Knowledge Center

The Knowledge Center provides access to hundreds of documents including policies,
procedures and a wealth of research on topics such as charitable gifts, expense
reimbursements, board governance, fringe benefits, and much more.
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This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.
10 Foundations of Church Financial Integrity: A Checklist

In today’s environment, the need for churches to operate by the highest standards of financial integrity has never been greater.

Ready to assess where your church stands? Use the ECFA checklist below as your guide in addressing 10 foundational areas that are key to operating with excellence and integrity.

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10 Fundamentals of Clergy Social Security

10 Fundamentals of Clergy Social Security

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10 Fundamentals of Clergy Tax

10 Fundamentals of Clergy Tax

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10 Ways to Have a Boring Management Comment Letter from your CPA Webinars-On-Demand

The 10 Ways to Have a Boring Management Comment Letter from your CPA Webinar with Vonna Laue, executive vice president at ECFA, discuss important financial management tools.

By listening to this Webinar-On-Demand, you will learn about:

  • Required communications
  • Internal controls
  • Oversight and monitoring
  • Monthly closing process
  • Reimburse carefully
  • Common tax issues
  • Technology matters
  • Prepare your policies
  • Corporate matters
  • Regulate your regulation
  • Financial condition

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3 Key Indicators of Your Church's Financial Health

Is your church financially healthy? How do you know?

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5 Things Christian Organizations Need to Know About Picking a Healthcare Plan

Christian organizations should consider these five factors when choosing a healthcare plan for their employees.

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7 Key Issues to Properly Handle Missions Finances Webinars-On-Demand

The 7 Key Issues to Properly Handle Missions Finances Webinar co-branded by ECFA and Church Executive, featuring Dan Busby, ECFA president, Samantha Cave, McLean Bible Church global impact administrator, Pat Willow-Kulesza, Willow Creek Community Church director of international serving, and John Van Drunen, ECFA executive vice president, discusses how to clearly communicate missions needs to givers, understanding how to measure and fulfill the expectations of givers supporting missions, handling the administrative responsibilities related to missions finances and much more.

By listening to this Webinar-On-Demand, you will learn:

  • How a church supports missions
  • Sound missions policies
  • Short-term mission team issues
  • Long-term mission distinctions
  • Communications with givers
  • Communications with short-term or long-term missionaries supported by the church
  • Accountability over missions funds

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7 Ways to Avoid a Financial Train Wreck -- The Church Network

The clear communication and understanding of church finances is a key to avoiding a financial train wreck and helping a church be a positive witness for Jesus Christ.

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Accountable Expense Reimbursement Plan - Sample Resolution for Churches

Sample wording for an accountable expense reimbursement plan resolution for churches

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Accounting for and Documenting Ministry Expenses

Outlines proper accounting and documentation of ministry expenses for a nonprofit and church.

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Accounting for Contingencies

Outlines the proper accounting for contingencies

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Accounting for Contributions Made to Nonprofits

Outlines the proper accounting treatment for contributions made by an organization to a nonprofit

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Accounting Resources

Lists publications that include accounting information for nonprofit organizations

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Agency (or Custodian) Funds

Outlines proper accounting treatment for non-gift assets an organization receives that are not legally its property, known as agency funds

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Aim for Faithfulness Rather than Results!

 What are we aiming for? Or in plain terms, how do we define success? From our research, church leaders typically define success along one of two lines.

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Annual Offering Steward Information Sheet

Periodic commitments are appropriate from those who count church offerings concerning confidentiality and other issues. This is a sample commitment form.

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Audit Committee

Outlines the importance of an audit committee charter and includes a link to a sample charter

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Audit Committee Charter for Churches

Sample Audit Committee Charter to revise and use.

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Audit Committee Questions for Auditors

List of questions that a board of directors or audit committee should annually ask their auditors

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Audits, Reviews, and Compilations

Describes the three types of financial statement reports: audits, reviews, and compilations

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Auto and Other Business Expense Reimbursements

Tax rules make it very important for full reimbursement of business transportation, travel, and other business and professional expenses.

