Tag Archives: Balance Sheet

Why a Church Balance Sheet is like a Pizza Pie

According to the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), non-profit organizations – no matter the size – must produce a Statement of Financial Position. The Statement of Financial Position is a church balance sheet. In the past when viable software solutions were not available, churches would use separate checkbooks to keep the money separate for their ministries. Other creative ways developed over the years, like using spreadsheets or classes to tediously track money and produce reports.

These methods have led to inaccurate reporting, possible misappropriation of funds, slow production of the reports, and reports that were not in compliance. Fund Accounting was developed to help churches manage various funding sources and how money is spent. Fund accounting simplifies the process by having one checkbook, which is separated into multiple funds with individual balances.

To help clarify fund accounting, let’s pretend the checkbook is a pizza pie:

Picture of Pizza Pie representing a Church Balance Sheet

Each fund’s balance, or net amount, is a slice of the pizza pie. To simplify this example, we will not have any liabilities. If we apply numbers, the entire pizza pie is worth 1,000.00.  (Yes, we realize that is an outrageous price for a pizza pie.)

The Youth Fund’s slice is: 400.00
The General Fund’s slice is: 500.00
The Mission Fund’s slice is: 100.00
Total 1000.00

The total still equals 1,000.00, but each fund has their respective slice of the pizza pie representing the net worth. The General Fund owns the majority and the Mission Fund owns the smallest slice. This does not mean either fund is more important than the other, only that one fund owns more than the other. In fact, a common church process that is often out of compliance is taking in all money through the General Fund and then distributing it to other funds. This suggests a hierarchical structure where the General Fund oversees the other funds.

Now let’s look at some transactions and see why fund accounting looks different from the accounting methods used in the For Profit industry. The For Profit method is shown first and the Fund Accounting method second.

The organization receives a Telephone Utility invoice for 150.00:

According to the organization accounting procedures, the double entry accounting would state the following:

Debit Credit
Checking 150.00
Telephone Expense 150.00

This would not work or be in compliance with FASB because we do not know which Fund (remember funds are the slices of pizza pie) should be reduced to pay this bill, therefore adjusting the overall balance of the checkbook and the net amount of the fund. Fund accounting solves all these issues because you choose which fund should pay for this expense. In this example, the General Fund pays for this monthly bill.

The first part of the transaction mirrors the For Profit method; however, the addition of the Fund category is the key.

Debit Credit Fund
Checking 150.00 150.00 General
Telephone Expense 150.00 150.00 General

Now the new balances for each slice of pie should be the following:

The Youth Fund still owns: 400.00
The General Fund is reduced: 350.00 (500.00 – 150.00 = 350.00)
The Mission Fund still owns: 100.00
Total 850.00

Fund accounting empowers the church by giving it the ability to see financial reports for the whole pizza pie as well as for each slice. A fund accounting system can produce a balance sheet just for the General Fund that would show 350.00 in the checkbook, which is the net amount (worth) of the General Fund. Additionally, a balance sheet for the Youth Fund would only show 400.00. A balance sheet for all funds would show the entire 850.00 in the checkbook, but would not specify how much money is allocated to each fund. This type of report is typically called a consolidated balance sheet.

Advanced Setup:

Generic accounts minimize the Chart of Accounts and simplify reporting (i.e. having one Telephone Expense instead of a Pastor Telephone Expense and a Youth Pastor Telephone Expense). The following example will show a Telephone Bill that is split between the General and Youth Funds. Notice the same generic accounts – Checking and Telephone Expense – are used for both funds.

Debit Credit Fund
Checking 100.00 100.00 General
Telephone Expense 100.00 100.00 General
Checking 50.00 50.00 Youth
Telephone Expense 50.00 50.00 Youth

Now the new balances for each slice of pie should be the following:

The Youth Fund is reduced: 350.00 (400.00 – 50.00 = 350.00)
The General Fund is reduced: 400.00 (500.00 – 100.00 = 400.00)
The Mission Fund still owns: 100.00
Total 850.00

The Balance Sheet for the General Fund would show 400.00 in the checkbook as the net amount (worth). The user should be able to create a report for the Youth Fund and only see 350.00 on the balance sheet as the net amount (worth). If the user ran a balance sheet for all funds, it would still show the entire 850.00.

