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.
What’s the worst thing that could happen if I don’t keep the IRS in mind when issuing Giving Statements or something to acknowledge gifts? Well…the IRS could disallow the donors charitable tax deduction which would lead them to have to pay more taxes. This would probably lead to a ticked off donor who will likely share this with other donors. You’ve basically discouraged anyone from wanting to give too generously to your church.
It really isn’t that hard to keep the IRS happy. All you need to do is properly document the gift (what did they give, who did they give it too, when did they give it) and include a simple statement that the donor didn’t receive any goods or services in exchange for the gift except for intangible religious benefits. You can sneak these element in and still have a nice “Thank you.”
Finishing up my 30-day free trial of QuickBooks Online. This is the last tip I wanted to throw out. If you’re not using Sub-Accounts in QuickBooks, your reporting is lacking. The only way I know how to get robust reporting for a church is to use Sub-Accounts. Sub-Accounts let you better organize your accounts. They let you show detailed or summarized reports. They let you easily setup custom reports for specific ministries.
I am a believer that many churches’ future is determined by their chart of accounts. The chart of accounts shape the church leaderships view of their finances and affect their decisions. A confusing chart of accounts leads to confused decisions. I know there are many exceptions, but the chart of accounts is one of the hidden forces either helping or harming your decision-making ability.
Sheri Meister (Executive Director of the Dakotas United Methodist Foundation) and I identify three steps in this video to cleaning up your chart of accounts. 1)Cleaning up the old stuff by either chucking it or renaming it; 2)Making sure every account has an owner; and 3)Using the roll-up (sub-account) abilities of your accounting system. Do these things, and you will greatly help your leadership in making good decisions.