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Avoiding Digital Fraud

How can our church avoid digital fraud?

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Basic Financial Issues for Local Church Treasurers Webinar

Basic Financial Issues for Local Church Treasurers Webinar

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Board-Designated Net Assets

Unrestricted net assets subject to self-imposed limits by action of the governing board, e.g., future programs, investment, contingencies, purchases, or construction of fixed assets, or other uses.

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Borrowing Restricted Net Assets

Discusses the borrowing of restricted net assets for operational purposes

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Budgeting Resources

Publications that discuss nonprofit budgeting

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Building the Oil Supply and Stocking the Storehouse

Dr. John Zietlow outlines a strong biblical basis for carefully devised financial policies and establishing adequate cash reserves. As he says:  “Financial health is a prerequisite for mission achievement. As you begin to build or rebuild your oil supply and stock or restock your storehouse, take confidence that God is your Source and He will supply all of your needs according to His riches in Christ.”

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Can Teachers Qualify for Minister's Taxation?

In the Internal Revenue Code, Congress has provided ministers with unique tax attributes.

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Cash Reserves and Liquidity Webinars-On-Demand

The Cash Reserves and Liquidity Webinar with Mark L. Jones, vice president and senior banking consultant for the Evangelical Christian Credit Union (ECCU), Jeremy Moser, chief financial officer for Mariners Church in Newport Beach, California, and Jon Roberts, Mission Hills Church in Littleton, Colorado, covers cash reserves and liquidity.

One of many lessons churches have learned from the recession is the importance of liquidity—having cash reserves available when you need them. Without adequate liquidity, the pursuit of your church’s mission may be in jeopardy.

By listening to this Webinar-On-Demand, you will learn:

  • Find out what constitutes liquidity and why it’s so important for every church.
  • Learn about a process ECCU developed which your church can go through to set a liquidity target and determine “How much is enough”?
  • Hear from two churches that have gone through the process of building adequate liquidity. Learn the struggles they experienced and the benefits which occurred as they set and achieved liquidity goals.

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Cash Reserves Q&A for Churches

Cash Reserves questions answered

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Cash Reserves: How Much Is Enough?

For ministries, financial resources are limited. Determining how much cash reserves are needed can be difficult and often feels like a shot in the dark. This white paper outlines the necessary steps to determine the appropriate cash reserves and liquidity for your ministry.

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Cell Phone Usage

This document provides cell phone usage information for a ministry, including a summary of the tax rules relating to cell phone expense.

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Check-writing Procedures

Specific internal control procedures to follow when writing checks to best protect the assets of an organization and includes a list of publications that contain more information about disbursement controls

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Church Cash Reserves—How Much Is Enough?

Cash Reserves: How Much Is Enough? (Published in The Church Network Insight magazine.)

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Church Compensation Comparative Data

At least every few years, a church should review comparative compensation data for the senior pastor's position.

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Churches and the Support of Missions

For many churches, supporting missions is an important part of the work they are called to do. And for such churches, an important issue is the proper handling of funds expended from the mission budget. This document assists churches as they consider how to support missions.

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Club Membership Dues

Discusses the taxability of club dues paid on behalf of an employee by a nonprofit organization

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Contributed Services and Use of Facilities

Outlines the accounting treatment, income tax treatment, and Form 990 presentation rules for contributed services and use of facilities

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Contribution Policy

A charity may have an underlying sense that some contributions should be carefully reviewed before accepted.

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Could Your Church Use an Accountability Tune-Up?

While solid financial accountability systems take extra effort, they are important tools.

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Countdown to Retirement

The Countdown to Retirement document will assist ministers in making timely decisions that ensure a comfortable retirement.

