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:

How to Identify Performance Obligations under the new Revenue Recognition Standard

ASC 606 Step-by-Step Part 2: Performance Obligations

The effective date for ASC 606 is rapidly approaching, with public companies needing to complete the transition to the new standard by the end of this year, and private companies having just under 18 months to make the move. In today’s deep-dive, we would like to explore in detail the second step of the five-step process: Identifying performance obligations. Read more

Free up your schedule with cloud accounting

How Cloud Accounting Delivers the Hidden Value of Wasting Time

Getting more done in less time and finishing a task early. Doesn’t it sound fabulous? Also too good to be true, perhaps, because there’s always something we can do to with that extra time to be even more productive. But why not take a counter-intuitive approach: use that extra time to do anything but work. You just might get more done in the log-run. Read more

Accounting Software Features

Eight Things to Look For in an Accounting Software (Part 2)

At rinehimerbaker, we know accounting. We also are pretty well versed in accounting software. We recently discussed some of the most important features you should be looking for from a new accounting software, and would like to continue that discussion in part two of this two-part series.

Note: Part one highlighted the importance of having focused software that eases your day-to-day and month-to-month operations, ready to grow with you. See part one of this series here.

5: Implementation

As you look into new accounting software, two of the most complex and time consuming processes you will face—regardless of the vendor or partner—is the implementation and training process. You are entrusting someone to move a lot of information from your old accounting software to your new one and set your company up for success.

In this, it’s important to look for an accounting software that meets your timeframe while still allowing you all of the functionality you will need. Knowing what to expect during the process—timeframes, costs (direct, indirect, and hidden), and more—can help prevent the project from getting derailed.

We’ve discussed some of the key factors in a recent blog, How Long Does It Take to Implement a New Accounting System?

6: Short Learning Curve

In addition to implementation, any end users will need to learn about the software—new features, how to accomplish basic tasks, how to accomplish advanced tasks, and more. This decision can’t be understated, because some of the software options on the market today require a highly specialized skillset to do something as simple as generate or customize a report.

There are many factors that go into how easy—or hard—it is for your team to learn a new accounting software, including:

  • Whether it is a best of breed (only train specific users) or suite (train for every module you implement),
  • The age of the solution (older software is built on older and more complex code—less point-and-click operation)
  • The initial focus of the software (the more bells and whistles, the more training—solutions that grow and become more robust when you need them to be are easier to train)

These are a few considerations and decisions need to be made based on the overall technical aptitude of your team and ability to learn new products. This should be discussed with vendors, implementation/training partners, and customers of the software who are similar to your organization.

7: Integration

As we discussed in our Suite vs. Best of Breed article, integration is one of the key selling points of best-of-breed options, as point solutions are designed to do one thing well and allow other departments to choose what’s best for them as well. Suites often have much more complex (read costly) integrations that rely on hand-coding to operate if you choose to use something from outside of the vendor’s suite.

Whether you’re looking for a suite to handle all of the following or are looking for the best of the best based on your needs with a best-of-breed option, you should be looking for convenient “point-and-click” integrations (straightforward enough not to require IT skills) with commonly used applications such as:

  • CRM and sales force automation, like
  • Human resources
  • Inventory and fixed assets
  • Project management
  • Payment processing
  • Payroll and ACH

Learn more about some of the options you have in the Intacct Marketplace, a resource for business software purchasers looking to connect applications.

8: Support

Whether you’re purchasing directly through the vendor or through an industry- and location-focused reseller like us, you should expect a knowledgeable, supportive, and focused partner who can walk you through the purchase, implementation, training, and long term operation of the software.

Support from Partners Means Support from Vendor to Partner

A good vendor and partner should be recognized for their reseller/partner program, as quality vendor-to-partner training is the first step in customer success.

Each year, CRN—a magazine for the solution provider industry—ranks channel programs based on a vendor’s ability to prepare their partners for success and only gives five-star ratings to the best of the best. It’s a good way for companies who are considering reselling a specific software to decide on whether or not the investment is worth it, but it’s also a good way for you to learn if your partner will be well-trained and able to help you.

If you love slowly progressing slideshows, you can view the 5-Star vendor guide here. If you’d like us to get to the point, our accounting software vendor of choice, Intacct, received top ratings in the cloud category.

Getting Focused Support: It Pays to Work with Someone in Your Location

If you’re looking for a partner to implement and train, it’s helpful to work with someone who knows you. Some states and locations will have different needs, and it’s important to have a support partner who understands your needs. As a company who started as an accounting firm and expanded to focus on the software game, we know all of the laws and regulations that face your Florida business, and are able to get to know you very well.


Choosing a new accounting software is a tough process that should be done with the input of everyone who will be using it. Knowing not only what to look for but who to work with can separate a successful implementation from a failure.

It’s important to shop around—for both the software and resellers. Think of your accounting software decision as you would a more complex kitchen remodel. You’re not only deciding on whether you want a Viking, a Wolf, or a Thermador, you’re also deciding on the people who have to be walking around your house during the remodel process. The same goes for a software implementation project.

We think you’ll like us at rinehimerbaker. Get in contact with us to learn how we can help you.

Additional Reading

Learn even more by reading the just-released 2017 Buyer’s Guide to Accounting Software and the Intacct Guide, Essential Features of a Modern Accounting System.