What Happens to Our Apportionment Check?
By Nate Berkneking
When I was serving as the pastor of a local church, I was highly committed to ensuring that we paid our apportionments. I always felt that being part of the greater connection was a privilege and responsibility. I wanted the whole congregation to be a part of that. At the same time, I had very little idea of how the check our treasurer sent was processed and accounted for by the Conference office. Actually, I had no idea.
The truth is, your apportionments make possible an incredible amount of ministry. Congregational Excellence, Pastoral Excellence, the Office of Mission Service & Justice, Annual Conference Sessions, our ordination processes and new church starts simply wouldn’t happen without the generosity exhibited by churches that pay 100% of their apportionments. I am deeply grateful for the 620 churches that did so in 2013. That’s the vast majority of the United Methodist Churches in Missouri.
But what happens to the checks once you send them? Actually, it’s a pretty standard process, but one we are always looking to improve. The process is the same for all incoming money, whether sent via Pay Pal for a registration fee, online for Imagine No Malaria or by check for an installment of apportionments.
All checks that come to the office are immediately grouped into batches, scanned and deposited with our primary bank. At this point, our Accounts Receivable Coordinator, Tiffany Beene, receives a report of all deposited checks. Tiffany recently joined our staff after working in the accounting department of Lincoln University. She uses the report and enters the deposits into our database and accounting software packages. This creates a record of the contribution in the name of your local church, and makes the production of statements possible. Our Assistant Treasurer, Joan DeBoe, then reviews the entries and “posts” them to a ledger of all transactions. During that posting, we ensure that the funds are “coded” to ensure they are utilized by the ministry for which they were sent. As Treasurer, I oversee the whole process and manage the staff. We use different people at each stage to ensure checks and balances and to prevent any misuse as required by our auditors.
Do we make mistakes? We certainly have in the past. They’ve all been caught and corrected appropriately, but we are working hard to be better. As we grow, I’m committed to two important changes. First, with much more efficient use of our software, we have erased the lag time between what you send by the end of a month and the amounts reported on your statement. In other words, the April apportionment statements will include all amounts paid through the end of March. Second, we are committed to more efficient and fewer errors in reporting. When you find one, please call Tiffany, Joan or me immediately. We want to know when we’ve made a mistake. We want to correct it as efficiently as we can. I’m committed to the very best service for our local churches. Without you, there would be no ministry.
What if I Need the Conference to Send a Check?Sometimes, the Conference may actually send you a check. In fact, we send lots of payments to lots of people and companies every month. We send checks that provide payments for everything from coaches to scholarships to utilities to grants for local churches.
The process for sending a check usually begins with someone making a check request. Those requests are placed on one of a couple of forms created by our Accounts Payable Coordinator, Erin Ritter. Erin joined us from Midwest Block & Brick where she did similar work for a large family-owned company for several years.
The forms require the person making the request to provide the appropriate “code” and amount to be paid. The code ensures that we account for it as money spent out of the right office or ministry. Those forms must then be signed by the director with responsibility for the area to which it relates. The requests are submitted to Erin who generates a record of the payment in our accounting software. At this point, our Assistant Treasurer or I must approve of every payment before a check can actually be printed. When we approve those payments, we check the form, review the “back up” material, and ensure that the amount is correct. We use our software to approve the check, and Erin then prints the check. Another staff person then ensures they are mailed or delivered to the right person or company.
Like our process for receiving apportionments, we require several different people to ensure that a check is never written for something unauthorized or inappropriate. The proper handling of the money you give is among our highest priorities. We’ve also sought to improve the efficiency and accountability of this process. Today, we have consolidated check request forms to two. They are simple and straightforward. Erin remains vigilant to ensure the correct coding. Again, service to our local churches, laity and clergy is vital to the success of our ministry. When you experience a delay or a check written for the wrong amount, we want to know immediately. Our goal is to provide efficient and flawless service in our accounting. Anything less would be inconsistent with our expectations of Christ-Centeredness, Fruitfulness, Accountability, Excellence and Collaboration.