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

 

 

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

 

Nehemiah Answers Simon Sinek (part 2 of 2)

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In part one, I recapped an excellent Ted Talk by Simon Sinek. (please stop now and watch it to more fully understand this post).

 

Nehemiah is a quintessential Old Testament leader. Upon hearing of the status of the protective walls and gates of Jerusalem, Nehemiah got his boss, the king of Persia, to let him go to his ancestral homeland and rebuild everything. His leadership skills are not questioned – he found solutions for every problem as they arose, he dealt with people justly, and he confronted his cynics directly. He accomplished what needed to be done and what others said couldn’t be done. He did it. And his work subsequently protected Jerusalem for several centuries.

 

This is what Nehemiah did:

  • In chapter one,
    • Nehemiah hears about a situation which breaks his heart
    • He prays fervently about what he should do and he listens to God
  • In chapter 2, Nehemiah answers Simon Sinek
    • Verse 2: the king asks, “Why does your face look so sad…?” Nehemiah’s reply is an emotional appeal: his homeland is in ruins.
    • Verse 4: the king asks “What is it you want?” Nehemiah has a short reply – let me go to my homeland and rebuild the city
    • Verse 6: the king asks, “How long will your journey take?” and Nehemiah responds with lots of specifics about his needs
  • In the rest of the book: Nehemiah gets the job done. He leads the people, fends off critics, and reports back to the king.

 

When the book begins, Nehemiah had no power and very little influence. But he did have a God-inspired vision and he was articulate. By the end of the book, Nehemiah is an inspirational leader. Even 2,500 years ago, Nehemiah was ready for Simon Sinek!

 

Nehemiah 2:1-9

In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”

 

I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

 

The king said to me, “What is it you want?”

 

Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

 

Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.

 

I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.

 

Nehemiah was an inspirational leader. In only 52 days he did what others said couldn’t be done. He had a clear “Why” and could get people to believe what he believed. Even the king, who paid for everything, was able to buy into what Nehemiah wanted to do. Nehemiah’s “Why” was compelling to the soul of his listeners.

 

Lead On

Steve

www.churchbestpractices.org has a complete set of very affordable church manuals as templates in Word plus lots of free Word and Excel docs to help church administration.

Nehemiah Answers Simon Sinek (part 1 of 2)

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In September 2009, Simon Sinek recorded the third most watched Ted Talk (you should have Ted Talks in your podcast list). It is only 18 minutes long. It is impactful. It points to a different kind of leader, an inspirational leader.

 

The first few minutes are spent explaining The Golden Circle. Sinek draws three circles and writes “Why” in the centermost circle, “How” in the middle circle, and “What” in the outermost circle. He provides the advertising example of Apple who tells you why you should buy from them, not how they make computers or even what they manufacture. “Why” is an emotional connection.

 

Sinek continues by explaining what we know about the development of the human brain. The centermost part of the brain, the limbic system, focuses on our feelings, behavior, and decision-making. This part of the brain is the oldest to develop. It does not have the capacity for language. That is for the outer parts of the brain developed more recently and it determines the “what” of how we use our brain.

 

For leaders to reach the core of a person, inspirational leaders must focus on connecting with the “Why” of the listeners – that innermost core of a person’s brain. Sinek states that you must find “people who believe what you believe.” Another memorable quote is, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Leaders speak initially to a person’s soul, not to their practical side. The “how” and “what” will come soon enough but if you don’t hook someone with “why” then you’ll have a much harder time getting that person to join your mission.

 

Sinek ends with the example of Martin Luther King, Jr. When he spoke at the National Mall in August 1963, a quarter million people showed up because they wanted to be there. The “I have a dream” speech they heard is deemed the most memorable US speech given in the 20th Century. Inspirational leaders must speak to the emotional core of their followers so they will absorb “why” they should follow.

 

Lead On

Steve Law

www.churchbestpractices.org has a complete set of very affordable church manuals as templates in Word plus lots of free Word and Excel docs to help church administration.

 

Strategic versus Organic Org Charts

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Staff org charts are absolutely necessary. Every organization, including churches, must have an up-to-date org chart. These charts help all staff (and non-staff) understand who supervises who, where the buck stops, which department has which personnel, and so many other questions. And, as organizations grow and change, the org chart must do the same, too.

 

Ideally, the church leadership will think about three to five years out and dream about what staff is needed to accomplish the mission and vision of the church. Then, they will put in a timeline of which staff person to hire in which order (as budget funds are available). This planning helps keep the staff and personnel committee focused on its goals and using its people resources to reach those objectives. This is called strategic planning or a strategic org chart.

 

However many orgs, especially churches, fail to do this. Instead, the leadership reacts to complaints and requests from members who want to have a staff person to take care of a specific ministry area (usually the one the member cares most about). And too often the personnel committee and/or pastor will acquiesce and make that new staff person a priority even if it has nothing to do with the church’s mission and vision. This is called an organic org chart (it is also called a disaster).

 

Org charts must be intentional and well-reasoned. Otherwise, you may end up with an org chart in which the senior pastor has 10 or 12 people reporting to him; those org charts have the appearance of being a circus tent (which may be appropriate). Make sure your org chart looks well-planned and not like it was created by the monkeys in the circus.

 

Lead On!

Steve