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Credit Card Use by Church Staff

Discusses the use of church credit cards for ministry purposes

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Current Assets and Current Liabilities

Defines and lists examples of current liabilities and current assets according to authoritative accounting literature

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Directors and Officers Liability Insurance

Discusses importance of director’s and officer’s liability insurance and important policy characteristics

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Document Retention and Destruction Sample Policy for Churches

A  records retention policy for churches

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Don't Worry – Nothing Will Happen — Disaster Planning Assumptions

It is amazing the level of risks that leaders in churches and parachurch organizations will take with people and resources in their congregations, their facilities, and in their broader “spheres of relationship.” Moreover, by leaders not identifying and addressing risks, they open themselves to situations that can compromise their own reputation and credibility.

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Educating Yourself About Church Vendor Fraud

Churches—particularly larger ones—are candidates for vendor fraud.  In this article, Jason Anderson, CFO of a large church accredited by ECFA, Living Word, Mesa, AZ, provides his excellent insights on how to evaluate how vendor fraud may happen in churches.  

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Educational Assistance Programs

Outlines the types and tax implications of educational assistance programs

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Embezzlement of Church Funds

Outlines steps a church should take if it detects embezzlement of funds

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Embracing Accountability and Integrity

Embracing Accountability and Integrity (Excerpted from Integrity at Stake by Rollie Dimos; Pg. 41-44)

One of the most important steps leaders can take to prevent fraud from occurring in their church is to embrace accountability and integrity and decide these are nonnegotiable values in the church. This means practicing what you preach and modeling biblical stewardship.

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Employee Compensation and Tax Planning Considerations for Pastors

There are a number of employee compensation components churches can consider for pastors.

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Employee Spousal Travel Policy

Care should be exercised when reimbursing the travel expenses of an employee's spouse

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Employer Mandate: Does It Apply To My Ministry?

How do you know if your church or ministry is subject to the Employer Mandate under the Affordable Care Act? If so, what are the consequences? View this helpful resource prepared by GuideStone Financial Services for more information.

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Expense Report Form

Expense report form (Excel document)

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Expense Reports Can Kill!

Explores the importance of proper expense record keeping and includes expense-reporting guidelines

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Financial Advisor

Looking for a financial advisor, or just looking for where to start? Check out these resources from our friends at Ron Blue Institute.

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Financial Integrity as the Foundation - Interview with Dan Busby

Financial Integrity as the Foundation - Interview with Dan Busby

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Financial Management Resources

Resources for financial management for churches and nonprofits

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Financial Management Sample Policy and Procedure Handbook

Sample Financial Management Policy and Procedure Handbook for Churches

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Financial Questions for Boards

Financial Questions for Boards

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Financial Statements Matter

A discussion of financial statements and why they are important to prepare properly

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Finding Church Management Software to Fit Your Needs

With dozens of Church Management Software (ChMS) options available, finding the best solution for your ministry can be daunting. Ministry Business Services, Inc. has researched 39 of the top Church Management Software programs and offers a comprehensive and unbiased compilation of what each platform offers, as well as general information on what to look for in choosing a management solution for your church or organization.

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Flexible Spending Account Chart

Form to track flexible spending account amounts withheld from payroll and medical expenses paid under the plan

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Four Accounting Challenges for Churches

Discusses four challenges churches face.

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Fraud and Whistleblower Protection for Churches

Discusses the whistleblower protection provision contained in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and its applicability to churches as well as general misconduct, dishonesty, and fraud prevention

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Fraud Prevention Checklist

We hear about church fraud in the news, but we don’t want to consider it as a possibility in our congregation.

While this short summary is not meant to be all-inclusive, it will help you assess your current situation and determine if additional precautions or considerations may be necessary to protect your church.

 

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Fringe Benefit Planning

Maximizing the take-home pay for your ministry staff

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Gifts to Church Staff

Churches often make gifts to employees to show appreciation for the dedicated service. These payments may take several forms and have important implications to the church, the staff members, and donors.

