When churches look for accounting software, Quickbooks is often the first place they look. This is for good reason since QB is the most popular accounting software used by small businesses in North America.
If you've never used Quickbooks before, we'll walk you through everything you need to know so that you can decide if it's right for your ministry.
Before we can even talk about QB, I think we should talk about funds. As someone who worked in the "for-profit" realm for years, I couldn't tell you the difference between a Fund and a Ford Fiesta. But once I got into full-time ministry, I had to learn a new way to track finances.
In churches, donors often give to designated funds like missions, education, or a building fund. Monies given to these funds have to be used for the funds that they are designated for. Businesses do NOT have to do this. Here's a super basic visualization of what this looks like 👇👇👇
Since we as churches have donors that are giving to specific funds, we need an easy way to mark which donations go to which fund. As someone who likes to build equations in their free time (yes I know I'm weird), I've done this easily in Excel. But once you need to generate giving statements and start tracking your other church income and expenses... it will quickly be a nightmare! I've said this before and I'll say it again:
There's a lot of misinformation out there, friends. I've seen numerous ministry blogs and other church software companies make very misleading claims that Quickbooks doesn't do fund accounting. This is false. There are literally thousands of churches across North America that are using QB to track their funds. I've personally spoken with hundreds.
In order to track funds with Quickbooks properly, you need to have a solid foundation of how the software works to begin with. To track your funds in QB you'll need to turn on Class tracking, assign a class to each fund, and set up a banking sub-account for each fund. From there, you'll be able to run a Profit and Loss by Class report to review all your income and expenses. It's not that hard to do if you have a good foundation of the software.
Doing your accounting with QB has a few nice perks:
Perks aside, fund accounting in Quickbooks is NOT unicorns and rainbows. There are a few challenges you will definitely want to consider:
Congrats! You've almost made it to the end. To help you decide whether QB is a good fit for your church, I've made this sweet little yes/no questionnaire that takes 20 seconds to fill out:
If you answered YES to at least 3 of those questions... QB should be on your shortlist. This is especially true for churches with an average weekly attendance of over 500 or ministries that outsource significant portions of their finances due to complexity. These churches tend to be the best candidates for those two reasons alone.
If you answered NO to most of the questions (especially the first 3), I can tell you with great confidence (and years of experience) that your church should NOT use QB. Many church leaders have told me that Quickbooks was either overkill or just too much for them to have to learn for what they actually needed. When it comes to tracking funds, some leaders have even expressed to me that it just didn't work the way they needed it to.
Church leaders need an accounting program that's made for churches out of the box. They don't have time to learn and understand how to use a complex platform only to have to tweak it to make reports properly work. Thankfully, there are dozens of accounting programs available that are made specifically for fund accounting that are infinitely better for this use case.
If this is you, here's an article on the 4 Best Church Accounting Software Options that I think you'll find helpful. As you do your research, Look for a platform that has features like memorized transactions, transaction attachments, and bank import. I can't stress the following enough though; steer clear of companies that charge extra for support or have high monthly costs or "setup" fees. Those are BIG red flags. 🚩
Now I know what you're thinking... okay Wes, now is the time you're going to tell me to reach out to the ChurchTrac sales team right?
No way, Jose!
This was just a friendly PSA for helping leaders decide whether or not their church should use Quickbooks. Besides, ChurchTrac doesn't have a sales team anyways.