carefully exercise the responsibilities they have accepted.
For more information contact ocsf @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Wednesday, September 26, 2012.
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