No church leader wants to believe that trusted ministry personnel would take advantage of the church. The truth is that it happens, but you can be proactive in taking steps to prevent embezzlement and other financial crimes. By following a few simple tips, you can reduce both the temptation and the likelihood of a financial crime occurring.
Protect your offerings. Offerings should be immediately counted in a secure room with two or more individuals present. If that is not possible, secure the funds so that no individual has private access to the offerings.
Conduct an annual audit. A regular audit by a CPA firm will point our weaknesses or holes in your church finance security practices. It can also serve as a deterrent to anyone contemplating a financial crime.
Cash, check, or charge. Remember that all funds are vulnerable to theft. While crimes involving cash present accountability challenges, checks and charge information are often targeted for crimes.
Protect your staff. Don't put trusted staff in the position of being solely accountable for funds. Separate the functions of record keeping and cash handling. This will limit temptation and reduce the risk for unfounded accusations.
Confront the suspect. If you have clear evidence that an individual has embezzled funds, confront them in a private setting with at least two church leaders present. Carefully determine what action to take next.
Consider the consequences. Next steps include conducting a CPA audit, reporting the crime to the police and the IRS, requiring restitution, and removing the suspect from access to church funds.
Proceed with caution. Avoid making an accusation without a thorough investigation. If an embezzler is dismissed, proceed carefully in discussing the situation with your congregation.
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