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AcctTwo Blog

AcctTwo’s Head of Nonprofit, Allison Webb, Guests on MinistryPlatform’s User Group

AcctTwo’s Head of Nonprofit, Allison Webb, recently spoke at MinistryPlatform’s “Evaluating Church Finances Post-COVID” User Group. Allison and Glenn Wood, Seacoast Church’s Administrator, discussed how to approach your churches finances during these changing times.

MinistryPlatform MPUG AllisonCOVID-19 has Impacted Churches Nationwide - How do Churches Look Post-Pandemic?

Most churches are open, but attendance isn’t “back” to what it once was. In person church attendance is running 40-65% of pre-pandemic averages. Know your attendance, the number is slowly climbing as members become vaccinated and regulations loosen. There is still a lot of uncertainty on where the pandemic is going. So how does attendance affect your donors? On average during 2020, giving for churches remained relatively flat or even a small percent higher. The projection for 2021 is that there will be 0-10% more giving than last year. Those that are committed to your church are staying committed and remain giving at roughly the same levels as before.

Budgeting Post-Pandemic

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, long-range budgeting meant looking at the next 3-5 years. There were a lot of discussions on strategic planning. These long-term budgets rely on stability and projections, and with constantly changing variables currently, long term budgets seem out of reach. These days, looking at the long range could mean looking at the next 12 months.

Here are some of Glenn’s suggestions:
  • Implement a rolling budget – Shift the budget to look at one quarter at a time and focus on what your minister is doing today. How does the last quarter affect the upcoming budget? Is attendance up? Are there more programs we want to open back up? Every year you shift this budget a quarter at a time to focus on what your minister is doing today.
  • Pay more attention to variable numbers – Some line items can’t be adjusted, so focus on the variables you have more control over. Keep an eye on expenses and adjust as you go.

Tell your Church’s Story

Be transparent with your leaders and your donors. Donors know the church needs their money to keep the lights on. Let your donors see their impact in other ways by sharing your story. Telling the story of your ministry helps drive that donor engagement and gets them more committed to the church and the mission. For example:

  • Share life change stories from the congregation or from ministry teachers, not just the person on the stage. Let your donors see even the smallest changes and all your church does to reach out.
  • It doesn’t need to be a fancy video, use what you have and get the people talking about how the church affected their lives. A video with a powerful story will get the message across in any lighting.
  • Life change impacts the heart and gets donors in the mindset for helping and giving.

Big Decisions

You may need to slow down on some big decisions. Today might not be the best time to start changes. Some churches might have been in the middle of some big projects when the pandemic hit. Slow down and look at some of these decisions.

  • Don’t be afraid to put things on hold – You might need to look at the scope or the timing of your projects. Make sure you are making the right decision before continuing.
  • Slow down on construction – Is now the best time to expand? Does your church need the extra space immediately?
  • Be slow to hire new positions – Consider combining positions into one or changing positions to volunteer positions.

At the end of the day, you might not make any of these changes but taking the time to look things over will help you be good steward with the money that God has gifted your church.

Tracking Variable Expenses

  • Fixed expenses generally won’t change so focus on what you can control:
    • Payroll
    • Volunteers and contract staff
    • Utilities
    • Ministry expenses
    • travel
  • Be more strategic about the events you participate in – do you need to send all 12 team members to an event, or can you get the same experience with just half?
  • Think of other ways to appreciate your volunteers.

Cash is King

Giving has remained strong, or even increased, through 2020 and into 2021. With other expenses being down, the gap between cash and expenses is higher than it has been. Be strategic in your planning, this gap can provide many new opportunities for your church.

What Will Your Finances Look Like in the Fall?

  • Some research indicates that finances will be up by the fall.
  • This means that your budget may need to adjust accordingly
  • Be flexible – don’t get stuck with “but this is how we used to do it!”
  • Watching your variables on a monthly basis might help you adjust to changes faster

Reporting

  • Create reports for specific accounts to highlight spending
  • Do a monthly review of expenses by ministry

Accounting Software – Do You Need to Change?

There isn’t a software that will check every box on your list. If you’re very happy with 85% of what your software does, it is worth it to keep! When you switch software, what you gain in functionality, you’ll lose in other areas.

Here are some things to consider before changing software:
  • Could we revamp out chart of accounts to better manage our expenses? Probably! As your church grows, your chart of accounts should grow to match your church’s needs.
  • Changing software is expensive. Training for your staff is more cost effective. There could be new features you need training on or old features you could use a refresh on.
  • Outsourcing can be an option. It may not save you monetarily, but it will save your staff time which is just as valuable.

About MinistryPlatform

Ministry PlatformMinistryPlatform, created by Think Ministry, provides the most powerful and flexible Church Management System (ChMS) for membership, group involvement, check-scanning, contributions, event management, check-in, and public website integration – including online giving and online event registration. Our rapidly growing ecosystem allows flexible integration with the top applications in the Church market through our robust API.

Check them out: https://www.ministryplatform.com


About Allison Webb

Allison Webb-2Allison 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.

Topics: Not-for-Profit and Faith-Based