How Churches Can Embrace Modern Finance

How Church Financial Leaders Can Break Their Spreadsheet Habit

Spreadsheets. Used to manage everything from personal activities and budgets to organizational financial activities, the latter of these poses a multitude of dangers for religious organizations who try to manage funds, cash flows, and expenses using them.

The use of spreadsheets is prevalent in finance, but poses a danger, as a majority of spreadsheets contain errors. Worse, the time spent copying, manipulating, and pasting data is time better spent driving the organization’s strategy or focusing on the mission of your religious organization. Today, we’d like to share with you the dangers of spreadsheet gluttony and how to break your religious organization’s spreadsheet habit.

The Pains of Spreadsheet Gluttony

Spreadsheet gluttony is just one of the seven deadly sins of financial management—joining other common pain points like lack of compliance and slothful tracking—but it is often the most painful and risky ones that plagues financial leaders at churches.

Inaccurate Fund Management

When it comes to managing the different funds at your religious organization, your job includes disbursing, recording, and reporting how the church is managing its funds. When you use spreadsheets, however, you can’t guarantee speed or accuracy in doing this, and the distribution of money into different funds and the management of said funds becomes more challenging with growth.

If you can’t manage the funds, you can’t share in detail what you’re doing with parishioners’ money (which we will discuss below) and you risk the tax man’s hammer. An improperly filed Form 990 can result in the loss of tax exempt status. Learn more about the Form 990 here.

Lack of Detail

The biggest pain of spreadsheets is the lack of insights they provide into the numbers. Even if you are an expert at writing formulas and building relationships between data, this is still only scratching the surface of what could really be measured.

Now you may be thinking, “I don’t need all of these bells and whistles,” but when push comes to shove, you have to realize that your parishioners are more taxed than ever and have more choice in where they send their money as well. This means you need to share with parishioners that you are making good use of their money, as well as knowing when to ask for more.

Details matter, and being able to communicate these details efficiently and accurately to stakeholders, parishioners, and institution leaders was one of the biggest challenges we highlighted in our last blog, Three Common Annoyances Faced by Church Financial Teams.

Less Time Focusing on the Mission

It’s unlikely you got into managing the finances at your religious institution for the lucrative paycheck. It’s more likely you joined for the rewarding work and to help more people to find the grace of religion.

When you rely on spreadsheets and other antiquated processes in accounting, you are taking time directly away from this mission. By automating your processes, you can take the time back your time so you can give back more (or recognize the hidden value of wasting time).


An overreliance on spreadsheets is just one warning sign that your church is outgrowing its accounting software. If you are plagued by extended times generating reports, getting information to decision makers, or even buying paper, it’s time to learn about your options.

At rinehimerbaker, we are focused on helping your church, synagogue, or other religious institution to select, implement, and operate accounting software and other complementary applications. We welcome you to download our guide for organizations outgrowing QuickBooks, to take a look at Intacct’s 2017 Buyers Guide to Selecting Accounting Software, and to read the following to learn even more:

Church Financial Management

Three Common Annoyances Faced by Church Financial Teams

Do you manage finances at a church? If so, you know that there are some unique challenges. From managing people to managing funds, it’s likely you are doing more than just financial work, and when the financial work starts taking more and more time each month, it’s taking away from the other work you need to do, as well as the ministry work you want to do. Today, we would like to share with you three common challenges that affect churches, and a couple options to overcome them.

Monthly and/or Weekly Reporting

Churches and other faith-based organizations are held to a high standard by their parishioners, who like to see that their tithing and other contributions are being used to do good for the community and for the church itself. Church leaders like to see steady or rising attendance numbers, and stakeholders like seeing a stable financial future for the church.

For financial and church operations professionals, the best way to communicate this is through a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual report to share the financial health of the church and each of its funds, as well as attendance numbers, projections, P&L statements and more.

Unfortunately, for churches without the processes or technology in place to get the job done, generating these reports requires a lot of manual effort—copying and pasting data between multiple documents and spreadsheets, transposing information from paper into a computer, manually analyzing the numbers, and hoping there are no errors in any of the processes or documents.

Put simply, the process of generating a report takes more and more time each month, and the growing amount of data means that each month takes just slightly longer than last.

Getting Information to Decision Makers

If the information is delayed—or worse, incorrect—decision makers are unable to lead your church’s long-term strategy. When it comes to fund accounting, delays in reports could hold back your ability to expand, improve, or work on outreach—all of which could lead to lower turnout or fewer contributions from parishioners who feel their money is not being used properly.

By improving processes and technology, you can gain access not only to faster reports, but smarter and more robust reports based on more metrics.

Buying Paper

How much do you spend on paper each month? With outdated accounting technology, you could be wasting much-needed on paper, when there are modern options that help you to break your paper habit.

With newer technology, you can get rid of the paper-based processes that waste time and money to complete, allowing you to focus even more energy on ministry. By automating your church’s financial processes, you can free yourself of the paper costs and the time and effort it takes to print, scan, convert, and enter data.

The cloud has been a game changer in the nonprofit space, and now, even more churches are getting on board. By moving to the cloud, churches are able to get world-class technology without the world class costs that come with it. Better security, fewer upfront costs, guarantees you can count on, and more.

Conclusion: Have the Time and Money to Do More

When you can focus your time and effort on ministry, it means that you getting back to the basics and focusing on what really matters: Doing God’s Work. If you want to grow your church without growing your accounting staff we would like to hear from you. Intacct Cloud Financial Management is easily customizable to your church’s needs, Intacct can help you save money, automate processes, strengthen internal controls, and easily report to multiple stakeholders. Intacct helps your dollars go farther, so you can do more with less and be the best steward possible.

Intacct Success Stories

Churches of all sizes and denominations have made the move to embrace cloud accounting with Intacct. From local to multi-location megachurch, Intacct has been there, providing the automation that financial leaders need to get back to focusing on the mission. A fair share of Intacct’s 11,000+ customers are churches, and among the success stories:

rinehimerbaker is ready to help your church leverage the cloud to improve financial processes and free up time to get back to mission and ministry. Get in contact with us to learn more.