It is almost an art to create great financial reports. Traditional church accounting programs (Church Windows, Church Management Solutions, Power Church, etc.) usually come with pretty good standard reports that need little adjusting. QuickBooks is different. QuickBooks Online comes with over 100 standard reports, but I don’t think I would send any of them to a church board without customizing them.
In the video, I walk you through how to customize reports, save them, and even put them in a batch. That’s all the technical stuff and not the art. The art of any reporting (including reporting in QuickBooks) includes:
Asking the Recipient: Keep the recipient in mind when you’re creating the report. That does mean that sometimes you’re going to have to ask them, “Is there anything else that you need to see to make decisions?” I remember one pastor telling me to just make it simple enough so he could tell how the church was doing and how much money he could spend. His reports were customized with this in mind.
Consistency: Reports are going to evolve and change over time so I’m not talking about that kind of consistency. I’m talking about when you give them a customized report one month and then forget to save the changes so you give them a standard report the next time. Take advantage of those features that allow you to save and batch these customizations.
Attention to Details: The biggest one is when you add a new account in the Chart of Accounts. If you are customizing reports, double check that this addition is showing up in the right reports.
I’m an accountant that makes videos on the side. I have very limited skills in the area of video editing, and I don’t want to spend the time to learn fancy new tools. Prior to PowerPoint, I would make about 3-4 videos per year. I didn’t mind the creating part, but the video editing was intimidating.
Since I learned I could just turn my PowerPoint into a video, I make 4-6 videos a month! No more editing! Everything is finished in the creating and recording process. Once I’m happy with the recording, you just click export. Plus, it seems like every other month I learn something new…almost like Microsoft had video-making accountants in mind when they update PowerPoint.
In this video, you are going to see a recording of me making this video. Behind the scenes-ish.
I’ve worked in church finances for almost 20 years now. Almost every time I receive a noncash donation (such as stock or a piano or grain), the donor wants a receipt and often they want you to include on that receipt the value of the donation. The church is not equipped to value noncash gifts which amount to providing tax advice. The IRS recognizes this and warns donees to not value these gifts.
So what do you do if the donor insists on you valuing the gift? Here’s what I do. I normally visit with the donor and let them know that the IRS doesn’t allow the church to give an amount for the value of a noncash gift. I let them know that we’ll give them a receipt that has all the details they need for any tax professional to figure out the value. In the video I detail how to fill out the receipt, and I have a template linked below.
How does your church leadership view Giving Statements? Many think of it as a tool to guilt people into faithful giving. Some of it view it just as an administrative task that does nothing for the church. What if your church’s giving statements were something that people looked forward to receiving and helped the grow as generous givers? I think this is possible, but it starts with changing your view of the giving statements.
Here’s the changes to be made:
From a reminder of pledges to a reminder of how giving is changes lives/the world.
From the focus being on the IRS and the Church Budget to the focus being on the donor and the Church Mission.
From an administrative burden to a ministry opportunity.
From something that the donor should be grateful to receive to a way to show gratitude to the donor.
Why would a pastor want to see the giving records for a church? Generally speaking, your pastor DOES NOT want to see the giving records, but they believe they need to see the giving records to lead well. Very few pastors that I’ve met want to see the giving records out of curiosity or to schmooze the big donors. The topic of money makes the uncomfortable and they don’t want to be seen in the same light as Kenneth Copeland.
Unless your pastor has proven themselves untrustworthy with sensitive information, chances are knowing how people give will help them lead better. They’ll know which members are all talk verses those that are fully invested in the mission of the church. They’ll be better able to care for their people if there is a change in giving.
The sad truth is that often looks do matter. You might have a wonderfully accurate report with plenty of meaningful insights in it, but sometimes the formatting, or lack there of, can cause people to miss those insights or even dismiss your report. Why is that? For numbers people, usually their eyes are searching for those insights. They are looking for meaning in the numbers. For everyone else, they need help in knowing where to look. Formatting can do that. They also have a lack of trust in numbers and a more professional look can help them trust more. I know this doesn’t make sense to a numbers person, but that’s life.
There’s nothing fancy in this video. Just some basic formatting and page layout tips. I go through it pretty quick because it is quick and easy. In five minutes, you can easily transform a report from plain to…more or less professional.
One of the things I take pride in is keeping accurate accounting records and reporting anything that’s out of the ordinary. Something that undermines this is when I accidentally post something to a past period that I’ve already reported on. Unexplained transactions posted in the past makes you look like you’re playing fast and loose with the books.
I don’t know if this is a change in accounting philosophy, but it seems like newer accounting systems assume that closing the books is optional. For QuickBooks Online, you need to dig around in the Account Settings…which I’ll show you in the video. I’ll also show you how to void a check in a closed period…which is needlessly complicated.