Recording church offerings before it all goes to the bank can be complicated for portable churches. Here are a couple of ideas to make the job easier and more secure for your Offering Counting Team.
Portable churches have a special challenge when it comes to recording church offerings. You have to collect the offering, count it, record the givers’ info, and seal the checks & cash up for delivery to the bank. All in a corner or other out-of-the-way place at a rented school or movie theater that you have to vacate quickly.
Tracking the giving properly & securely is at least as important as getting the deposit to the bank. The givers’ contact information and account number have to be safeguarded. And your church should be sending giving statements either annually or semi-annually.
If You Track Giving In-House or Locally
You may want to have the team record church offerings directly into your church management software as they’re doing the counting. For every check (and cash envelope with the giver’s name), they’ll typically have to type into the system:
- The giver’s name (as a search to determine if they’re already in your software)
- The amount
- Whether it’s check or cash
- The date (unless you’re able to use one date for the whole batch)
- Which fund(s) the giver has specified
This presents a couple of problems:
- If there’s a lot of entry, this can be a painfully long process for your volunteers
- Even detail-oriented, capable volunteers aren’t necessary tech-savvy enough to troubleshoot inevitable hardware & software issues on the fly
- It requires an active internet connection while you’re at the rented facility, which isn’t always available
- If your deposit at the bank doesn’t match the total batch of giving records, you’ll have to dig around for images of each check on your bank’s website, which may include a fee. And the bank won’t save images of cash envelopes with a giver’s name, so it could be impossible to research the discrepancy
MICR Readers for Recording Church Offerings
It’s common for church management software companies to provide an option where you can buy your own MICR reader and zip the checks through the reader to speed up the process (see PlanningCenter’s and CCB’s, for example).
This can be a time saver, but has its own complications:
- It’s only saving your volunteers the step of looking up the giver in the software; they’ll still have to manually input at least the amount and fund designation
- The device isn’t free
- It can’t be used with a tablet or mobile device, so you have to pack a laptop along for the ride
- Accuracy and speed is increased, but there’s still no image of the checks (or envelopes)
If You Hire a Virtual Bookkeeper
There are several amazing church bookkeeping specialists across the country that can do your bookkeeping from a distance. For churches that have hired a virtual bookkeeper (a great idea BTW), you have the added complexity of figuring out how to get your givers’ info across the country without compromising names & account numbers through insecure channels. HINT: email is not secure.
Also, be sure that donor tracking is part of what you’re paying the bookkeeper for. Don’t assume.
I’ve been watching for an app that could be used on a table or phone to snap quick pictures of each gift and get the images instantly to the bookkeeper through a secure cloud account.
This would solve all of the problems above for your counting team and push the labor-intensive data entry off-site to your bookkeeper.
The problem so far has been the security of the information on the chosen device. So many apps I’ve reviewed keep a duplicate copy of every image in the device’s photo gallery. Which presents a huge security problem.
Enter Camscanner for Recording Church Offerings
I think I’ve finally found a winner in the Camscanner app. Here’s why:
- It’s free
- You can password protect the app
- It leaves no duplicate/residual image on your device (unless you override the default settings)
- It auto-enhances the image quality
- The checks and envelopes get auto-cropped if you put them on a contrasting background
- It runs OCR, which converts the type in the image to searchable text (!)
- The images sync to the cloud with 256-bit SSL encryption once you connect to wifi or cellular data (you don’t need active internet for the team while they’re counting!)
- Your bookkeeper can access the images through a desktop web browser as soon as they sync
So the only thing you have to solve is access to the device or the app itself. I can imagine a couple of scenarios that might work:
- buy a church iPod or Android tablet that will run the app (cheaper than a MICR reader!)
- use the children’s check-in tablet since they only need it at the beginning of the gathering
- have team members install the app on their devices, but the bookkeeper empties the folder and/or changes the password weekly (admittedly leaves some holes that would need to be patched; just spit-balling here)
I don’t currently serve on an Offering Count Team, so I have to peer into the realm of practice from the confines of theory. I’d love to hear your feedback if you test drive this option!
Handling givers’ information with care & security shouldn’t have to keep your Offering Count Team on site until after lunch. Do something to make recording church offerings easier.