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Give Your Financial Statements a Check-up

Take a walk through your financial statements and see if any of the most common financial statement mistakes apply to your organization.

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Going Concern Contingencies

Defines going concern contingencies as the inability of an organization to meet its obligations as they come due, and outlines the conditions that lead to a going concern audit opinion

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Handling Cash: A Common-Sense Approach to Securing Your Ministry's Most Liquid Asset

Ministries are more vulnerable to financial loss if they have not implemented a system of internal controls. Policies and procedures, checks and balances, and accurate financial records should all be part of a comprehensive program that ensures financial assets are properly used and protected.

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How Is Your Church Leveraging Its Compensation Dollars?

Many churches have not leveraged compensation dollars for their staff to the fullest extent possible. Why? It is work, but it is worth it!

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How many months of cash should our church have in reserve?

How many months of cash should our church have in reserve?  Are there different categories of reserves we should consider? 

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How to Best Communicate Open Enrollment to Your Employees

When communicating healthcare plan enrollment information to employees, consider these strategies to engage and educate your team in a clear and effective way.

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How to Budget in a Changing Economy

If we've learned anything over the last three recessionary years, it's that as the economy changes, we need to change with it if our ministries are going to thrive.

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How to Ensure Your Church Bookstore Is Tax Exempt

Church bookstores can be wonderful resources for attendees as well as the church.

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Independent Auditor Sample Request for Proposal (RFP)

Sample request for proposal can be used by ministries to request proposals from independent auditors to perform the ministry’s audit

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Internal Control & Internal Audit Guidelines

Internal Control and Internal Audit Guidelines

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Investment Management Resources

Publications that discuss investment management for nonprofits

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Investment of Permanently Restricted Net Assets in Real Estate

Discusses the propriety of investing permanently restricted net assets in real estate

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Investment Policies

Investment policies for nonprofits are board-created to determine and direct how funds are to be invested.

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Is Now the Time to Refinance Your Ministry's Loan?

In this every-changing economy, ministry leaders frequently face the question: "Is now a good time to refinance?"

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Is Your Church Budget Useless?

That may seem like a strange question coming from someone committed to faithful administration of Kingdom resources.

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Is Your Organization Ready for the General Data Protection Regulation?

The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, went into effect on May 25, 2018 and many nonprofit organizations don’t realize they could be impacted. The GDPR is a set of laws enacted by the European Union (EU) to protect individual rights to privacy and control over personal data.

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Mariners Stewardship Blueprint

A sample blueprint for biblical church stewardship developed by Mariners Church

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Meals and Lodging Provided to Employees

When an employer provides meals and housing for employees, it is important to determine whether the value of the meals and lodging is taxable to the employees.

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Minimizing Income Taxes For Church Employees

One of the many responsibilities church boards face is that of minimizing income taxes for their church employees by appropriately structuring their compensation packages.

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Missionary Travel Expense Form

Sample claim form for families traveling with dependent children

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Modified Audit Opinions

Details ECFA’s modified audit opinion policy

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Nonprofit Expense Reporting is “Voodoo” and What You Can Do About It Webinars-On-Demand

This Webinar-On-Demand will focus on the Nonprofit Expense Reporting is “Voodoo” and What You Can Do About It with Michael Batts, Managing Partner of Batts Morrison Wales & Lee.

Popular wisdom says that nonprofits with lower overhead expense ratios are better than those with higher ratios. And that particular piece of popular wisdom is hogwash.

This Webinar-On-Demand will address:

  • Who cares about overhead expense ratios and why? 
  • Why the current expense reporting model for nonprofits is like “voodoo.”
  • What are the GAAP requirements for functional expense classification?
  • What are some practical observations about applying the GAAP rules?
  • The “overhead myth” debunked
  • What your donors really want to know about your organization’s effectiveness
  • What your management leaders really need to know about your organization’s effectiveness
  • Swimming upstream in the overhead myth river – how to push back

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Overhead Assessments on Restricted Gifts

What limitations does a ministry have when applying an overhead assessment on restricted gifts?

