Questions re Accepting Credit Cards (part 1 of 5)

Churches which do not have online giving often have several questions which hinder them from proceeding. Here are some of the concerns I’ve run into over the past few years:

  • Online Giving (itself)
    • Making financial transactions online has been normalized by society in the past 10 or 15 years. Amazon and other online businesses have made us comfortable with spending money online and using our credit cards on our computers and smartphones.
    • In 2016, our society spent more on restaurants than groceries; in 2015, we spent more electronically than we did using cash and checks. We have moved inexorably into the age of electronic transactions.
    • I predict that by the year 2025 (maybe 2030) we won’t even be using credit cards anymore – transactions will be made using Apple or Android pay or some other electronic financial exchange system which is being created even now.
  • Fees paid by the church
    • All credit cards have fees ranging from about 2.3% to 5% of the transaction. VISA and Mastercard have lower fees while American Express has the highest. Most VISA and Mastercard providers have fees in the 2% to 3% range.
    • Remember that banks have fees on every check and cash transaction they process, albeit about 25 to 30 cents for each one and that is lower than credit card fees.
    • Fees on credit cards is very much a “cost of doing business” in today’s world. Just as every church has a copy machine and air conditioning, fees on credit cards are just part of being “in business” for a church.
    • Frankly, the fees aren’t that much. If a church gets as little as $10,000 in online gifts during the year, the fee for that is about $250 which seems pretty small when weighed against the $10K that came in.

Lead On!

Steve

 

First Time Donors

Coming to a church for the first time is frequently celebrated. People are encouraged to introduce themselves, provide contact information, and are even given coupons for coffee or food. These are good steps whose goal is to encourage the people to return again and again.

Churches can take another step which is to send a thank you note to all first time donors. The first time someone gives to a church is a big deal. It is one thing to come but it is an even bigger step to pull out your wallet and financially support the church. That action should be acknowledged.

Every first time donor should get a thank you note from a church leader – the pastor, the treasurer, or the church administrator. This simple act will take about 3 minutes per card and cost a dollar or two including postage. But the benefits of that expense will be enormous – people will comment about that for a long time and they will be genuinely surprised and grateful.

Take the time to write a thank you note. It is a big deal.

 Lead On!

Steve

 

 

Nest Camera

A few months ago I bought a Nest Camera for $200. Nest Cams are linked with a smartphone. I bought it for one specific reason but I’ve come to see a multitude of additional benefits. The camera is located in my office window and is pointed to the parking lot.

 

I bought the camera for this benefit (and why I encourage you to get a Nest Cam):

  1. Bad weather: I live in Virginia and I wanted to see from the comfort of my house how much snow had fallen at the church and whether I needed to close for the day or postpone opening the building. I even got my facilities manager to create a snow gauge so I could see how many inches had fallen. (Here’s the irony, this first year of the camera we’ve had two snow events, each of less than an inch!).

Here are the unexpected but very cool additional benefits:

  1. It uses the church’s Wi-Fi and electricity. When either the power or Wi-Fi goes out, I get an email stating the camera is offline. Wherever I am, I will know that something is wrong at the church and I need to address that problem.
  2. The camera is pointed at trailers in which we have a lot of expensive equipment for our multisite location. If someone steals the trailers, the camera will capture the vehicle that took our equipment and that will help the police. For a fee, Nest will store video from your camera. Currently (2017) I pay $10 per month for 10 days’ worth of recordings.
  3. My facilities director has access to view my camera, too. He’s getting one for the other side of building so we’ll have everything covered. Multiple people can have access to the same camera.
  4. The camera has a microphone and a speaker. It captures conversations inside my office (though the audio is very bad). Be careful with how you use captured conversations because there may be legal issues with that. The speaker on the camera can be fun – from my smartphone I can talk and whoever is in my office will hear my voice. I haven’t done that yet, but I could really scare someone!
  5. When the lights in my office are off at night, the camera easily captures everything going on outside in my lighted parking lot so I can see if there are any cars that shouldn’t be there in the evening.
  6. When the custodian comes into my office and turns on the light, the camera catches his reflection in the window pane. I also hear his conversations! This allows me to “spy” on my staff – as if I have time.
  7. Speaking of spying – some of my staff realized that my camera captures when they come to work and they believe (despite my instance to the contrary) that I monitor when they come and go. I could do that, but, I don’t have time and I really don’t care.
  8. Last month there was a violent storm. Using Nest Cam’s recording feature, I captured a seven minute video of the storm which I was able to show to my insurance company during the claim process. The video helped the insurance company understand why I was making the claims – and we’re getting a new roof!

