Part 4 in a 4-part series on How to Count Church Offerings
In America today, the information that comes through the church offering plate needs to be safeguarded as much as the money itself. Here are 3 keys to handling church donor info:
Keep it Organized
At the end of the year, your tax-savvy donors are going to want a written acknowledgement of their contributions. That’s not the reason Christians give, but there’s no reason they can’t get an income tax break from the government when they do.
You could go old school and keep everything on paper. But please, save yourself some trouble and find a digital solution. There are 2 halves to the software equation:
Your bookkeeper should be using some kind of accounting software to balance the checkbook and keep track of expenses. Popular solutions include Xero, QuickBooks Online and Sage One BUT accounting software isn’t really designed to keep track of who’s given what. There are ways to jury-rig it, but it will always be a duct-tape-and-coat-hanger solution.
Donor Management Database
Way better to set up a donor management database. When you take a few minutes to enter all of the donations each week, producing statements in January should only take a couple of clicks. Solutions abound, but since you’re looking, I’d steer you toward a church-specific online database. They’re called Church Management Software (ChMS for short) and they’re built to keep track of your donors and a whole bunch of other ministry stuff, too.
I’ll also mention your online giving solution because it will be keeping track of information from online donors. Some online giving providers have set up syncs that get their data into your ChMS automatically. Otherwise, there’s probably a way to export the data to a spreadsheet and then upload it to your ChMS (be sure to read Security below).
Keep it Private
Your ChMS will give you controls so that only the right individuals have access to who’s given what. Grant access only on a need-to-know basis. My planters have been split on whether a senior pastor should have access to giving records. That’s a topic for another day.
You also have to consider access to any computers or devices that are used in handling church donor info. Even if you’re using a cloud-based process for getting pictures or scans of checks from the worship facility to the bookkeeper, there are probably residual copies of the images in a folder somewhere on your device. Set login passwords for each device or at least figure out how to password-protect those folders.
Keep it Secure
Security is similar to privacy, but includes intent to use the information for some nefarious purpose. Identity theft comes to mind, but there are probably other ways a crook could put the data to use.
So if your digital solution is cloud-based, your service should include 128-bit or SSL encryption (you can ask or poke around the provider’s website). And use strong passwords! Encryption doesn’t help you if your password is “1234”. How many characters are in your password is way more important that including punctuation and numbers. I recommend using no shorter than a 12-digit password/passphrase.
If you’ve done an export/import of your donor data, make sure that you’ve deleted the file when you’re done with it, and then emptied your garbage. That will stop all but the serious hacker from getting to the file. But if that hacker has access to your device, there’s not much to stop them. So, be sure to address…
Consider who might have access to any reports or statements that have been printed or are laying around whatever your office is. Keep a drawer with donor data locked and use a shredder when disposing of printed data. Don’t be careless with devices or laptops; if they get stolen, you need to figure out how to erase the drive remotely to protect the data.
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You’d want your own personal information handled well, so when you’re handling church donor info, treat it with the utmost care. Both your church’s people and its reputation are on the line.