Tag Archives: church software

Church Donation Software – Audit List

It is that time of year when many non-profits like churches provide contribution statements to their donors. It is also a good time to assess if the current solution is able to give these statements easily, quickly and has majority of the features that are still important to the church. Over time, software becomes outdated or the organization’s needs change. What features would the church like to have that they currently don’t?

Having the ability to email statement to save money in these hard economic times and use it for more worth wild missions is an important consideration. For example, a church with 150 active donors that send quarterly statements would spend $264.00 annually in postage. This total does not include envelopes, labor, and labels associated with mailing the statements. Does the church software provide a return on investment and pay for itself each year it is used?

Having different options during the preparation of statements is an important consideration. Below are some items to audit, but feel free to create your own list and then audit the current solution and compare it to others.

For example, does the software have the ability to:

  •     Create different statements for the givers and non-givers?
  •     Follow the government regulations?
  •     Print statements based on status codes of the members?
  •     Print the pledge amounts?
  •     Print tax-deductible, taxable and IRA funds separately?
  •     Print check numbers on the statements?
  •     Print comments for Gift in Kind contributions without a monetary value assigned?
  •     Provide different formats for the contributions statements?
  •     Format statements for windowed envelopes?
  •     Print labels to match the statements?
  •     Include a church logo?
  •     Include a custom thank you letter at the bottom?
  •     Email statements to specific email addresses for each member?
  •     Produce statements quickly (eg: under 30 seconds for a mega church)?

Creating an audit list that the church can use to audit their current solution and compare it should be the first objective when reviewing church donation software. Additionally, churches need a software package that includes more than tracking church donations, which means a similar audit list should be made for membership and the accounting areas of ministry.


Special Church Management Software Issue of Christian Computing Magazine!

Icon Systems recently had the honor of contributing to another Christian Computing Magazine cover story – you can read the full article here. The 2011 Church Management Software (ChMS) Overview is put together by the magazine’s various ChMS company sponsors. It is an excellent resource for organizations on the market – whether they are purchasing church management software for the first time or simply looking for a better fit.

Make sure to check it out for sure if you participated in our customer feedback survey last month – we included many of your comments! (In case you were wondering – yes, getting quoted in a magazine cover story gives you bragging rights for at least a year so by all means feel free to shamelessly forward the article to everyone in your contact list!)

Unfortunately due to word count restrictions, we could not include all of your fabulous testimonials, but we would sincerely like to thank each person who responded to the survey; every single one of the numerous endorsements and suggestions we received help us continue to deliver affordable, complete church management software solutions to churches everywhere.


8 Things to Do When You Review Church Software in the Cloud

  1. Define your needs. Make a list of the things you want the software to accomplish and rank them by importance. Getting caught up in all of the hype is easy, so knowing your priorities before you get started will help keep you on track.
  2. Take the program for a test drive. Sign up for a free trial so you can see the system for yourself. It is probably a bad sign if you can’t ‘try it before you buy it.’
  3. Contact the support team. Did a real person answer your call? How long did it take for them to respond to your email? Sometimes software companies forget about the Service part of SaaS. If you can’t get technical help or answers to your questions, it does not matter if the program has all the features you need and more. The quality of service is what is really going to matter to you at the end of the day.
  4. Find out what kind of training is available. Does the company provide training? If so, does it cost extra? Do you have access to training as well as support during the free trial?
  5. Talk to people already using the system. See if anyone you know is using the system and ask the company for customer references (If they refuse, it might be a red flag – maybe no one is using the software or maybe the people using the software are unhappy.)
  6. Analyze the security and compliance. Is the data secure and encrypted? Who has access to your data? How often are backups performed? Can you get a copy of the backup file?
  7. Ask if they have a Disaster Recovery Plan. How often do they test it? Does it work?
  8. Read the contract. Will the price increase every few months if you don’t sign a long contract? How often is your subscription cost adjusted (whether it’s up or down) based on your usage level? Do you own the data?

Church Office Software – What Makes it Different?

Church office software has various shapes and sizes. It is appropriate to distinguish between “church software” and “church office software”.

Church Software” – is any type of computer software specifically designed for use by a church”. Church software can encompass different types of software such as: bible verse, media production, donation, accounting, mass emailing, sermon, worship, and music software.

Church Office Software is one of the sub types of church software. Typically, the secretaries and financial staff use it in the office. Examples of this type of software are membership, contribution, accounting, newsletter generation, office communication tools, word processing, and spreadsheet software. The software is the heartbeat of the organization. For example, churches can still do their mission if they did not have music or media production software. Conversely, if they do not pay their bills or record donations the church doors will not be open too long.

Church office software is so vital to the mission of the church in keeping it running and the doors open, would it not be beneficial to ensure you choose one that fits your organization and still obeys government guidelines (e.g. IRS, FASB, etc). If the church could choose one thing to be correct within their organization what would it be? Most churches would choose to have the financial books correct. After all, if the church sings the wrong song on a Sunday the IRS won’t be there on a Monday issuing a violation.

Most churches realize the importance of correct financial books; however this area of ministry comes second to all the other activities in the church. When reviewing software, churches focus on the integration of membership or building a community. While these are important, they will not keep the organization out of trouble like having correct financial records. Choosing software that keeps you in check with government agencies first while building a community is the best way to start looking at software packages. It is safe to say that if the software does not have accounting included it is not worth looking at as a complete Church Office Software.