 Lead On!

Steve

 

Cameras

Churches should use cameras to protect their most valuable assets – people. Other businesses may use cameras to protect against theft and other crimes – churches can do that, too. But the most important reason churches should have cameras is to ensure the safety and security of everyone inside the church buildings.

There are several principles which churches should follow when installing cameras:

  1. Children’s areas are the priority. If you have a limited budget, then install cameras in children’s areas first. You don’t have to install cameras in each room but you should at least have them in the halls around the children’s rooms. The goal is that no one can get into or leave that area without being on camera.
  2. Exterior doors are critical. Every exterior door must have a camera covering who is leaving through those doors. That means that the camera should be above the door pointing into the building. Most security cameras capture images of people entering. But for churches, the critical issue is who is leaving the church and are they carrying someone (a child) or struggling with someone (child or adult). Cameras facing inward will also capture anyone taking something out of the building they shouldn’t (a TV or something else).
  3. Hallways and stairs are the final priority. Cameras should also capture “long throws” of halls and stairs. These images allow police to follow a person as they walk through the building and see what their path was.

Ensure you buy quality color cameras, not black & white. Camera systems include a CPU (computer) which records about 30 days of images before being copied over. The CPU must be in a cabinet which is locked. Some systems load their images to the cloud; access to that must be controlled so that no one can tamper with the recordings or camera settings.

These systems are increasingly sophisticated. Most systems are motion activated so they only record when there is activity (and not 24/7). Others can do facial recognition and track people from camera to camera creating a path the person walked. Cameras can also be linked to your smartphone so you can monitor and control the system from wherever you are. It is amazing what is available – but they can also come at an amazing price. Determine your priorities and your budget as you enter this project.

Lead On!

Steve

 

 

A Story About Faithfulness

This is a story from a friend of my wife. It is a true story and used with permission:

 

So I hadn’t tithed for four months. I could list reason after reason why, but not one of those reasons would justify not giving God what is rightfully His to start with. 

I went to church with a dear friend this past Sunday and one of the messages I heard was on tithing. As I listened, the Holy Spirit began to work in my heart. Needless to say conviction was overwhelming. 

When I got home I not only wrote the tithe check, I took it to the treasurer that evening at Bible study. 

I got to work the next day only to be overwhelmed once again. This time not with conviction, but with gratitude. I was told of a bonus that I would be receiving later in December. And guess what??? 

It’s 3 times the amount of the tithe check I wrote. (🙊<— me)

Now I want you to hear this part loud and clear, it’s not, not, NOT about the money!!! It’s ALLLLLLLLL about the faithfulness of a loving Father who sits waiting to bless His children when we are obedient. 

I know many will see this post as putting to much personal info out there. But I can not be silent about the faithfulness of a Mighty God. He is worthy to be honored by our testimony. 

I love you Jesus!!!

Good churches need good manuals – Finance Manual

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A finance manual is critical. Church finances require the utmost level of trust from the donors and members toward the pastors and finance staff. A finance manual establishes the policies by which the church’s money will be governed and used. Parts of this document are a legal requirement but most of it is designed to ensure confidence in the handling of funds.

