When I think of accountability it isn’t necessarily a hard concept to wrap my head around. It is the willingness to accept responsibility. It can become tricky if you are responsible for managing something that you don’t have full control over. Now, I know what you are thinking: "She is a control freak, a Type A personality.” Isn't that just a catch-all descriptor for the more driven, anxiety-prone go-getters among us!?
No, really. What do you do when so much is riding on how well you manage the funds of your ministry? Dealing with church finances can be challenging when you feel detached from the numbers and their impacts. When things are moving at the speed of light and change is just a normal day-to-day event, accountability can appear to be thrown out the window. This is where allocating funds ahead of time comes in handy. Creating budgets can establish a baseline from which to work. Some ministry leaders literally break out into a sweat at the mere mention of budgets. They shouldn’t. Budgets allow you to have some control over what you spend. A monthly budget can help you decide how to spend your money and prevent unexpected purchases. Accountability doesn’t mean “perfection." Focus instead on being willing and flexible enough to accept what it is going to take to be accountable.
Is it a Game-Changer?
One of my most common questions to a ministry leader during budget negotiations (sometimes I feel like I am auctioneer) is to ask whether it is a “game changer” for them. This is what I call the absolutes. We work together to determine the absolutes so that, at the very least, their most important ministry initiatives are included in their budget. This will give the ministry leader a clear understanding of what they are accountable for and the best part is….the budget now is in line with the vision for positively impacting the lives in their circle of influence.
Plan for the Unexpected
Then come the unexpected expenses. This is where those of us in the finance office get the most heartburn. This is also where the flexible and the accountable go head to head. BUT, with that said, it IS possible to manage the unexpected and still be accountable. This is where we turn to the “management reserve” or “unbudgeted reserve.” Whatever you want to call it, the bottom line is that you plan for the unexpected. Allocate dollars for any given fiscal year to the unexpected. Don’t be afraid to accept that we really do not know how the Spirit may move through our church and point us in a direction we didn’t expect.
For more information on planning for the unexpected, read our eBook: Rainy Day Funds for Churches.
So as we take a break to stretch during our day (don't forget, we're talking about being flexible here), remember also that blessed are those that stay the course and finish the race. Be thankful for the opportunities God has blessed you with. With opportunity comes great responsibility. So identify your absolutes and be ready for the unexpected!
If you're interested in seeing how reporting and budgeting look in a modern accounting system like Intacct, I encourage you to register for the webinar, Financial Reporting: Is Your Nonprofit Seeing the Full Picture?
As a nonprofit, you have many stakeholders who require up to the minute and accurate information on funds, grants, cash flow—wherever they are. But what if your outdated accounting system can't keep up?
Join us for this one hour webinar and learn how Intacct and cloud-based financials can help. You'll learn how to:
- Eliminate manual, Excel-based reporting
- Provide real-time, custom dashboards and reports for board members, stakeholders, and finance teams
- Enable anytime, anywhere access to financial information for geographically dispersed stakeholders
- Easily track, manage, and analyze grants, funds, budgets, expenses, and cash flows
Tammy Bunting is AcctTwo’s Director for Not-for-Profit Services. She is also the CFO of Preston Trail Community Church in Frisco, Texas. Tammy has more than 25 years of experience in accounting, business administration, operations, and management. This includes work in both the secular and non-profit Christian environments. She’s been responsible for providing the controllership functions of all business environments at a multi-ministry church enterprise, and been a partner in a thriving Intacct value-added reseller business. Tammy was raised and educated in the Christian church, and has a unique perspective into the world of non-profit and faith-based business administration and accounting.