Giving Cards in Pews

People who come to church often want to give but they don’t have cash or checks on them. With digital donations now available, giving to the church can be done anytime. Churches can provide a “giving card” that informs people of the various ways they can support their church.

  1. Inform your worshippers of the various ways they can support the church financially with “Giving Cards.” Create a card (about the size of an offering envelope) with all the ways that people can give to your ministry budget: cash, checks, website (include link), church app, text to give, a QR code link, etc. Put this card in the pew with the offering envelopes for people to take and have a reminder to give.
  2. In most churches, people can only give if they have cash or checks at the moment the offering plate is passed. A giving card shows people the other ways they can give from their home computer or smartphone after worship is over.
  3. On the flip side of the card you can include a verse (1 Timothy 6:17-18 is good) and/or ways for people to get involved in the church: small groups, mission trips, volunteering, etc.
  4. Use the card to educate people about how they can help their church and themselves.

Lead On!

Steve

www.churchbestpractices.org – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents
www.financeforchurches.org – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Keep Your Database in the Cloud

  1. A file server is the main computer in an office which stores the central files/database and software that an organization uses. These servers cost several thousand dollars and last about five years. You no longer need a file server.
  2. Instead, you can use software such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft One to keep your files in a cloud-based storage center. Most of your programs (word processing, spreadsheets, accounting, and church management systems) can be run online eliminating the need to buy software and update it regularly.
  3. These files are pretty safe from hackers and ransomware since you’re using the resources of major companies such as Microsoft and Google. They want to keep the trust of their clients so they go to great lengths to protect all their files.
  4. Work with your IT guru to see how you can save money by centralizing your database and programs online. Many of these programs can be accessed through your smartphone or tablet from which you can forward the document or take a screenshot and share the image.
  5. If you need to buy software, use a company called TechSoup. They sell name brand software to nonprofits for 10% to 25% of the original cost.

Lead On!

Steve


www.churchbestpractices.org – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents
www.financeforchurches.org – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Bid Contracts Regularly

  1. Once you get to know a vendor, it is comfortable to stay with that company indefinitely. They know the building and the equipment and the church knows the service tech. However, best practices are to bid out your contracts every 3 to 5 years. This includes EVERYTHING from the food supplier, elevator maintenance, electrician, plumber, dumpster, commercial property insurance, copiers, postage meter, phone service, financial audit, custodian supplies, etc.
  2. Some companies are so hungry they’ll cut prices to get enough business to keep their employees busy (so they don’t have to lay off anyone). They know they won’t make a profit but they will also retain good talent and they know they’ll still make a profit. Some companies are willing to do anything just to keep good customers which could mean even revamping a contract halfway through the term. In every instance, insist that the savings not affect the quality of service.
  3. One case in particular: building insurance
    1. First, ensure that you have the proper valuation on your building and contents. Never be over or under insured or you’ll be paying too much or not have sufficient coverage. An appraisal may cost a few thousand dollars every ten years or so but it can save you tens of thousands in premiums.
    2. Get the right kind of coverage for your operations specifically for child abuse, owned & non-owned vehicles, umbrella coverage, and employment practices. When looking at how much coverage to get, think about what you would do if you were starting anew today versus recreating a building that was built by a prior generation for the needs of that era.
    3. Get rid of coverages that you don’t need including terrorism insurance which is automatically charged but is unnecessary due to the limitations Congress imposed on it. Seriously, remove the terrorism insurance coverage and save money.
    4. Get at least three bids from companies that specialize in church insurance. Some national insurance companies do not understand the particular needs of churches.

Lead On!

Steve


www.churchbestpractices.org – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents
www.financeforchurches.org – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

More Banking Savings

  1. Pay bills by ACH and online
    1. It costs about $1 to process a paper check: the check stock, envelope, ink, stamp, and time all add up.
    2. Paying bills online is cheaper (there are still bank processing fees and time) and has some residual benefits. Your money stays in your bank account longer and you can earn a little more interest. You know when a bill was paid because you’re controlling when the money goes out the door; you avoid payments getting “lost in the mail.” It is easier to reconcile bank statements when bills are paid online.
  2. Use a Rewards Credit Card
    1. If you have a church credit card, ensure that it accrues rewards. Over time, you’ll earn enough points to get some neat things, even a computer or tablet. When redeeming points, I suggest getting things which have a lifespan as opposed to airline miles or hotel stays. The latter are one and done whereas tangible things last several months or years which means you’re getting a better value.
    2. Some rewards cards have an annual fee. Do the math to see if you charge enough in a year to far more than offset that fee to make it worthwhile to get the card.

Lead On!

Steve


www.churchbestpractices.org – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents
www.financeforchurches.org – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Banking

  1. Have one checking and one investment account, not multiple accounts of each type.
  2. Some churches have multiple accounts to stay under the FDIC coverage of $250,000, but please know that in almost 90 years of its existence, the FDIC has covered every single deposit of every bank that has gone under regardless of the size of the account. No one has ever lost money because they had more than the FDIC limit.
  3. Having one bank makes it easier and faster to reconcile your bank statement each month. And, having one investment account also speeds up the monthly reconciliation. Also, if you have multiple bank accounts, you’ll spend time, check stock, and money transferring money around unnecessarily.
  4. There is no need to have different bank accounts for different funds (an operating fund, building fund, etc). Separating the funds is an accounting function; do not mix accounting functions with banking. Banking is the physical location of your money while accounting is tracking what your money is to be used for.
  5. Multiple bank accounts is a way to embezzle money. When money gets transferred between banks and accounts, it gets harder and harder to track (certainly takes a lot more time to trace) and thieves count on that complexity to cover their misdeeds.
  6. Use a Community Bank: There are national, regional, and community (local) banks. Community banks know their cities and neighbors far better than the other two. Also, they’re rates and fees are better because they don’t have to pay for several levels of executives in other cities. They are more willing to make exceptions because they know who they’re dealing with and, in some cases, actually worship in the churches they’re working with. Stay local.