 

If a church does not have a finance manual, it can create the appearance of lack of integrity and a haphazard attitude towards donated money. That is not the biblical standard. Paul tells the Corinthians to do all things in their church “decently and in order.”

 

A good finance manual will address accounting, banking, record-keeping, software and hardware, document retention, communication with donors, accounts payable, financial reporting, audits, gift acknowledgement, and too many other things to list here. These policies ensure that even though staff may come and go, the practices within the Finance Office remain constant and completely above-board.

 

A personnel manual is a living document – it must be reviewed every year and updated at least every other year. Not doing that minimal step is a failure by management. Most policies will remain the same such as contribution processing, payroll, or accounts payable. But as times change, new policies must be written and old policies changed to address changes in the law or accounting standards regarding overtime, designated funds, and PP&E (property, plant, & equipment).

 

The finance manual template at www.churchbestpractices.org has

  • A Gift Acceptance Policy to help the church know what gifts can be accepted without question versus those which require research
  • A policy for using church-issued credit cards and reporting the expenses charged on the card
  • Fundraising ethics standards to ensure the church abides by IRS rules

 

This manual is only $30. It is updated annually to ensure its compliance with the latest legal and tax changes.  This manual is a great starting point for churches needing to develop a manual scratch or to update their current one. It will save hours of research and writing. By using this manual, a church will need only to add sections that are specific to their situation and/or remove non-legal policies which don’t apply to them.

Good churches need good manuals – Personnel Manual

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Many churches don’t have a personnel manual or their manual is seriously outdated. And that is fine so long as it passes this test: will whatever you have stand up in court?

 

Personnel manuals are founded in personnel law which is written by Congress and the Department of Labor. If a church’s manual does not keep up with the current laws, then the church is open to a lawsuit. AND, if a church does not abide by its own manual, then every judge will rule harshly against the church.

 

A personnel manual is a living document – it must be reviewed every year and updated at least every other year. Not doing that minimal step is a failure by management. Most policies will remain the same such as employee benefits, grievance guidelines, etc. But as times change, new policies must be written and old policies changed.

 

For instance, most churches do not have a “social media policy” which instructs their staff on how to write about their church and/or boss on social media sites and blogs. Does your church have an updated weapons policy? What about political statements and statuses advocated publicly by lay leaders and staff?

 

The personnel manual template at www.churchbestpractices.org has

  • Typical employee classifications which meet legal standards
  • Common benefits for employees (while salaries get an employee inside the door, benefits KEEP employees inside)
  • Dozens of other policies which help churches, their staffs, and their members

 

This manual is only $30. It is updated annually to ensure its compliance with the latest legal and tax changes.  This manual is a great starting point for churches needing to develop a manual scratch or to update their current one. It will save hours of research and writing. By using this manual, a church will need only to add sections that are specific to their situation and/or remove non-legal policies which don’t apply to them.

Good churches need good manuals

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All churches need policies. Some churches make policies in reaction to an event. That is backwards thinking. Churches must be proactive in their policies so that staff and members know what is expected and what lines cannot be crossed.

 

Every church needs a personnel manual and a finance manual to establish the legal and ethical boundaries within which the staff and members will operate. Violation of these policies often violates legal, ethical, or moral boundaries. Breaking a policy will always result in a conversation and sometimes in the termination of a staff member.

 

Some churches need guide manuals (not policy manuals) to establish the parameters for their budget, endowment, or internal operations. These manuals determine the boundaries within which the staff and committees will function. Straying outside those limits may be permitted but only after a conversation about why and how.

 

This site provides churches with templates they can use to create their own manuals. There is no need to “re-invent the wheel.” These manuals were developed by an administrator with over 25 years of experience in half a dozen churches. These policies comply with all current laws and are the best practices of healthy churches.

 

The manuals available are:

  • Budget
  • Finance
  • Finance Office
  • Endowment
  • Personnel
  • Financial Statements
  • Financial Planning for Ministers
  • Generosity Strategy
  • Written Communications