A recent study suggested that one of the main reasons American Christians don’t give away more money is due to a lack of trust in the in church. To respond to that, here are thirty-six questions your church should be able to answer about money.1
Good policy builds trust and creates an environment for generosity to flourish.
1. Who is authorized to count money and record amounts?
2. How are those persons chosen?
3. Who has access to information about donors?
4. How are giving pattern changes reported and to whom?
5. Who (and how often) reports financial activity and who reviews/receives those reports?
6. Are the reports transparent? (Available to all constituents and easy to read)
7. Who builds the budget?
8. How are those people chosen?
9. Are they stake-holders in the outcome?
10. Can any staff member vote on the personnel portion of the budget?
11. How is the final budget adopted and by whom?
12. Is the budget a target/estimate or is it “fixed in stone”?
13. Is there a process for appeal or amendment to the budget and who can propose such action?
14. Who responds to the request with final authority?
15. What written policies are in place regarding salaries and benefits?
16. How are they determined and how is staff evaluated? (Does job performance play a role in determining salary, and or benefit increases/decreases?
17. Is a COLA a part of the financial package and to what index is it tied?
18. Are ALL accounts audited?
19. How often and by whom?
20. Who receives the audit report and what do they do with it?
21. What policy is in place to receive bequests or other large undesignated gifts?
22. Who decides how such a gift will be utilized in the church’s life and mission?
23. Are people encouraged to make such gifts?
24. What policy governs the investment of monies in savings or reserves?
25. Is there a limit to what can be held in reserve before other action is required?
26. What policy governs the receipt of real property gifts and or securities?
27. What policy gives the church ultimate discretion as whether or not a gift will be accepted?
28. With regard to gifts of a non-financial nature, is there a policy to govern the “retirement” of these gifts once they become no longer useable, worn out, or need replacement?
29. How often are constituents made aware of their record of giving?
30. If the organization is unable to meet all of its fiduciary responsibilities at any given time, who determines what bills get paid on time and what obligations do not get met?
31. Does the church or organization reflect the principle of the tithe relative to mission beyond the local operating needs?
32. If the church should become no longer financially viable, how are its assets to be distributed?
33. Does the church/organization have adequate insurance, especially against theft via fraud, fiduciary malfeasance, or embezzlement?
34. What plan is in place for developing future leaders this area?
35. Are those lead in the area of stewardship and finance leaders in giving?
36. Is every member of the governing body contributing at some level financially?
For more information and for help in wrestling with many of these questions, consult the Treasurer’s Handbook.
1Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money; Emerson and Smith. Oxford Press, New York, 2008.