The financial crisis over the past several years has affected giving and has taken its toll on churches all across our country. We have seen churches eliminate services, merge with other churches, file for bankruptcy or simply close their doors. Church leaders have struggled with figuring out ways to operate with less and increase church giving while trying to maintain church programs.
The good news is that there are organizations that can help churches with operational management and financial oversight. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) is one of those organizations and is dedicated to helping religious organizations earn the public’s trust by adhering to Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship – which focuses on financial transparency, board governance, integrity in fundraising and proper use of charity resources. ECFA is similar to the Better Business Bureau in that it provides a seal of approval for organizations that meet their criteria for management practices and gives the public a level of trust.
The beauty of these standards is that they are a basic guide for good governance and operational management. There are also some advantages to going through the accreditation process. A recent report from ECFA suggests that religious organizations that are ECFA accredited showed an increase in giving of 3.4 percent.
“This is a very encouraging development,” said Dan Busby, ECFA president. “It shows that even as difficult economic conditions persist, donors to ECFA-accredited ministries continue to live out their faith by practicing generosity in spite of adverse economic times. It also shows ECFA is well positioned to help Christian organizations accomplish their missions through adherence to biblical standards, guidelines and practices.”
The public has become more and more deliberate in their giving and has been trained by the media to be cautious with whom they support financially and this includes the local church.
While ECFA is a critical accreditation for non-church religious organizations, it offers many benefits for a local church body. So even if you don’t want to go for a full-blown accreditation, I urge you to review the Seven Standards and challenge your leadership team to identify ways to improve your church’s approach to financial stewardship. Just taking the steps may actually put you in a position to increase church giving.
Patricia Lotich writes for Smart Church Management which provides church consulting services that help churches fulfill their call by managing the resources God has given them – people, time and money. You can reach at firstname.lastname@example.org.