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Church Budget 101: Simple Ways Church Staff can Save Time, Money and Effort without Compromising their Church Experience

Church Budget 101: Simple Ways Church Staff can Save Time, Money and Effort without Compromising their Church Experience

 

When it comes to budgeting, you either love it or you hate it. There really is no in-between. But regardless of how you feel about budgeting, it is an essential part of creating a successful ministry.

Budgets are essential to churches for a few reasons. First, they allow for transparency for money coming in and out of your organization so that everyone is on the same page.  Budgets also allow you to plan purchases ahead of time to ensure that you aren’t spending more than you planned for. Lastly, budgets allow you to be sure that you’re always managing your organization’s money as effectively and ethically as possible.

Churches need to be especially intentional with budgeting efforts because they aren’t just managing their own funds, but they’re also managing the money of the members of the congregation through the donations that are received. Churches can also use budgeting to clearly display where they plan on allocating the donations they receive to ensure that it is allocated efficiently.

To help your church budget like a pro, here is a short guide that outlines some simple ways that churches can save time, money, and effort while preparing a budget that allows them to provide a great church experience.

Investing in Church Budget Software

Before opening up an excel spreadsheet and trying to budget that way, it might be smart to think about investing in software for church budgeting. By using software to help with budgeting, you can significantly cut down the amount of manual book work. Some programs even sync with your bank accounts to automatically track income and report your expenses.

One tool that can be very helpful for smaller churches is QuickBooks. The simplicity of QuickBooks and the ability to unlock more features as you go, make it a great option. This short blog helps show the different steps and features associated with creating a budget in QuickBooks.

Another extremely beneficial tool if you’re using online giving has the ability to see real-time donations through mobileAxept’s administrator portal. This will allow you to see if you’re going to be short of your monthly budget and help you to plan accordingly. You can learn more about how mobileAxept can help your church management here!

Here are some other fantastic church budget tools that you should consider using, as well as some tips for making sure that you choose the perfect solution for your church!

Aplos – Aplos embodies the “all-in-one” approach that helps to simplify and centralize your essential accounting and church management functions. With a sweet deal of $1 a month for the first three months, you can test out the tool to see if it’s right for your church before committing. In addition to accounting and management functionality, Aplos will also help out with member management and communication

Financial Edge NXT – Churches must have all their ducks in a row when it comes to their accounting, as they tend to be held to a higher standard when compared to a business. Failure to comply with accounting standards can lead to distrust with their members. Financial Edge NXT works towards ensuring compliancy while allowing churches to grow and make smart financial decisions. 

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Sage Intacct – Sage Intacct is committed to assisting churches grow their influence, increase their funding, and carry out their mission with smart financial decisions. Their financial tool is highly rated and should be considered by any church looking to expand its audience while still being tactful with how they spend their money. With automated processes and reporting tools that allow for complete transparency, Sage Intacct is one of the top church budget tools out there.  

MartusTools – MartusTools is a great budgeting tool for churches, in large part due to the fact it integrates exceptionally well with many different accounting systems. For example, if you’re keen on trying QuickBooks, you can also implement MartusTools, and they’ll work together seamlessly. This church budget solution works with other accounting systems, including Financial Edge, ACS, Shelby, and Intacct. 

ACS – ACS is a fantastic church budgeting tool that will help you make smart, informed decisions on managing your funds. But, it does much more than that. Churches should also consider using ACS because it can assist with organizing events, staff, volunteers, schedules, and so much more. 

ChurchPro – ChurchPro, as the name suggests, was specifically designed for churches just like yours in mind. For the most part, you can easily work with a budgeting software that isn’t explicitly for churches, but sometimes it’s nice to have one that was crafted for your niche. With ChurchPro, you can manage payroll, attendance, membership, inventory, and contributions, along with other key areas of your church.

Choosing the Right Budgeting Tool For Your Church

We just listed a few of the many, many church budget solutions on the market today. There are plenty not listed that would be great for your church too. So, how do you go about finding the right solution for your church? Follow these steps to ensure you make the right choice: 

Identify current areas of needs for your accounting and budgeting – First and foremost, you have to look inwards and look for potential weaknesses or areas of need within your current budgeting process and strategy. Do you have trouble budgeting for your church on a week to week basis? Do you not have enough transparency on funds vs. costs? Do you want to hire more employees but want to make sure you can afford it? Answering questions like this will help lead you in the right direction. 

Discuss the goals for your church over the next year, five years, ten years – In line with taking stock of your budget needs, consider the objectives you have for your church over the next few years and beyond. Understanding your ambitions by clearly laying them out in front of you will help you make the perfect choice for your budget tool. For example, if you have plans of growth, you know to choose software that allows you to upgrade to handle more functions. If your church is staying put at where you are for the considerable future, you can get by with choosing a more simple budgeting tool. 

Do the Necessary Research – You’re already on the right track by checking out this blog, but you should still seek out other resources when conducting your research. Always check out the actual website of the provider and read up on the functionality of their products, as well as the price to ensure it fits within your budget. Take a look at websites that rank software based on ratings like Capterra. You can never be too diligent when it comes to researching for a new budgeting tool. 

Read Plenty of Reviews – While you can gather some helpful information based on a company’s website, they won’t show you any of the tool’s drawbacks. That’s why it’s important to find unbiased reviews—particularly those located not on their website. Checking out third-party review sites (like the aforementioned Capterra) or other helpful blogs can really help you figure out what drawbacks or downfalls different products might have. 

