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How Much Should Church Audits Cost?

Q. One of our new members, an accountant, says we should have an audit of the church books. What should that cost?

A. "With audit fees now frequently approaching $7,000 to $15,000 for modest sized organizations, few nonprofits can afford a full-blown audit every year, unless an accountant-member of the organization is willing to do it at a discounted fee," says Ralph Mero, the Unitarian Universalist Association's (UUA) church staff finances director.

"Sometimes, a less expensive "management review" can be performed by an accountant or experienced bookkeeper," says Mero. Such a review of cash management procedures, accounts payable procedures, and the system for recording and reporting pledges and contributions and other financial procedures is often sufficient to assure that the board has met its fiduciary responsibility and that the books are accurately maintained. This should be done at least once every three years, usually before a new treasurer or bookkeeper takes office.

Mero adds, "Financial reviews should be seriously considered whenever a long-term volunteer treasurer or staff bookkeeper is replaced. Not that we are suspicious, but these are the times when unexpected discrepancies often come to light."

About the Author

  • Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.

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