Ready to take control of your church's finances? Great! That means we have to talk about the #1 way to manage the church budget: Fund accounting.
But fear not, we're not about to embark on a snooze-fest! We'll navigate this financial landscape with the finesse of Moses parting the Red Sea – except instead of parting waters, we'll be balancing budgets!
Whether you're a finance novice or a seasoned church treasurer, let's uncover the secrets of fund accounting together in the post below...
Fund accounting is a specialized approach to financial management tailored for churches. This method is designed to track the amount of cash assigned for different ministry purposes. It doesn't rely on the same processes for managing finances at a for-profit business.
Unlike traditional accounting methods used by for-profit businesses, fund accounting segregates the church's money into distinct "funds" based on their intended purpose. This ensures transparency, accountability, and compliance with regulatory requirements.
By providing a clear framework for managing revenue, expenses, and donations, fund accounting enables nonprofit organizations to demonstrate stewardship of their resources while effectively supporting their mission and serving their communities.
Church designated funds accounting isn't just a good idea for your ministry. It's the best way to manage your finances!
Below are the most important reasons why your church needs to embrace fund accounting:
Relying on the accounting principles of fund accounting will transform the financial management of your church.
If you're new to fund accounting, it can feel overwhelming. But don't worry! There are only a few basics you need to know to get started:
Fund accounting revolves around a few fundamental terms:
Transactions within each fund are recorded separately, ensuring clear tracking of income and expenditures. Reports are then generated to provide insights into the financial health of each fund, including balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements. This structured approach ensures transparency and accountability in managing church finances.
Churches typically manage various funds, including the General Fund for day-to-day operations, the Missions Fund for outreach initiatives, the Building Fund for construction or maintenance projects, the Youth Fund for youth programs, and the Benevolence Fund for charitable assistance.
Here's the deal: Fund accounting isn't complicated. In fact, it works a lot like your checkbook.
The goal of fund accounting is simple. You only need to track how much money is coming in and how much is going out so that you can monitor your current balance. The only complexity comes from allocating income to their proper funds and ensuring that money is spent for its restricted purpose.
Let's talk about how to set up your church's fund accounting system!
Good news! There are only 4 easy steps to setting up a fund accounting system at your church and make it simple...
You will need all of these before you can establish a system of fund accounting for your church:
You need to have a statement from every bank account your church has, as well as statements for other assets, as well as debts.
Also, gather a list of your church's restricted funds and each fund balance. Then find or put together a list of the chart of accounts for your organization.
Yes, your church can leverage fund accounting principles by hand for free with nothing but an Excel spreadsheet.
But here's the problem: This would take an enormous amount of time to set up, and even more time to maintain. And even if the spreadsheet works well and you covered all the bases, you then have to worry about who will succeed you in maintaining the church finances. Will they be able to make sense of the sea of spreadsheets they'll inherit?
A fund accounting software designed for churches is the best option. Choose one that's user-friendly, has excellent reviews, and is affordable.
Add your current financial data to your church accounting software.
Enter your assets and liabilities, your chart of accounts, and your restricted funds with their current balance. Depending on your church's needs, you may need to enter past financial transactions for more detailed reports.
Church bookkeeping is about more than just balancing a budget. Fund accounting emphasizes accountability and transparency.
So choose how often you will report on your church's finances. Many report annually, but bi-annual and quarterly reports are also recommended.
You also need to determine who you should report to. Depending on your church and denomination, you will need to submit up-to-date reports to your board, denomination, other leaders at your church, and your members.
It's important to maintain up-to-date records of your church's finances. What's the point of doing all the work of setting up a fund accounting system if it doesn't help you manage your church funds?!
Every financial decision your church makes has to be put through the matrix of your church's mission and vision. If it doesn't align with the vision or advance the mission, it's not worth the expense.
Record donations as soon as possible, preferably the same day your church receives them. It won't do any good to wait weeks to record donations, because you need to know where your church stands at any given time.
If your church accounting software can sync with your bank accounts, set that up immediately. This will save you so much time in the long run.
Otherwise, log into your church's fund accounting software at least twice a week to update all transactions.
We can't take the church's money for granted. We have to know not only how much is allocated to each ministry, but also how much we should be bringing in and how much we can spend in every area of our church.
This means creating a budget for your church that lists every income source and expense your church has. Your budget needs to set targets for how much money you need to raise and a limit for how much you can spend.
Creating a budget for your church can take a little time (and a little math!). But it's much easier than you think. Watch the video below to learn how to create a budget for your church:
Accountability and transparency are crucial. Without it, your church could end up like this church in Texas that lost $450,000 in embezzled funds! Yikes.
It's best to have at least two people who oversee the process of recording donations, depositing income, signing checks, verifying expenses, and balancing the budget. If you're the only one managing the funds, adding at least one other person should be a big priority.
Financial reporting and compliance are crucial for your church to uphold transparency, accountability, and trust within the community.
We recommend submitting financial reports every quarter. However, your church's needs may be unique. Check with your leaders and denomination for more insight on how to report your finances.
Financial transparency and compliance are how your church can demonstrate responsible stewardship of the resources God has given you.
Setting up a church's fund accounting system involves implementing a chart of accounts, choosing the right fund accounting software for churches, and establishing policies and procedures for financial management.
Managing church funds effectively requires transparency, accountability, and strategic stewardship, facilitated by accurate financial reporting. Prioritizing financial transparency and compliance strengthens credibility and ensures responsible stewardship of your church's resources.