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Paying Counseling Fees for Employees

Outlines the proper tax treatment of counseling fees paid by an employer on behalf of its employee(s)

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Per Diem Rates

Outlines lodging, meals, and incidentals per diem rates for business travel

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Permanently Restricted Gift

A gift restricted in perpetuity by the donor.

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Permanently Restricted Net Assets

The part of net assets for a nonprofit organization that is restricted in perpetuity by donor-imposed stipulations.

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Personal Use of Church-Owned Vehicles

Vehicles provided by churches to employees for business use are often used for personal purposes.

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Personal Use of Church-Owned Vehicles Sample Policy

Sample wording for a policy for personal use of church-owned vehicles

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Personal Use of Ministry-Owned Vehicles

Vehicles provided by organizations to employees for business use are often used for personal purposes.

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Planning for the Unexpected

We all have our share of the unexpected.

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Preparing for Disasters?

Taking the time, energy, and finances to prepare for natural or man-caused disasters is an investment. Preparing for the unexpected is the process of integrating readiness into all elements of ministry.

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Purchasing and Financing Existing Facilities Today

This white paper presents ten reasons to consider an existing building, with financing implications for each reason.

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Qualified Tuition Reduction

Discusses the tax deductibility and required components of qualified tuition reduction

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Quid Pro Quo Sample Charitable Gift Acknowledgment

Sample gift acknowledgement for a quid pro quo gift

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Reclassifications of Net Assets

These are the simultaneous increases in one net asset class and decreases in another.

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Recording Income from Estates

Explains the proper accounting and recognition criteria for estates contributed to nonprofit organizations

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Reducing Fraud in the Church Webinars-On-Demand

The Reducing Fraud in the Church Webinar with Vonna Laue, CPA and ECFA exective vice president, and John Van Drunen, ECFA vice president and legal counsel, discusses steps you can take to keep your church from being the next headlines discussing fraud in the church.  

By listening to this Webinar-On-Demand, you will learn:

  • Proactive steps your church can take to help prevent fraud in your church
  • Creating an environment of accountability and integrity
  • Fraud statistics

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Renting Versus Buying Your Church's Facility

Many growing churches rent their facilities and expect to do so in the future. Others have made the decision to purchase. Neither way is necessarily the better way. Whether to rent or buy is based on each church’s specific situation and, more importantly, on prayerful petition.

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Restatement of Prior-Period Financial Statements

Any error in the financial statements of a prior period discovered subsequent to their issuance should be reported as a prior-period adjustment by restating the prior-period financial statements.

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Restricted Gifts for Employees

Discusses how restricted gifts for employees should be handled

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Restricted Net Assets

Resources whose use is restricted by an outside agency or person.

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Restriction

A donor stipulation that limits the time or purpose of a gift’s use.

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Rotation of Auditors and Audit Partners

Discusses the issues to consider concerning rotation of auditors and audit partners

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Sample Chart of Accounts for a Church

Sample chart of accounts for a church

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Sample Conflict of Interest Disclosure Annual Reporting Statement

Sample statement for reporting conflict of interest disclosure

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Sample Conflict of Interest Policy Statement

Conflict of interest policy statement

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Sample Grant Agreement

Sample wording of a grant agreement

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Sample Policy on Suspected Misconduct, Dishonesty, Fraud, and Whistleblower Protection

Sample policy for whistleblower protection

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Sarbanes-Oxley Act

Outlines the applicability and relevance of this law to nonprofits

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Segregation of Duties and Internal Control for Churches

Lists different duties that should be segregated for cash, revenue, and expense internal controls.

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Selecting an Auditor

Suggests factors a nonprofit organization may consider when selecting an auditor

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Should the Government Be in the Business of Taxing Churches?

