Managing a Spiritualist Center

Church Financial Policy & Procedures (USA)
By:Je' Czaja

Most organizations have written financial policies and procedures to ensure fiscal responsibility and guide the organization in day-to-day operations. This is particularly important for organizations whose mission is to promote integrity in all areas of life. According to Jim Banner, auditor and CPA, "I like to define a policy as what you always do or what you never do within a certain set of circumstances."

All incoming funds should be under maximum internal control. Some categories, such as fund-raising policies, may require a separate document. This section should include a statement that all donations will be handled in compliance with understood IRS regulations. Literature and recordings by staff are normally considered to be the property of the ministry and an annual inventory of these items scheduled. Staff honorariums, especially by cash or check, should flow through the ministry. Designated funds must be used only for the purpose for which they were donated.

Salaries, housing allowances, bonuses, social security, and other employee benefits are covered in the staff handbook. Reimbursements to staff for expenses should be in compliance with ministry bill-paying policy. An annual budget is prepared and approved according to organizational bylaws, with provision for authorized midyear adjustments due to unforeseen circumstances.

Assets and Liabilities
Cash deposits should be placed in insured accounts in financial institutions, with the goal of receiving maximum interest on deposits. Noncash donations will be recorded and all physical assets inventoried annually. Include the organization's borrowing philosophy and limits, which usually includes paying all credit cards within 30 days. The organization's policy for borrowing to acquire land, buildings, vehicles, and capital equipment should be stated here.

Board Finance
Board members are responsible to seek the organization's best interest and should not personally profit from the ministry, which would be a conflict of interest. The board treasurer normally does not do the bookkeeping, but seeks to understand financial reports and communicate these to the rest of the board. A finance committee assists the treasurer and helps prepare the annual budget.

When the ministry is in the name of the founder, the founder's salary, fringe benefits, and use of ministry assets should be authorized annually by the board and available to any board-authorized constituent.

It is a good practice to have an annual audit by a CPA external to the organization, as well as periodic examination and internal audits by the board of directors. Many organizations prepare an annual report to the congregation showing how much money came in and how it was spent. The board decides who prepares this report and the method of dissemination.