Churches some times fall into the trap of software longevity. Icon Systems can honestly say a company’s longevity in the market is not a good indicator of following the guidelines for financial reporting. If the church is unsure we recommend they do their due diligence and investigate the financial reporting requirements. A good start is to review the blog about “Fund Accounting Methods Compared“. The post discusses scenarios of incorrect guidelines according to FASB that are used in the church software industry.

While all church software is important, if certain software is not used the organization can suffer dire consequences. An organization can lose their tax-exempt status when audited with incorrect financial statements according to the FASB guidelines. Whenever there is uncertainty about proper financial reporting of money within a church, distrust spreads within the organization’s members. An organization using a FASB compliant system like IconCMO cloud base solution can be assured they are within guidelines.


Church Bookkeeping Software vs Church Accounting Software

Church Bookkeeping Software vs. Church Accounting Software

Is there a difference between bookkeeping and accounting? If so, what is it?

Businessdictionary.com Definitions

Bookkeeping:

The systematic recording of financial aspects of business transactions in appropriate books of account.

Accounting:

The practice and body of knowledge concerned primarily with:

1.    Methods for recording transactions
2.    Keeping financial records
3.    Performing internal audits
4.    Reporting and analyzing financial information to the management
5.    Advising on taxation matters

It is a systematic process of identifying, recording, measuring, classifying, verifying, summarizing, interpreting and communicating financial information. It reveals profit or loss for a given period, and the value and nature of a firm’s assets, liabilities and owners’ equity.

Accounting provides information on:

1.    The resources available to a firm
2.    The means employed to finance those resources
3.    The results achieved through their use

Summary

From the lengthy definition, it is obvious that accounting is somewhat more complex than bookkeeping. Basically, bookkeeping is the tedious task of entering the amounts and dates of revenue and expense transactions (i.e. contributions and purchases). Accounting is the bigger picture: an accounting system uses the bookkeeping information to create reports that can be used by decision-makers and for tax purposes.

Most church software applications accurately handle the bookkeeping part: tracking member donations and spending, even the printing or emailing contribution statements to members and generate giving total reports. Unfortunately, many of these applications fall short when it comes to the most important aspects of having accurate accounting records and providing the reports required by the Financial Accounting Standards Board. For more details, please read our post Fund Accounting Methods Compared.

Conclusion

All businesses, for profit or not, need accurate bookkeeping software to avoid negative consequences (e.g. fines, damaged reputation, having to close the business). These repercussions tend to be magnified for nonprofit organizations; they face losing their tax-exempt status, and the loss of credibility can prove to be devastating since the general public tends to hold churches and nonprofits to higher standards.

Icon Systems understands the value of accounting standards, and we make every effort possible to provide you with the tools necessary to ensure your church is in compliance with FASB guidelines. We even hired an outside CPA firm to certify our software, IconCMO, meets these standards!


The Secret to Affordable Church Payroll Software! (Part 1)

Payroll is one of the most difficult, time consuming, and costly administration tasks churches repeatedly encounter. Churches of all sizes are required to use “fund accounting” as described by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) guidelines. Fund accounting is a specialized way of accounting designed for non-profits; if you use this accounting method we recommend you read this informative interview with Nate at The Church Accounting Software Guide.

More often than not, Payroll + Fund Accounting = Confusion

FASB Reporting guidelines add to the difficulty, time, and costs already associated with payroll. For example, churches can use money in the General Fund and the Youth Fund to pay the Senior Pastor and Youth Pastor, respectively. Alternatively, both Pastors may be paid using money from the General Fund. On top of regular income, IRS reporting and taxes vary for items such as housing allowances and vehicle expenses. Paying church staff members can also prove to be tricky; reporting and taxes for hourly or salaried employees follow a completely different set of guidelines altogether. Payroll management also tends to get significantly more complicated for multisite organizations.

Payroll does NOT have to be time-consuming

The initial setup of a payroll system is expected to take some time; however, this task may be considered to be of lesser importance since it is not recurring. Completing the payroll for each pay period, on the other hand, needs to be fast and relatively simple. An effective, easy-to-use church payroll solution will substantially reduce the time needed for you to complete recurring payroll cycles, therefore lowering the overall costs associated with payroll. Evaluate your current payroll system by asking yourself these questions:

  1. How long does it take me to print employee paychecks?
  2. Can I pay tax liabilities to government agencies quickly and efficiently with only a few clicks of the mouse?
  3. Are the liability accounts automatically updated when I cut checks to make these payments?

*Making consistent entries to liability and expense accounts each pay cycle minimizes the likelihood of mistakes.

The Ultimate Cost-Saving Secret:

Systems that charge thousands of dollars for payroll essentially offer the same benefits and features as basic payroll software. Some of the expensive payroll systems do not even comply with fund accounting guidelines. The price of church payroll software is dependent on who enters the tax formulas, so find a package that requires the church to input the tax formulas. If your church leaders are willing to put in a few hours of work at the start, they can save the church hundreds if not thousands of dollars each year in payroll expenses.

Icon Systems has streamlined the recurring task of paying employees by incorporating payroll into the IconCMO fund accounting software system in order to reduce the difficulty, time, and high costs associated with church payroll administration!


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