Unclaimed Money: Learn How to Find Unclaimed Cash for Your Church, Mosque, Temple or Synagogue

PHOTO: Learn how you can find money for your church, synagogue, mosque or other place of worship.PlayDiane Macdonald/Getty Images
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I just typed the word "church" into one of the free unclaimed money search sites and got hundreds of hits. I tried "synagogue" and "temple" and "mosque" and got even more.

Yep, religious organizations lose track of money too. It's easy to see how it would happen because they often rely on lots of volunteer help and they're not focused on the bottom line like a company is.

So if you haven't had much to put in when they pass the plate on Sundays (or whatever day you worship) here is a way you can contribute. Spend your time instead of your money. Try doing an unclaimed money search for your congregation.

Here are the basics:

1. Unclaimed.org: First search in the state where the church is based by going to the FREE website www.unclaimed.org and clicking on that state. (IMPORTANT: this is a .ORG website, NOT a .com. If you mistakenly type in .com, you will be taken to a pay site. It is never necessary to pay a fee or a finder to help you find unclaimed money.) Unclaimed.org is run by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators and will link you to each individual state's search site.

2. MissingMoney.com: Next, you can do a multi-state search at www.missingmoney.com. At first, you will be prompted to enter the church's home state, but after that, you can access a drop down menu that allows you to choose "all states and provinces." This search is not actually for all 50 states because not all participate, but it does allow you to search 39 states at once. You'll want to search other states, because sometimes unclaimed money is held in the state where a business is located rather than where the person -- or church -- is located. Just be sure to look at the map to see which states do not participate. If your church is located or has business in any of those states, go back to unclaimed.org and search individually.

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3. First/Last Name: You will see that some sites provide a separate field to search for unclaimed money for a business (including non-profit organizations like religious groups) and others do not. For those that do not, first try typing the name of the charity into the "last name" box. Then try using both the first and last name boxes. For example, you can type "Christ Church" into the last name box. And you can also type "Christ" into the first name box and "Church" into the last name area. You should also reverse the name, typing "Church" into the first name box and "Christ" into the last name box. You never know how data has been entered or sorted in a computer system.

4. Variations/Abbreviations: It's also important to search every possible variation of the religious entity's name. I learned this from unclaimed money guru Mary Pitman, author of "The Little Book of Missing Money." For example, you'll want to search "Saint" and "St." But that's not all. Just now I tried "Saints," plural, and got hundreds more hits. Pitman often finds unclaimed funds by searching just "St" without the period. She also reminds you about other common variations, such as "1st" for "First." Abbreviations are common, too, like "Presb," "Meth" etc.

5. Broadening Out: Finally, for the broadest possible search, you can drop the specific name of the organization entirely, and just search terms common to lots of different religious groups. This should bring up a host of alphabetical listings, and you can then scroll through them, looking for the more specific name of the organization you are trying to help. Here are some examples -- not an exhaustive list -- of those keywords, to give you an idea: