The pros and cons of accepting personal checks
If you allow people to write school fundraiser checks as a method of payment for brochure orders, you may already be aware of the pros and cons. Some new sponsors may be undecided on how they should handle them. Some will tell you that they’ve had little to no problems, while others enforce certain restrictions, or don’t accept checks at all.
For the most part, people’s opinions usually comes down to socioeconomics. While middle to upper class neighborhoods usually accept checks, poorer areas tend to lean the other way. Perhaps you’re undecided on whether you should accept checks or not. We usually encourage sponsors to accept them, if at all possible. The reason is if you don’t, a form of payment is eliminated which may discourage buyers.
Regardless, if you’re still on the fence, here are some things to think about when it comes dealing with fundraiser checks.
Have a Returned Check Policy in Place
Even if you’ve had little to no problems with checks as payment for school fundraisers, you should still have a policy in place. And don’t feel that you need to keep it a secret. People should understand up front what the consequences are if there’s ever an issue. This will help discourage the writing of bad checks which will make your life easier. Here are 3 things that we recommend that you include in your policy:
- Make checks more trackable: Returned checks can be difficult to track because they’re usually written by someone who’s not associated with the student. Some schools encourage parents to tell buyers to put the student’s name somewhere on the check. This way, you can track a bounced check back to the student who may then be able to track down the person who wrote it.
- Enforce a returned check fee: Since most banks will charge you for bounced checks, why should you absorb the cost? Let people know up front that you’ll pass any charges on. Some schools charge a flat fee.
- Place a temporary hold on orders: We always recommend that schools only do prepay brochure fundraisers. This means that all money should be collected before you send in your order for processing. This gives you time to deposit checks prior to receiving your merchandise. Then, if any issues arise, don’t release those orders that are affected by bounced checks.
And if you let people know your rules up front, there should be no surprises on the back end if you do end up having issues.
For more information, see our insufficient funds notices located in our school fundraising guidebook.
Should We Accept Personal Checks or Not?
If you’re not sure whether you should accept fundraiser checks, ask yourself the following question. Is the additional amount of time spent dealing with insufficient funds worth the additional money that you bring in? If it is, then keep accepting checks, but if not, then perhaps you should consider enforcing a ‘no checks accepted’ policy.
Is There a Payment Compromise?
Everyone wishes they could have the best of both worlds. Some schools will accepting checks but only in the form of cashier’s checks or money orders. This is fine, however realize that people will still forget and end up submitting personal checks anyway. This even happens if you’ve made it clear that you don’t accept checks. We’re all creatures of habit and tend to forget sometimes.