Speak With Someone From the Company – Don’t be afraid to reach out directly to the company and speak with a sales representative. A good sales rep will have a conversation about your church, your needs, and whether or not their solution is right for you. Make sure to ask a lot of questions. Depending on your interaction with them, you can also get a feel for how they treat their current clients. If it’s a positive conversation where they treat you with respect, you can expect that to carry over to your interactions with them if you become a customer. 

Request Demos and Trials – Take advantage of demos or trial periods as much as you can. When making an investment in your church, it’s best to understand what you are buying before fully committing. The last thing you want is to find out your church budget solution isn’t satisfactory, after you’ve committed to paying for a year-long contract. 

Make the Decision Collaborative – Everyone who will be using the tool should be involved in the decision-making process. This will help lead you to a solution that everyone can get behind. This is critical for buy-in, as having everyone involved in the final decision will make it more likely that people actually utilize the budget tool.

Make Sure Your Budget Reflects Your Priorities

As you begin to create a budget, it should naturally reflect the priorities and goals that you have for your organization that year.

A great place to start is your organization’s goals for the year or for the quarter. Your goals are going to lay the foundation for the priorities in your budget.

One helpful practice is writing out some of your goals and prioritizing them in order of importance to your congregation. Some examples of goals might be to become debt-free, build a new playground for the kids, or update lighting. Essentially what we’re trying to do is get everything out in front of us that needs an improvement achieved through finances.

Make Sure to Include Projected Income and Expenses

While putting together a church budget, it’s good to look back at giving records from previous years, but it’s also critical to project income for the next year. In other words, when you’re budgeting, don’t lean entirely on the past but instead continue to push for a brighter future. A simple way to project future income is by taking the past three years’ income statements and finding the mean increase or decrease in financial income. By doing this, you can plan for both the average increase in finances or the average decrease.

This same principle can and should be applied to spending. There may be some more significant areas of spending from time to time that go outside of the general budget, but in the end, spending should still average out year to year based on attendance, income, and staffing.

When you project income for the year, you can break it down into each month and quarter. This way, when you see what you’re receiving on a weekly or monthly basis, you’re able to compare it against what you’ve projected. By using this method, you’ll be able to see trends in giving and other sources of income, which can help with future budgeting and understanding cash flow.

Prepare For a Random Drop in Income

A budget is always going to be variable based on the income that comes in. On any given month, a church can experience a sudden drop in giving. It can be possible to plan for these as they often happen around summer holidays or when people are traveling, it’s important not to stretch your budget too much. Preparing for the “Summer Slump” will help set you up for success.

Set Money Aside for Annual and Recurring Costs

Recurring costs can include things as simple as toilet paper, light bulbs, diapers for the nursery but do also include salaries and insurance. Setting aside money every month to meet these needs for your organization is going to help prepare you for drops in income and unexpected costs.

Online + Mobile Giving

Encouraging online and mobile giving helps to keep incoming donations from fluctuating between seasons and when people are traveling. Online giving allows donors to give from wherever they are and set up recurring gifts so that they don’t have to think about whether or not they’re staying consistent. If you’ve seen a fluctuation in income due to seasons changing, then we’d love it if you would look into our mobile and online giving program, GiveNow.

Emergency Fund

Just like budgeting for personal finances, an emergency fund is crucial in tight situations when money comes up short, large unexpected costs arise, or regular givers lose their jobs unexpectedly and aren’t able to give.

According to most financial experts, an ideal amount in that fund would be six months’ worth of income. While this might seem like a large sum of money to not be used, the security of having those funds in the bank will help your organization be prepared for anything.

Saving Time

Church budgets can be especially tedious, and saving time is always critical to churches because staffing is often minimized, and one person might have to fill many hats. Here are a few tips to help you save some time as you build out your budget.

  • Don’t do it all at once. The fact is that no matter how good of a planner you are, there is always going to be fluctuations in the budget. For this reason and the sake of your sanity, break it up. After you have an annual budget, break it up into quarters or even months. This way, you can adjust for changes in income and tackle it more slowly.
  • Divide the responsibility. This is an especially good thing to do for organizations that have multiple leaders in different roles. Instead of having the finance people do all of the budgeting, have each leader do their own department and then compile the results. There might be some revisions that need to happen, but this practice will get you closer than doing it all by yourself.
  • Set realistic goals. Financial goals are just as important for organizations as they are for personal finance, but creating goals that aren’t realistically achievable is going to hurt you more than it is going to help you. Something like saving six months of expenses might seem completely unachievable, but instead, look at saving 10% of your income a month, and in that way, you can build towards having that savings account in place.

The Right Solutions

If you’re looking into management software to help you manage staff, keep track of giving, and communicate with your donors, then please feel free to reach out to us at mobileAxept! Our solutions allow you to view incoming donations in real-time, as well as keep track of donor information so that you have no trouble giving them a receipt and tracking the money that they’ve donated.

One of our top tools is ReachNow. With ReachNow, you’re able to send text messages to individuals within your congregation. This tool is perfect for giving updates on a budget or for sending an encouraging message throughout the week. Text messages have an open rate of 98%, and emails only have a rate of 20%. This is why we developed ReachNow and are excited to be offering it.

Reach out to us today! We’d love to see how we can help you reach your goals!

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