A few months ago, at our Faith-Based Finance Collaborative, AcctTwo's Managed Accounting Services Controller, Shelly Einspahr, and Covenant Church's COO, Brian Coleman, sat down and talked about how we work together. Little did we know back at the end of February, our world was going to change dramatically in a matter of weeks. The news about COVID-19 was still somewhat sparse, mainly impacting China, Italy, and starting to creep into California – specifically around San Francisco. Churches went from serving thousands to having to pivot and become virtual. In fact, the whole world had to pivot and become remote. Figuring out how all the pieces fit together and how to maintain business-as-usual was a challenge. Even for organizations that have had cloud-based infrastructure in place, it was still challenging at times because most of us went from working 9-to-5 to working 24/7 which included, parenting and homeschooling.
These past few months have been difficult and now with states reopening, Texas included, I can look back on the days I spent with my peers at the Faith-Based Finance Collaborative and have an appreciation for my mission and how important it is to the back-offices of faith-based organizations. I think the work that we’ve done with Shelly and Brian, transitioning them off Abila and onto our Managed Accounting Services platform powered by Sage Intacct, has helped keep them running business-as-usual.
Business-as-usual might not even be the right term these days, maybe “business in today’s new world” is more appropriate. More than ever, Pastors, CFOs, and Finance Directors, need more time to focus on the church and how to survive in today’s new world. For many of us, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:1–3)”
We trust in God, and in times like this, lean on our community. We are all in this together and know that you don’t have to do it all. When Covenant Church first engaged with AcctTwo, they were using Abila and employed a full accounting department. Abila wasn’t cutting it and they knew that with generational leadership changing, they needed to consider outsourcing and implementing a best-in-class accounting solution, such as Sage Intacct. Traditionally an on-premises solution, Abila's lack of a native cloud solution has required them to piece together different hosted technologies over the years. The result is inconsistent deployment, challenging upgrades, and difficult and expensive integrations.
“Before Sage Intacct, if we had questions we needed to go to Accounting and have them run a report. Now, the answers are at our fingertips. It has made our leadership team extremely self-sufficient,” Covenant Church.
In today’s new world, having a full accounting staff on location might not be feasible. By outsourcing, Covenant Church has customized dashboards built in Sage Intacct where they can track mission funds (local, national, global), operating costs, payroll, and budget to actual income. For a church in this age, it is so important to empower their pastors with financial information so that they can be good stewards of God’s grace.
I wanted to take a deeper dive into the differences between Sage Intacct and Abila, so I asked Shelly about her experience using the platform and transitioning faith-based organizations, like Covenant Church.
In your experience, what’s a standout difference between Sage Intacct and Abila?
Shelly Einspahr: Sage Intacct has phenomenal dashboards. I simply add all the reports leadership needs to see to a dashboard and they can see it anytime, in real time. They even have the ability to drill down into specific transactions all the way down to the invoice. In Abila, finance would have to run a report each time someone needed it, export it to excel and email it to them. Even monthly reporting using the scheduler only provided a point in time report. Additionally, fund reporting is so much better in Sage Intacct. Most faith-based organizations and churches I work with need that type of reporting. They also need project balance reports and liquidity disclosure reports – both are easily run in Sage Intacct. I want to go on the record by saying that Abila still has good reports, but on the server-based product, I had to download to Excel and manipulate it to get exactly what I wanted. There’s no reason to send something to Excel in Sage Intacct if you know reporting well enough.
Another big difference is that Sage Intacct has better controls around reporting to limit users. With Sage Intacct, you can allow employee users to drill-down into information without assigning them a business user seat. In my experience, Abila only allows business users, which can be a costly addition.
What are some of the benefits of Sage Intacct’s open API?
Shelly Einspahr: Abila offers users the ability to process payroll and fixed assets within the system, which can be seen as a positive or a negative situation depending on the user. Sage Intacct’s open API abilities allows organizations to choose the best product for them. They aren’t stuck with out-of-the-box systems that might not work for them. They have access to best-in-class solutions like APS, Bill.com, Martus, and so many others found in the Sage Intacct Marketplace. With the open API, Sage Intacct allows third-party solutions the ability to sync directly into your Sage Intacct environment.
Is budgeting easier in Sage Intacct or Abila?
Shelly Einspahr: Oh my goodness, Sage Intacct. In my experience, the only users in Abila were Finance staff. As such, department heads prepared their budgets outside Abila then Finance had to import them into Abila using spreadsheets.
It is such a hassle and isn’t an efficient use of anyone’s time. In my opinion, budgeting is definite weakness in Abila. With Sage Intacct, you have budgeting options with Martus and Sage Intacct’s new Budgeting & Planning module. This allows department heads to prepare their budgets, allows finance to approve them, and creates the budget in Intacct with a push of a button, no more spreadsheets.
I’d like to talk to you about multi-entity options in Sage Intacct and Abila. A lot of the churches we work with have multiple entities. Is multi-entity possible with Abila?
Shelly Einspahr: My experience has only been with Abila’s server-based product. When I was working with a church that needed multi-entity, I had to purchase two instances of Abila because multi-entity wasn’t supported. Sage Intacct can handle multi-entity natively in its environment. It is a game changer for churches that need that level of support. In addition, in Sage Intacct, transactions are recorded at the entity level, which allows you to pay with different checking accounts (i.e. by different entities) and gives you more control without the hassle of using an entirely different platform.
What changes have you made for COVID-19?
Shelly Einspahr: Regarding COVID, I created a report in Sage Intacct that compared weekly giving to the Pre-COVID average giving. This was possible because of the computations you can include in reports in Sage Intacct. It allows leadership to see each week how giving is trending. The report is on their dashboard and all they do is change the date filter to get the information they need. The possibilities are endless of the reporting you can create to see operational changes after COVID.
Lastly, what if a church is on Abila, wants to get off but the timing isn’t right. Can they still outsource with AcctTwo?
Shelly Einspahr: Yes! We have a program called Crawl, Walk, Run. It allows organizations to outsource their accounting to us on Abila with the understanding that when the timing is right, we will transition them over to Sage Intacct. We understand that change is hard, especially since the world seems to be changing so much every day and taking it slow might be the best option for some churches. Our nonprofit Managed Accounting Services team has lots of Abila experience and we can be a huge asset to their organization.