This article by Michael Martin, ECFA Vice President, was written for Regent Law Review.

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Social Security Tax for Ministers - More Complex than It Appears

Social Security Tax for Ministers - More Complex than It Appears

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Special Events – Church

Overview of fundraising events and proper accounting treatment for event elements

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Standard Mileage Rates

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) establishes the optional standard mileage rates for employees to use in computing the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, medical, or moving expense purposes.

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Tax Treatment of Scholarship and Fellowship Payments

Discusses the proper tax treatment of scholarship and fellowship contributions and payments

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The Importance of the Annual Church Audit

Good accounting records and good stewardship go hand-in-hand. Your church is the trustee of the money it receives—handle it carefully. An annual audit of a church—either external or internal—is vital.

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The Small Stuff

Article by Dan Busby

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The Who, What, When, and How of Church Internal Audits

There are several reasons why a church may perform an internal audit.

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Tithing Charity Funds

Discusses issues relating to a ministry tithing a portion of its funds to another ministry and includes link to a tithing policy

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Travel and Expense Reimbursement - Sample Policy for Churches

Travel and expense reimbursement policy for a church.

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Travel Outside the United States

Outlines the deductibility guidelines of business related travel outside the United States

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Tuition Payments for Missionary Children

Discusses the deductibility of payments for missionary children’s tuition

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Underwater Funds

A fund in which the principal amount (corpus) has fallen below the value of when originally gifted by the donor.

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Underwater Funds Rule

Under UMIFA, an organization was pro­hibited from using fund assets if the value of the fund was below its historic dollar value.

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Unrestricted Net Assets

Resources that have no external restriction on use or purpose.

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Viatical Investments

Defines and discusses issues relating to viatical investments, investments by an organization in an individual life insurance policy

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Vital Information You Can Take to the Bank

As your church grows and weekly income rises, failure to manage funds wisely can cost your church money that could and should be invested in ministry. You can reduce this risk by taking five key concepts to your banker or prospective financial services provider.

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What to Expect from your Auditors

Details what a nonprofit should expect and look for in an audit firm

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When is it Appropriate to Make an Overhead Charge to a Church Project?

When a church raises funds for a project—let’s say a building fund or a campus expansion fund—is it appropriate to make an overhead charge to the project? In other words, is it appropriate for a church to allocate a portion of the funds raised for the project to cover general and administrative costs and any costs related to raising the resources with the total raised less the overhead allocation used for the project?

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Why a Church Audit?

Mention the word "audit," and you will get several reactions. (Seldom is it met with overexuberance!) However, having an independent source involved in the church's accounting systems and processes as well as the financial reporting has many benefits.

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Why Accountability Matters

Why Accountability Matters (Excerpted from Integrity at Stake by Rollie Dimos; Pg. 19-21)

Oftentimes, I meet church leaders who are fearful of making their financial activity accountable and transparent, and many times, control of the church’s finances is limited to one or two individuals. In a best-case scenario, this is simply an honest but naïve mind-set, believing that finances are better controlled when fewer people are involved. In a worst-case scenario, this is a deliberate attempt to conceal poor stewardship or abuse. It’s the worst-case scenario that will ruin a leader’s ministry, destroy a church, and shatter people’s faith.

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Workers’ Compensation Laws and the Local Church

Work-related injuries or illnesses among church employees are not as rare as some think. Workers’ Compensation laws are designed so that benefits for a work-related accident, injury, or illness can be paid promptly without the need for expensive legal fees to determine fault. Unless specifically exempted by law, church employers are subject to Workers’ Compensation laws.

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You're a Church Treasurer

You’ve been asked to fill the role of treasurer at your church, and you have questions. Knowing how to manage your church’s finances and communicate to leadership, staff, and congregants is critical to effectively serving as church treasurer.

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Zero-Based Budgeting

Defines zero-based budgeting and outlines its major processes

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