Icon Systems is the only church management software provider that is certified in the FAS 95 and 117 required by the Financial Accounting Standards Board for the fund accounting standards that all non-profit organizations need to follow. Visit www.iconcmo.com for more information or to register for a free trial.


Fund Accounting Methods Compared.

Accounting for churches is radically different than accounting for for-profit businesses, or at least it should be. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB: http://www.fasb.org) has defined how accounting for a non-profit organization differs from a for-profit organization. Icon Systems has gone to great lengths in designing IconCMO to follow these guidelines in order to be compliant with all government regulations. Following these guidelines also provides churches the reports they need to effectively manage their organization. We’ll try and define some of the methods companies are using today and their benefits and faults. Before we do so, we need to change some of the terminology.

o        Income Statement is defined as Statement of Activities

o        Balance Sheet is defined as Statement of Financial Position

o        Owner’s Equity changes to Net Assets

o        Income accounts are defined as Revenue accounts.

After reviewing different church accounting software systems some common practices have arisen.

Use Revenues and Expenses to track your Funds.

When using this method and you want to start a Capital Campaign drive, it would involve creating a Capital Campaign Revenue account and a Capital Campaign Expense account. While at first this seems like a good method you quickly realize that a single revenue/expense account on each side will not help the church board understand where the money was raised or how it was spent.  This method creates headaches for the accountant that now needs a complete set of accounts defined for each fund which creates a bloated chart of accounts.

Use Liabilities to track your Funds

This involves adding a liability account for each fund that you manage. If the church has received “X” dollars that is earmarked for Hunger Relief, the money would go into the Hunger Relief liability. Once entered it is easy to see how much money is owed to the hunger relief. When money is spent against this fund, the Hunger Relief liability is reduced until it returns to zero. Unfortunately at the end of the year the church board doesn’t know how much revenue was generated for the hunger relief fund or what expenses were incurred by it. While these hurdles could be overcome with some manipulation in the revenue and expense accounts it would be difficult/impossible to view a Statement of Activities and know why money was spent on specific items.

Additionally, a General Fund that is defined as a liability account would appear to the church board as money owed. Incorrectly defining funds as liabilities will not provide an accurate Statement of Financial Position. Without the ability to see what the true balance is, the church board will not be able to make informed decisions for the organization’s mission.

Conclusion:

While both of these methods provide the basic needs for a church, they lack the ability to report needed information to manage a church effectively. Borrowing money from one fund to help another fund becomes difficult to track. Neither method will inform the church of how much money that is currently in the checking account belongs to which funds. A church could write a check and not realize until later that the money was earmarked for Hunger Relief. Neither method will provide a Change in Net Assets report. Neither method will provide a Statement of Activities or Statement of Financial Position strictly for one particular fund. These are all required by FASB for any non-profit regardless of their size.

Fund Accounting:  A Better Method

IconCMO has deviated from the prior two methods mentioned above to be compliant with FASB. Funds are no longer defined inside the chart of accounts but rather separately. Each fund can be defined as Unrestricted, Restricted and Temporarily Restricted. Each fund can use the entire chart of accounts. The only requirement is that every transaction “must” have a “fund” designation. Because of this change a person can review the checkbook and see that of the $5,000 they have in the checkbook , $3,000 belongs to the General Fund, $1,000 belongs to World Hunger and $1,000 belongs to the Capital Campaign. Now a church no longer needs multiple checking accounts, spread sheets, or other creative accounting methods to know how much money belongs to each fund.  Because of this method, IconCMO now has the ability to extract data specific to a fund.  It can easily create usable Statement of Activities and Statement of Financial Positions specific to one fund or print a Change in Net Assets report that displays the monetary change for all funds over a given date specified.  It’s simply a better way to do church accounting and manage your finances.


Why the Church’s Financials should be Auditable?

Many churches try their best to do everything right and succeed every day in their mission(s). There is one area in the church that can be detrimental even if the best intentions were meant – the church’s books. Once a church loses the trust in the congregation and/or community their reputation as being a trustworthy organization is tarnished for a very long time. This is why using the proper accounting software, techniques, and having the right people are essential to ensure the church’s overall mission is not tarnished in anyway. Continue reading


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