Lead On!

Steve

www.churchbestpractices.org – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents
www.financeforchurches.org – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Paying for Energy Efficient Improvements

Expenditures on items to improve your energy efficiency should have a payback of five years or less. Most churches do not have ready cash to make major investments in their building to reduce energy consumption and financing arrangements often are self-defeating (the energy savings go to pay for the bank loan and by the time the loan is paid off, the equipment needs to be replaced). Here are some ideas to offset these expenses.

  1. On electrical work, always use a licensed electrician. Poor electrical work can lead to fires which won’t be covered by insurance if it wasn’t done properly. Your church may have a member who is a licensed who will do some of this work pro bono or at cost – take advantage of those skills (and thank them publicly!).
  2. Have a capital campaign or special offering for specific equipment. Ask interested members to give to a purpose which ignites their passion. You may be surprised at what some members will give and how much they’ll give. Younger members are especially attuned to environmental matters.
  3. If you need to pay from your budget, here are a couple of ideas
    1. Have the work done at the end of a fiscal year (December) and then pay the bill from two fiscal years (December and January). That will have less of an impact on your budget and your electrician still gets paid within 30 days.
    2. Do the work early in the fiscal year and pay for it out of two separate budget lines: the maintenance budget and the utilities budget. Since the utilities expense will be less for the rest of the year, it is reasonable for the utilities to absorb some of the maintenance cost in January and reap the savings over the rest of the year (and future years).
    3. Do both of the above paying out of two fiscal years and two budget lines. That spreads the expense even further.

Lead On!
Steve


www.churchbestpractices.org – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents
www.financeforchurches.org – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Hiring an Audit Firm

Hiring an audit firm is not easy but not hard either. The most important thing is to rely on references. Here are questions to ask a reference:

  • How well was the audit done?
  • How fast did they get out to do any field work?
  • How fast after the field work did they get the final report?
  • How many questions did they ask of staff and which staff?
  • What was their price?
  • Would you use them again?
  • Did they meet with management (with no staff present) after it was all done?
  • Did they ask staff if there are things staff wants included in the report?
  • Did they listen to staff’s answers about the way the staff does accounting versus the “perfect” method?
  • How much have they increased their price each year?

Here’s the process I use when searching for an auditor:

  1. Gather a bunch of names
  2. Get them to submit RFPs (you’ll have to give them your financials)
  3. Call references
  4. Invite 2-3 in for face-to-face interviews
  5. Select one
  6. Change auditors after 3-5 years

Lead On!

Steve

www.churchbestpractices.org – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents
www.financeforchurches.org – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Church Audits

There are several types of audits and here are the iterations

  • Who does the audit
    • Internal Audit – this is done in-house by the treasurer or an independent audit committee. Usually this is free (done by volunteers) and is not in-depth. It is a spot check on the accountant who’s doing the books. I’ve got a one-page sheet describing how this can be done.
    • Independent Audit – this is done by an outside CPA firm and it costs $4,000 to $15,000 depending on how many bank accounts you’ve got and how much they’ve got to hunt for info. The more they hunt, the more time they spend, the more they cost. Keep it SIMPLE!!!
  • Types of audit – usually done by CPA firm but could be done internally.  An outside auditor gives members more peace of mind. Audits done by church volunteers consume a LOT of time which volunteers could be doing something else and it makes donation info available to fellow members.
    • Financial Procedures Audit – this is to ensure that the people handling the money, deposits, checks, cash, bills, etc. are doing it the proper way. Auditors have a checklist of literally about 200 questions.
    • Financial Figures (the first two are not typically good enough for banks to give loans)
      • Review – someone looks at your internally-produced financial statements and states they look okay or not; the auditor will suggest improvements and changes as necessary.
      • Compilation – someone takes a pretty close look at your internally-produced financial statements and mostly replicates those financial statements on their letterhead; the auditor will suggest improvements and changes as necessary.
      • Full Blown Audit – someone spends several days at your place reviewing anything and everything they want and asking a ton of questions. At the end, they produce a set of financial statements that are accepted by banks and lenders and others. They will write up a management letter which tells the top management of the church what things need to be changed, improved, started, and/or stopped. It is thorough. It gives peace of mind to members and donors.

My recommendation:

  1. That the church treasurer or an independent audit committee of church members (not related to the Finance Committee) do an internal audit of the check register and/or general ledger every month
  2. That the church contract with an external/independent auditor to conduct a full-blown audit every other year and include a financial procedures audit. IF the audit firm can state that doing it once a year will be almost the same price as every other year, then do it every year.

The SECRET to a good audit: Have a filing system that is so simple, clean, & clear that anyone can find any document within one minute. I do that kind of system at all churches I consult with. At a recent audit, the auditors were on site for just one day and they had planned three days – that saved the church a LOT of money and got the auditors out quickly. 

Lead On!

Steve


www.churchbestpractices.org – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents
www.financeforchurches.org – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of