07 Feb Church Budget 101: Simple Ways Church Staff can Save Time, Money and Effort without Compromising their Church Experience
Church Budget 101: Simple Ways Church Staff can Save Time, Money and Effort without Compromising their Church Experience
When it comes to budgeting, you either love it or you hate it. There really is no in-between. But regardless of how you feel about budgeting, it is an essential part of creating a successful ministry.
Budgets are essential to churches for a few reasons. First, they allow for transparency for money coming in and out of your organization so that everyone is on the same page. Budgets also allow you to plan purchases ahead of time to ensure that you aren’t spending more than you planned for. Lastly, budgets allow you to be sure that you’re always managing your organization’s money as effectively and ethically as possible.
Churches need to be especially intentional with budgeting efforts because they aren’t just managing their own funds, but they’re also managing the money of the members of the congregation through the donations that are received. Churches can also use budgeting to clearly display where they plan on allocating the donations they receive to ensure that it is allocated efficiently.
To help your church budget like a pro, here is a short guide that outlines some simple ways that churches can save time, money, and effort while preparing a budget that allows them to provide a great church experience.
Investing in Church Budget Software
Before opening up an excel spreadsheet and trying to budget that way, it might be smart to think about investing in software for church budgeting. By using software to help with budgeting, you can significantly cut down the amount of manual book work. Some programs even sync with your bank accounts to automatically track income and report your expenses.
One tool that can be very helpful for smaller churches is QuickBooks. The simplicity of QuickBooks and the ability to unlock more features as you go, make it a great option. This short blog helps show the different steps and features associated with creating a budget in QuickBooks.
Another extremely beneficial tool if you’re using online giving has the ability to see real-time donations through mobileAxept’s administrator portal. This will allow you to see if you’re going to be short of your monthly budget and help you to plan accordingly. You can learn more about how mobileAxept can help your church management here!
Make Sure Your Budget Reflects Your Priorities
As you begin to create a budget, it should naturally reflect the priorities and goals that you have for your organization that year.
A great place to start is your organization’s goals for the year or for the quarter. Your goals are going to lay the foundation for the priorities in your budget.
One helpful practice is writing out some of your goals and prioritizing them in order of importance to your congregation. Some examples of goals might be to become debt-free, build a new playground for the kids, or update lighting. Essentially what we’re trying to do is get everything out in front of us that needs an improvement achieved through finances.
Make Sure to Include Projected Income and Expenses
While putting together a church budget, it’s good to look back at giving records from previous years, but it’s also critical to project income for the next year. In other words, when you’re budgeting, don’t lean entirely on the past but instead continue to push for a brighter future. A simple way to project future income is by taking the past three years’ income statements and finding the mean increase or decrease in financial income. By doing this, you can plan for both the average increase in finances or the average decrease.
This same principle can and should be applied to spending. There may be some more significant areas of spending from time to time that go outside of the general budget, but in the end, spending should still average out year to year based on attendance, income, and staffing.
When you project income for the year, you can break it down into each month and quarter. This way, when you see what you’re receiving on a weekly or monthly basis, you’re able to compare it against what you’ve projected. By using this method, you’ll be able to see trends in giving and other sources of income, which can help with future budgeting and understanding cash flow.
Prepare For a Random Drop in Income
A budget is always going to be variable based on the income that comes in. On any given month, a church can experience a sudden drop in giving. It can be possible to plan for these as they often happen around summer holidays or when people are traveling, it’s important not to stretch your budget too much. Preparing for the “Summer Slump” will help set you up for success.
Set Money Aside for Annual and Recurring Costs
Recurring costs can include things as simple as toilet paper, light bulbs, diapers for the nursery but do also include salaries and insurance. Setting aside money every month to meet these needs for your organization is going to help prepare you for drops in income and unexpected costs.
Online + Mobile Giving
Encouraging online and mobile giving helps to keep incoming donations from fluctuating between seasons and when people are traveling. Online giving allows donors to give from wherever they are and set up recurring gifts so that they don’t have to think about whether or not they’re staying consistent. If you’ve seen a fluctuation in income due to seasons changing, then we’d love it if you would look into our mobile and online giving program, GiveNow.
Just like budgeting for personal finances, an emergency fund is crucial in tight situations when money comes up short, large unexpected costs arise, or regular givers lose their jobs unexpectedly and aren’t able to give.
According to most financial experts, an ideal amount in that fund would be six months’ worth of income. While this might seem like a large sum of money to not be used, the security of having those funds in the bank will help your organization be prepared for anything.
Church budgets can be especially tedious, and saving time is always critical to churches because staffing is often minimized, and one person might have to fill many hats. Here are a few tips to help you save some time as you build out your budget.
- Don’t do it all at once. The fact is that no matter how good of a planner you are, there is always going to be fluctuations in the budget. For this reason and the sake of your sanity, break it up. After you have an annual budget, break it up into quarters or even months. This way, you can adjust for changes in income and tackle it more slowly.
- Divide the responsibility. This is an especially good thing to do for organizations that have multiple leaders in different roles. Instead of having the finance people do all of the budgeting, have each leader do their own department and then compile the results. There might be some revisions that need to happen, but this practice will get you closer than doing it all by yourself.
- Set realistic goals. Financial goals are just as important for organizations as they are for personal finance, but creating goals that aren’t realistically achievable is going to hurt you more than it is going to help you. Something like saving six months of expenses might seem completely unachievable, but instead, look at saving 10% of your income a month, and in that way, you can build towards having that savings account in place.
The Right Solutions
If you’re looking into management software to help you manage staff, keep track of giving, and communicate with your donors, then please feel free to reach out to us at mobileAxept! Our solutions allow you to view incoming donations in real-time, as well as keep track of donor information so that you have no trouble giving them a receipt and tracking the money that they’ve donated.
One of our top tools is ReachNow. With ReachNow, you’re able to send text messages to individuals within your congregation. This tool is perfect for giving updates on a budget or for sending an encouraging message throughout the week. Text messages have an open rate of 98%, and emails only have a rate of 20%. This is why we developed ReachNow and are excited to be offering it.
Reach out to us today! We’d love to see how we can help you reach your goals!