• David Lee Brown

Church and Charity Embezzlement

Church and Charity Embezzlement is rampant. You would think that a “Christian” with full knowledge of Exodus 20 would understand “Thou shalt not steal.” But apparently many “Christians” are straying so far away from Biblical truth that they yield to the mentality of the world. In other words, get everything you can without regard for others – bigger, better, and more stuff. Greed poisons our society and unfortunately, Christians are not immune to greed. It’s the volume of greed and theft that astounds me. Churches are the worst as it pertains to embezzlement because they often don’t have any checks and balances to prevent embezzlement. Charities are better at setting up and adhering to checks and balances but they also succumb to embezzlement.

Church and Charity Embezzlement – One Author’s Perspective

Patricia Lotich said, “Every time I read about fraud and embezzlement in the church, I am amazed. I am amazed that a trusted church member could actually steal from their church; I’m amazed that church leadership is naive enough to have little or no financial controls; and I’m amazed at the amount of money that can be stolen without anyone even suspecting.”


The fact that Christians are so trusting and want to believe the best about people, opens them up for disappointment. The fact is that a great deal of embezzlement goes unreported. But the embezzlement that is reported is mind-blowing, so I can’t imagine what the actual numbers would be if unreported monies were added in too.


Church and Charity Embezzlement Statistics

According to Frank Summerville, JD, CPA, 30% of church workers will steal. He also provides the following additional statistics.

Non-profits fall victim to embezzlement at a rate of 12 % per year.About 33% of congregations experience theft each year.The average loss per congregation per year in the United States is $120,000.


Church and Charity Embezzlement

According to Church Crime Information, the reported cases of embezzlement in 2019 totaled 2,221,782 dollars in the United States alone. And that is just the major reported incidents. There are many smaller incidents that I did not include and also incidents that remain unreported. Just imagine all the little thefts and embezzlements that remain unreported worldwide. There is a total of about 3 million churches in the United States and somewhere between 8 – 16 million churches worldwide. So, calculate for yourself just how much loss would occur if only 1 dollar was embezzled or stolen from each church each year.

Church and Charity Embezzlement in Non-prophet Charities

According to Daniel Draz, non-prophet charity losses to embezzlement “can easily account for significantly more than 5% of the organization’s annual revenues and this type of financial loss can be catastrophic to the organization.” So, according to Charity Navigator, the total charitable giving in the United States in 2017 was 410.02 billion dollars. That’s just one nation’s charitable giving but there are many rich and charitable nations. So, just imagine the financial loss if all charities lost 5% to embezzlement, fraud, and theft. The thought of it is almost unbelievable but true due to Adam’s sin and the fall of mankind. The sheer volume of theft literally makes me sick to my stomach.


Conclusion

Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” so we all have the potential of falling into this evil. But, most Christian people would never actually perpetrate fraud, theft or embezzlement. A true Christian knows the difference between right and wrong and adheres to the Biblical principals that they were taught or learned. So, what should church and charity organizations do?


7 Pieces of Advice

Forgive the sinner but punish the sin. The police should be called in for any theft of more than just a few dollars. Follow Biblical church disciplinary rules for small amounts.Have monthly or at least quarterly audits of all church accounts.Always have two signers on all accounts.Two people should independently count the offering and their counts must reconcile.Deposit the offerings the next business day, if possible. Because delay is the devil’s playground.If you are a large church, there should be cameras in the counting room and also a video recorder to record the count.Separation of duties. The person that counts should not necessarily be the person that deposits. This provides layers of defense against theft.

Many people are steadfast in their honesty and integrity. But prevention of theft is much easier and less damaging to the church than prosecuting the perpetrator. Live by Biblical precepts always. But also protect your church or charity at the same time by adding preventive measures. Refer to the Preventing of Fraud and Embezzlement PDF file link for more information.


References:

18 Shocking Facts About Church Embezzlement

Preventing Fraud And Embezzlement

Embezzlement

Charity Navigator