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Skip Navigation LinksADLA Administrative Handbook > Chapter 6 - Finance > 6.2 - Revenue and Income > 6.2.1 - Unrestricted or Undesignated Donations to a Parish


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6.2.1 Unrestricted or Undesignated Donations to a Parish​​​

​​​Unrestricted or undesignated donations received by a parish may be used for any purpose. The primary source of unrestricted or undesignated donations is the weekly Mass collection, usually received through cash or checks in parish envelopes and/or an online automatic payment program.

6.2.1.1 Cash Receipts

Unless the donor makes a specific designation, receipts are unrestricted. For purposes of this chapter, cash includes paper currency (including foreign currency), coins, scrip, gift cards, money orders, travelers cheques, cashier's checks, wire transfers, and similar instruments that can be converted to cash immediately. Establishing good procedures for handling cash is very important and compliance with procedures by the pastor, principal, parish business manager, bookkeeper, staff members, and volunteers dealing with cash is essential to sound management.

Cash procedures need to:

  • Ensure that receipts from any source are received and are not diverted or lost through dishonesty, neglect, or incompetence

  • Provide for the proper recording of receipts, in accordance with generally accepted standards of accounting

  • Ensure that a "paper trail" exists showing the path of cash as it comes into, flows through, and is dispersed or applied by th​e location

6.2.1.2 Other Cash Receipts and Fees

Other cash receipts include funds received for such items as marriages, funerals, baptisms, quinceañeras, books sales, Mass intentions, fund-raisers, facilities use by third parties, and other miscellaneous payments or contributions.

Locations should:

  • Provide a receipt to the donor and maintain a cash receipts log

  • Reconcile the totals of the log to the amount of cash received according to the cash handling procedures

  • Record receipts according to the chart of accounts in the general ledger as ordinary income

6.2.1.3 Donations by Check

Checks are not considered cash. Generally checks are unrestricted donations, especially when they are put into the collection basket. However, locations should scrutinize checks to ensure that the check is not restricted before designating it as unrestricted.

6.2.1.4 Envelope Programs or Automatic Payment Programs

Envelope or automatic payment programs encourage systematic giving. Often, the programs enable donors to designate the amounts they give to different purposes, such as the general fund, school, building maintenance, capital campaigns​, special collections, etc. Therefore, not all envelope or automatic payment programs are unrestricted.

6.2.1.5 Credit Card Receipts

Every credit card transaction (including automatic payments) incurs a processing fee to be paid by the location to the credit card processing company and the credit card vendor. These fees result in a reduced net amount received by the location. Deposits into the location's account by credit card processing companies reflect only the payment, net of credit card fees, and only the net amount can be reflected in the revenue or on the monthly bank reconciliation process.

California law prohibits locations from passing on credit card fees or charging a convenience fee to those who elect to pay by credit card. If a location cannot or will not absorb the fees associated with payment by credit card (including automatic credit card payments), the location must either discontinue accepting credit cards for payment, or raise charges by the amount of the credit card fees and offer a discount to those who pay with cash.

6.2.1.6 Handling and Recording Receipts

Bonding may be required for certain individuals in positions with financial responsibility, especially if those persons are charged with handling cash or check deposits and cash or check payments.

Weekly offerings are gathered at all Masses according to local custom. Generally, baskets are circulated and the collections are gathered and placed on the altar or in a secure location where more than one person is responsible for overseeing the collection. In some parishes the ushers bring the offering forward and leave it in front of the altar until the end of the Mass. At the end of Mass, no fewer than two ushers should take collection baskets to the safe or another designated secure area to be held until counted. This process will ensure maximum security and indicate to everyone the importance of responsible stewardship.

Counting

A designated group of people must count the receipts. The members of the group and the counting teams must be rotated and changed regularly so that the same individuals are not members of the same team for the same Mass continually. The group should first separate the loose cash and check offerings from the envelopes. Then the group should count the loose offerings separately and enter the amount in the Mass Collections Summary Schedule.

Certain envelope programs allow donors to designate particular funds on the outside of the envelope. Counters must divide the amounts designated from the undesignated amounts and account for them separately. After all envelopes have been opened and the contents checked against an amount written on the envelope, the money, if any, is then counted and totaled. Discrepancies in the amounts written on the envelopes and the contents of the envelopes should be reported to the person in charge. Counters must also keep track of the amounts donated by each donor so that appropriate tax acknowledgments can be issued and ledger entries can be recorded.

The Mass Collections Summary Schedule should be prepared in duplicate. One copy should be placed with the empty envelopes and given to the person in charge. Another copy should be attached to the copy of the bank deposit slip and given to the bookkeeper.

Bank Deposits

After the cash and checks have been counted and reconciled, the bank deposit itself should be prepared and submitted for review to the person in charge. The actual bank deposit should be made as soon as possible in accordance with the procedures available at the bank. If the deposit cannot be made immediately, the funds should be kept in a fire-resistant safe.

When offerings are especially large, it is sometimes advisable to have two people go to the bank when the money is deposited. This is especially true after a Christmas or Easter offering or an occasion when a special public appeal has been made for funds.

Checks must be deposited weekly as a courtesy to the donors and to assure that the checks will be honored by the bank.

Safe

Most churches have a safe with a combination lock available for temporary storage of cash. If no such safe (or similarly secure location) is available, the money should be counted immediately following the Mass and deposited in the bank. At least two but no more than three people should know the combination. The combination should never be posted in a public place and must be changed whenever personnel or authorized individuals change.

6.2.1.7 Individual Records of Charitable Contributions

Charitable contributions to the location may be tax-deductible on the donor's income tax return so long as the donor maintains a written record of the contribution to confirm the gift and the gift qualifies for deduction. Donors should be advised to consult their tax accountant for details of this benefit as it relates to their personal tax situation.

Charities are responsible for providing a written acknowledgment for any single contribution of $250 or more before donors can claim a charitable contribution on their income tax return.

Locations may either provide separate acknowledgments for each single contribution of $250 or more, or one acknowledgment to substantiate several single contributions of $250 or more. Separate contributions are not aggregated for purposes of measuring the $250 threshold.

If a donor does not receive any goods or services in exchange for a donation, the location should provide a timely written statement containing the following information:

  • The name of the location

  • The date(s) of the contribution(s)

  • The amount of any cash contribution

  • A description (but not the value) of any noncash contribution

  • A statement that no goods or services were provided by the location in return for the contribution

If the location does provide goods or services in exchange for a donation of more than $75 (e.g., at a silent auction), it must provide a written disclosure of the value of the goods or services to the donor. The donated value is the difference between the value of the goods or services and the donated amount.

Warning: Locations may not consider tuition assistance or scholarships that must be applied to a specific student's tuition as a charitable donation. No request from a donor for a letter identifying the specific tuition assistance as a donation may be honored.

6.2.1.8 Noncash Donations (Securities and Real Estate)

Locations may not accept donations of noncash assets such as shares of stock, mutual funds, real and personal property, or life insurance policies without direction from the archdiocesan Financial Services Group. Such donations require special handling involving complex tax and ownership rules. Donations of items for garage sales, thrift shop sales, school used book fairs, school uniform fairs, and the like may be accepted in accordance with the location's policies without approval from the Financial Services Group.​