We have so many fantastic churches in the Dakotas UMC. One of them that has been a huge help to me personally is Yankton First UMC. They’ve given me some great experiences and wisdom…and now a new tool to share with you. It’s a clever spreadsheet that allows you to easily track Memorials or other small, short-lived funds. The reason you use a spreadsheet is so you don’t clutter up your chart of accounts. You can have one account in your books for Memorials, and this spreadsheet would then break that amount down.
Most of us bookkeepers do this. Here’s a screen shot of one that I used to keep at Bismarck First UMC. It worked…but it’s not pretty. Also, I could never give someone a printout to show them the balances unless I wanted them to see my mess. That’s why I really like Yankton First UMC’s spreadsheet.
Sometimes church are criticized for having so much of their budget go for personnel, buildings, and administration. Sometimes church leaders (and especially the pastor) feel guilty about this too. On average, about 80% of a church’s budget goes towards these things. Church budgets rarely include estimates for designated giving although churches plan on and depend on designated gifts for youth activities and to support missionaries and to feed the hungry. Why not include designated gifts in the budget? It’ll make your church’s budget look better and may more accurately show your ministry strategy.
I’m still working in my 30-day free trial of Non-Profit QuickBooks Online. One of the first challenges I’ve helped churches work through is how you handle all those church funds. I’ve seen two good solutions: 1)Track it all in the Equity section or 2)Track it in Equity AND Other Income. I show you this in the video below.
As an after thought, I wonder if it would work to set them up in the Liability section? Would this be better? It might help the church leaders see the obligation related to holding these funds.
Are donor-restricted gifts a blessing or a curse? Often they are a blessing…especially when the church’s leadership is trying to raise money for a cause or project. A lot of churches take special offerings for specific missions (e.g. Mission of the Month). Others raise money for capital projects or to retire debt. But what about those gifts with strings attached that we aren’t asking for? What about those strings church boards put on certain unrestricted gifts?
The less strings, the better…as long as you have quality leadership. My general strategy is to use up any funds with strings attached first. The more freedom our leaders have, usually the better. They know the challenges and opportunities more than anyone else. I can already hear someone saying, “But what about accountability?” Donor restricted gifts are trying to control the leadership’s decisions…not hold them responsible (i.e. accountable) for those decisions. You hold them accountable by confronting poor decisions…usually through the Staff-Parish Relations Committee…and maybe voting for them to no longer be in leadership.