Don't Forget the Check

The buzz surrounding electronic giving options continues to grow as online donation capabilities improve and text-messaging campaigns take hold. The American Red Cross, for instance, says it raised $35 million within 48 hours of the January earthquake in Haiti, with half arriving via its website and $5 million through texts.

But a lesser-known technology called remote-deposit capture may provide significant benefits to churches as they sift through the large number of checks still given weekly. A February survey of 750 Christian households by Maximum Generosity, Church Finance Today, and Leadership shows 90 percent still primarily use checks for their weekly offering.

Remote-deposit capture first gained acceptance among retailers wanting to speed the clearing of checks. In recent years, banks like Christian Community Credit Union, Bank of the West, and Evangelical Christian Credit Union began offering it to churches.

The service involves a device at the church, provided by the bank, to scan checks. The bank can then import the digital information immediately into the church's accounting or management software. Churches pay for the scanner, plus a monthly service fee that is based on the volume of checks processed. But some banks offer the scanners for free and reduce (or even waive) the processing fees, based on their relationship with the church.

For church leaders, the benefits are numerous. At Church in the City in Rowlett, Texas, the deposits appear in the church's account the next day. It's one of the most appealing aspects of the system, said administrator David Tebeau. "Velocity of cash is very important."

Besides speed, the service can also improve productivity for staff members and volunteers, eliminating manual deposit preparation and paper trails, and reducing the number of trips made to the bank, since deposits can occur virtually any time of day throughout the week, said Linda Chan, an associate vice president at CCCU.

A reduction in trips to the bank also may help avoid situations like one that occurred on a Sunday night last December in Greenville County, South Carolina, when an armed man robbed a husband and wife as they made a night deposit at the church's bank.

CCCU introduced remote-deposit capture nearly four years ago. More than 50 clients, including churches, now use it, Chan said. "Our remote-deposit capture volume accounts for about 30 percent of ministry accounts deposit volume," she said.

This article first appeared in our sister publication Leadership.

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