AcctTwo’s Head of Nonprofit, Allison Webb, was the latest guest on Ministry Architects’ webinar: “How to Be More Confident in Your Church Finances for 2021”. Allison and Jeff Dunn-Rankin, Ministry Architects’ Executive Vice President, talked about how to make fiscally wise decisions for your church finance digital transformation in 2021.
Boosting Your Giving
COVID-19 has impacted churches nationwide. Shelter-in-place and social distancing has made it difficult to congregate in-person, but churches have been adapting with digital ministry options. This also expands to digital transformation on how people can give to the church. If you haven’t already pivoted in the new digital world, here are a few suggestions from Allison:
- Encourage Autopay – With online and in-person services, offering autopay creates consistent giving and ease of use for your members.
- Use Social Media – Connect with your members online and share the stories of your church and community. Remind them of the outcomes that your ministry achieves. Don't be afraid to use social media to educate your audience and encourage them to text or give online.
- With increase in online giving, likely there has been an increase in fees – Add an option when giving online to pay an extra $3-5 to their gift to cover costs. This can be setup with your ChMS/CRM. If people know that you are spending extra to take their gift online, they might be more likely to give a little extra to cover the costs.
Good News for Giving
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. – KJV Matthew 6:21
With a 1/3 of donations coming in the last quarter of the year, your church might be in good position to be hopeful for what is coming in 2021. Don’t be afraid to:
Think Outside the Box – Non-cash donations such as school or food supplies for your ministries or stock gifts can be a possibility, too.
Identify and Engage with your Members – Create dialogue and engage with your top 25 donors. Share the church’s vision for next year and discuss their intention and support for 2021.
Create a newsletter or “Celebrations of 2020” to send out to your members. Remind them of the good things that we accomplished this year.
Invite members to witness by video or in person at worship to share about what they love about your church, and then to express some sense of how the church has helped their faith journey.
Encourage your congregants to gift with meaning. Gratitude breeds generosity and those in a position to give, want to make a difference.
Many churches are planning to maintain their current levels or not replace departing nonessential staff for 2021. Salaries and benefits are typically 55-70% of budget and with the help of PPP loans for several churches in 2020, churches can look to keep their current staffing levels and adjust elsewhere in their budget.
- Some churches might pass on COLA and merit raises and freeze current pay rates which could save 2-4%.
- Some employees might volunteer for less pay and less time because are juggling time with their families. For example, someone that is balancing remote learning with their family, might volunteer to reduce their hours. For some, it would be a blessing to have the increased (and hopefully temporary) flexibility with their schedule.
- Review your insurance benefits – look for alternatives such as HD with HSA; revisit dental and vision, too.
Budget with Less: Debt Service
Churches with debt burden could be struggling more with cash flow – typically 5-15% of annual budget.
- Refinancing might be an option – talk to your banker and see what possibilities there are.
There might be a member of your church who works in banking or finance and would love to help research options for the debt or talk to the banker.
Remember, you don’t have to do it all and in this more remote time, members want to know how they can help. Let them!
Budget with Less: Operational Expenses
- Look to see if you are on payment plans where paying lump sum could save you 5-10%.
- Look at all your operating costs and see where your church can cut back naturally while people are still working remotely. One suggestion that Allison mentioned on the webinar was to look at your vendors – can you possibly get a cost savings by buying frequently used items in bulk?
Review your current vendors and determine if paying a fair price. Shop around and might need to renegotiate your fee or switch to something new to save money. Things to review: maintenance contracts, landscaping, office/food supplies, IT/web services, printing/copiers, etc.
Communicate with your leadership, staff and members
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. – ESV Colossians 4:6
Communication needs to be a cornerstone to your post-pandemic plans. We are all feeling disconnected in a world where we might have seen someone every day. Try to:
- Be open and honest about sharing budget shortfalls.
- Use Statistics where possible:
- We lost 5 long-time older members that collectively gave $50,000.
- Our investment earnings fell 5% and have created a $20,000 shortfall.
- Encourage department leaders to participate in the budget process and to be mindful of their anticipated spending. Provide them with budget to actual reports regularly to help keep them on track.
It’s not all dire. In a fun moment on the webinar, Allison and Jeff played the “Yes, and…” game. For example: your pastor communicates that you’re still going to have a Christmas event, but the budget has been cut by 10%. Try saying “Yes, and can we have everyone bring a canned good as a donation to a family in need.” Spin the negative with a positive and you might find the silver lining in the situation.
About Ministry Architects
Ministry Architects is a highly skilled team of pastors, teachers, executives, youth workers, children's pastors, writers and professors. We're fanatical about success and we can help your church find clear direction and sustained momentum backed up by properly aligned resources.
About Allison Webb - Head of NFP Vertical, AcctTwo
Allison Webb is a highly regarded CPA with over 20 years of audit and advisory services at both national and regional public accounting firms.
Allison works with clients in the faith-based community at AcctTwo (churches, denominations, and ministries) to provide effective solutions using the future of finance and accounting. She provides thought leadership and collaborates with all areas of AcctTwo from Managed Accounting Services to Marketing to Professional Services to onboarding new nonprofit clients.
Prior to joining AcctTwo, she spent 16 years at Capin Crouse LLP and 4 years at Aprio LLP (formerly HA&W). As a Partner at Capin Crouse LLP, Allison worked with churches, foundations, universities, international mission organizations, private schools, and relief and development organizations.
In addition to her CPA work, Allison is a frequent speaker at nonprofit conferences and seminars. You might recognize Allison from her speaking engagements at AcctTwo's Faith-Based Finance Collaborative and Sage Intacct Advantage.