It’s one thing to download a new app on your phone or test out a streaming service for your family It’s a whole other thing when you’re talking about implementing new technology that your entire ministry runs on and relies on to reach thousands of people every day.
That’s the situation I was in a few years back as CFO at Faith Promise Church. Since 1995, we’ve grown to six campuses, doubling in just the past 10 years alone, all in pursuit of our mission to help real people with real problems find real love and make sure everyone in our surrounding communities has a home in our church.
There have been many factors that have led to our continued growth, but our ability to recognize when and where we were outgrowing certain capabilities – and when to find a new long-term solution – was paramount.
This philosophy was especially critical when it came to our finances.
Knowing When You Need a New Way
We first started to feel the pinch in 2008. Purchase requisition approvals took a week. Budget reporting required at least a day or two of manual reconciliation each month. It all resulted in overspending or delayed spending on critical projects.
Initially, we thought we could overcome these obstacles with some hard work and late nights, but as we continued to expand, we recognized that the systems we had in place just could not sustain our plans for continued growth.
Just to keep up, my team was manually entering (and often duplicating) data on a weekly basis, following seemingly never-ending paper trails and spent a week trying to consolidate all of it for each close. Because we spent so much time organizing and reorganizing our finances, it became incredibly difficult to map back our financial statements to our mission. When we wanted to focus on new projects, we just didn’t have enough time or information.
It was clear we needed a new way of working – and a new solution to support us. For us, that was cloud financial management software Sage Intacct, which we chose for its focus on growing not-for-profit organizations, its rich functionality, and cloud-based delivery model.
Our decision to switch to a cloud-based solution like Sage Intacct was natural and necessary. We wanted to avoid the hassle of shuffling papers to confirm accurate figures, and with the cloud, we were able to find all of our data in one place at anytime and via any device. With multiple campuses, it was essential to to access all data within Sage Intacct across any of our entities at any time – and know it was the right data. It meant our campuses were more connected financially and strategically than ever before, and gave us that extra push toward becoming a more transparent and efficient organization.
We loved that we could be more efficient in our workflows and reporting capabilities without worrying about the cost or hassle of installing and maintaining any software or hardware at the church.
Understanding What Your Church Earns Back
And it’s paid off, not only in our day-to-day work, but also our impact on the community. In just three years, we’ve opened a sixth physical campus, an Internet campus, and two prison-based ministries. With the workflow efficiencies we’ve gained, we’re saving $85,000 or more each year in salaries and benefits, all while doing deeper analysis and reporting.
We now analyze the value of each new campus, tracking ministries and funds, as well as contributions received for specific purposes – all in real time. We can also create more precise forecasts for our budget, given clear insights into the church’s historical spending and reports that highlight how donations were dispersed to achieve the organization’s goals. In real terms, that means a newfound ability to complete campus launch projects under budget but to plan for new campuses and create clear and actionable long-term financial plans for future campus launches.
As for me, my team and I spend less time on data manipulation, and have shifted our focus toward bettering our church and supporting our community. With improved technology and a better understanding of our finances, we focus inward on growing our community and our faith.
At the start of the school year, the entire Faith Promise Church staff was able to go to various schools in the community to help them prepare for the new year, and then over the winter break our church rallied together to provide food for low income children over the holidays.
Personally, I have had more time to dabble in retail, HR, legal, and construction project management initiatives, and can confidently execute in all areas knowing our budget can support them. The analytics capabilities of Sage Intacct enable us to easily examine our financials by campus or department, the status of our budget for particular projects, and most importantly, we can identify the tools and opportunities to effectively grow.
Ensuring Growth That’s Plannable, Not Just Possible
Churches don’t have a reputation for early adoption, and I understand why. It’s scary to change what has worked for a while and there’s always risk associated with changing what isn’t necessarily broken, particularly in our field. It’s never as simple as just downloading a new service or signing up for a demo.
But with that risk comes reward.
We’re now twice the size we were 10 years ago and I attribute much of our growth to the hard decisions we made across the organization to look to new technology when the existing limited our ability to support our community. With more of our technology in the cloud, we’re ensuring continued growth is not just possible, but plannable.