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AcctTwo Blog

The Importance of Church Succession Planning

Succession Planning Back-Office“It’s always emotional before it’s tactical. Never forget the emotion involved in succession planning,” says Todd Clark, Senior Associate in Senior Leadership at Slingshot Group.

I’m reminded of this bible verse, Proverbs 15:22: “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.” The importance of succession planning is not unlike other areas of your organization. It isn’t something that you do every day so relying on a good partner, or many partners, to help you through the process might prove helpful.

We’ve worked with over 800 churches across 33 states for more than 10 years, and our staff has a combined 250 years of experience. We’ve walked in your shoes and seen first-hand finance leadership and back-office staff transitions. My experience as a former partner at CapinCrouse, the leading national faith-based CPA firm, only amplifies my experience. Here are a few of my observations and suggestions for key finance and back-office leaders.

CFO & Finance Leadership

CFOs are very important – they tend to be the connector between the financial health of the organization and the Senior Leadership (Head Pastor, CEO, President, etc.). Having the right person in this role is essential to the leadership team and growth of the organization. Often, the CFO / Finance Leadership reports to the board / elders. Your CFO should have an ongoing succession plan, however senior finance roles aren’t getting the attention that they deserve. “Finance and Accounting roles are often overlooked for succession planning. However, they are mission critical to running the organization. At Concord Church, we are working hard to make sure that every role has a backup. I know it isn’t possible for every organization to employ or train a backup for every person, in those cases build a relationship with a third-party organization, such as an accounting resource, legal firm, IT provider, etc. If something happened to me, I know that our accounting partner, AcctTwo, could easily step in and keep the show running,” said Tammy Bunting, CFO at Concord Church.

Implementing a backup team, or prioritizing cross-training, can strengthen teams, provide more opportunities, and create a safety net in case key team members leave. Also, according to Insperity, “it can be useful to prepare a company for dealing with challenges presented by unforeseen emergencies, such as a sudden death, a disaster or a pandemic.”

The CFO needs a back-office that is fully integrated with a best-in-class financial platform for maximum operational efficiency. According to Neal Joseph in Outcomes Magazine, “One thing that most agree will be needed in the future is someone to fill a new combined role as strategist, technologist and digital guru—perhaps best described as a new understanding or definition of a CTO (Chief Technology Officer).” As part of the succession plan and department initiatives, you should work toward optimizing back-office support functions by standardizing and automating processes. Ultimately, this will deliver operational savings that can be reallocated to organizational or mission initiatives.

Benefits of implementing technology as part of church leadership succession planning:

  • Gains real-time insights across your organization through more accurate forecasting and reporting
  • Automates your accounting processes for greater efficiency
  • Enables anywhere, anytime, 24/7 access to your church’s finances from the cloud

“With Sage Intacct, we’re so happy that we’re no longer tied to certain Windows machines - we can work anywhere and on any device,” said Jason Hall, Accounting Manager at A Jesus Church Family. “Sage Intacct’s dimensions are invaluable, allowing us to provide better information to our leadership about restricted funds, ministries and locations. AcctTwo brought impressive church knowledge and team investment to the project, making it a great success.”


Accountant/Back-Office Staff

Again, faith-based organizations often hire with their heart instead of based on skill-set. Often that means that your back-office staff isn’t as skilled as you need them to be. Or, you have a few key accounting employees with the right skills that manage everything. What would happen if one of them retires, or doesn’t come back from maternity leave? Is your department set-up to handle fluctuations? Do you implement cross training best practices? This might be the time to incorporate accounting outsourcing into your succession plans.

Benefits of outsourcing:

  • Focusing on organizational mission
  • Obtaining a bigger network of industry expertise
  • Gaining access to best-in-class services, technology, and partners
  • Improving organizational efficiencies and streamlining processes
  • Obtaining real-time access to your data
  • Eliminates cross training from your to-do list: outsourcing means that you don’t have to worry about it

Outsourcing your accounting department is all about balance and outcomes. You need to provide your leadership team with an up-to-date status of the financial health of your organization; but at the same time, you are responsible for leading your mission. The work you do, and the lives you impact, has so much more long-term value to your organization than processing daily transactions. You’re fighting a daily battle between the business side of your organization, the spiritual side of your organization, and the daily challenges of old technology and inefficient processes. By outsourcing your accounting, it allows you to focus on your mission while the daily accounting activities are being cared for.

“If you have an opportunity, reach out to AcctTwo to explore how they can come alongside you, maybe as you lose staff or as people quit and you don’t know what to do. I just can’t emphasize enough this idea that hiring people, maintaining people, trying to pay medical and benefits, and being the first staff to get let-go...this outsourcing relationship can open doors for us that we didn’t have before,” Tammy Bunting, CFO at Concord Church.


Download the full eBook: Succession Planning for the Back-Office

Succession Planning Cover

In our eBook, we dig into succession planning and discuss why it is so important. We provide stories and statistical data to help you clearly understand the necessity of succession planning.

In our eBook we cover the following topics:

- The Purpose of Succession Planning
- The Importance of Good Leadership
- Culture Really Matters
- What You Need to Know About Hiring Millennials
- Hiring from Within
- Succession Planning for the Back-Office
- Red Flags to Watch Out For
- What’s Next?

Download here >
Topics: back office Faith-Based succession Planning