Generosity

6 Ways to Stop People from Stealing at Your Church (Plus one bonus that could solve the whole problem)

Stealing is a problem inside and outside of the church. The existence of stealing within the church is an unfortunate situation, but it happens and needs to be prepared for.

6 Ways to Stop People from Stealing at Your Church (Plus one bonus that could solve the whole problem)
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Stealing is a problem inside and outside of the church. The existence of stealing within the church is an unfortunate situation, but it happens and needs to be prepared for.

In a recent survey conducted by LifeWay Research, one in ten Protestant churches said that someone had stolen money. According to LifeWay research, they believe this frequency of embezzlement within local churches is due in large part to their dependence upon volunteers overseeing their finances.

The role of volunteers in the life of the church isn’t going to change. Everyone who places his or her faith in Christ becomes a member of his body (1 Cor. 12), and they are called by God to participate in his work, which means the church will always be open to volunteers.

Even though this is the case, there are six ways your church can practically prevent stealing of church funds.

#1. Track your giving

The first thing your church needs to do to prevent its funds from being stolen is to track your giving. As you keep track of your giving, keep an eye trends. Do you notice an unexpected spike in giving? Are there questionable recurring transactions and transfers of large sums of money? These activities and others do not necessarily mean funds are being stolen, but keeping your eyes on short- and long-term trends are key.

#2. Require dual signatures

There are several instances where your church should require dual signatures.

  1. First, your church needs to decide a predetermined amount of money that requires two signatures.
  2. Second, charges over the predetermined amount your church sets should not be authorized by the person handling the transaction. This type of arrangement creates a conflict of interest and an unnecessary temptation.
  3. Third, require two signatures for transfers of money over the predetermined amount of money you decided.
  4. Finally, for dual signatures, it’s important to rotate this responsibility consistently. A regular rotation will help prevent two people from working together.

#3. Limit access to bank information

Fraud is a big business. And, just because you lead a church, it doesn’t mean you’re exempt from your information being stolen. If anything, people may find churches easy targets since many of them work through volunteers to handle their finances. In general, it’s a good idea to limit the number of people who have access to your bank information

#4. Ledger reconciliation

The person responsible for reviewing your church’s monthly statement should not be someone within the church who regularly makes financial transactions. Again, if the same person fills both of these roles, then this person will have conflicting interests.

#5. Encourage rotation

From the people who collect your offering, count the giving, and deposit the funds in your church’s account, your church should regularly rotate the individuals in these positions. Rotating people in and out will decrease the ability someone has to steal money.

#6. External audit

Keeping track of your church’s income and expenses is important, and it’s also vital for an individual or organization unrelated to anyone within your church to audit your financial statements. An annual external audit will provide an extra needed set of eyes on your churches finances.

Bonus: Enable mobile, online, and other forms of digital giving

Passing the plate or putting a collection box in the back means you’re still encouraging “offline giving” — that is, giving by cash and check.

Of course, it’s unlikely that you’ll stop “passing the plate” any time soon, but it’s important to understand that the mere fact that cash and check is being passed around in a room of hundreds or even thousands of people means that there is opportunity for theft. Add to that the fact that the cash and check has to be counted by people and you’ve compounded your theft risk level.

Adding mobile and online giving to your church giving mix allows for those who are interested in this option to give digitally, thus reducing the amount of cash and check giving thats being handled.

Digital giving is a brilliant way to reduce theft and overall financial risk for any church.

Corner markets, grocery stores, and other retailers figured this out years ago. That’s why you see signs like “no bill over $20 accepted” along with all the signs highlighting that they take VISA, MasterCard, Discover, and AMEX. They want upstanding people to know they take digital forms of payment and would be thieves to know there isn’t much cash on hand.

Conclusion

In the end, one way you can limit the number of people who are involved with your church’s finances is by encouraging the members of your church to give online. You will still need to abide by the principles above in tracking your church’s financial statements and requiring dual signatures on larger transactions. But, by pointing people to give online, you will limit the number of individuals who are needed to oversee your church’s giving.

What systems does your church have in place to prevent stealing of church funds? Share your advice in the comments below!

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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6 Ways to Stop People from Stealing at Your Church (Plus one bonus that could solve the whole problem)