8 Steps to Bring your Backoffice into the Future

Remember the classic movie Back to the Future? No matter how many times someone watches it, it’s still funny, poignant, and uplifting. But what does that have to do with your church back office, you ask?

Well…the synopsis for the movie reads … “Trapped in the past, Marty inadvertently prevents his future parents’ meeting—threatening his very existence—and is forced to reconcile the pair and somehow get back to the future.”

This sounds surprisingly like many churches out there. Regardless of the church’s size, denomination, or how innovative or progressive it may be, the financial department is often left lagging behind. You might imagine it reading like this for your church:
 
“Trapped in the past, finance teams are using error-prone, time-consuming, and costly tools for managing their backoffice processes and are forced to manually reconcile with their bank each week while desperately searching for a better way in the future.”

Surely there’s a better way. A way to save both time and money, while still accelerating giving growth.

Good news, there is! And you don’t have to wait for the future — you can have it today, just like … Finance Director Laila Armstrong of Life Church in Wesley Chapel, Florida, a 7-campus church (2 domestic, 5 international).

Laila inherited an overly complex finance back-office using 7 different software applications. Contribution management was fraught with redundancies and inconsistencies. She envisioned a future that was far more efficient and consistent, and immediately began implementing changes to create a fully integrated 3-platform system (including Vision2) that allowed her to:

  • Reduce intake processing from up to 7-10 hours each week down to 2-3 hours.
  • Save tens of thousands of dollars by eliminating an expensive third-party accounting team and repurposing the responsibilities of two part-time employees, despite tremendous growth.
  • Be freed up to move into a true CFO role where she could focus on strategy and stewardship, not simply contribution processing.

In our discussions with Laila, we identified a number of key learnings on how to future-proof your church’s financials.

Choose a giving platform that speaks your accounting platform’s language

Systems that don’t speak the same (accounting) language bear a significant portion of the blame for the inefficiencies and inconsistencies that plague financial teams.

But Vision2 cleanly maps your giving data to your account system’s structure, so data flows accurately in without manual processes. Our unique subledger feature means that we handle all transactions in a deliberate, pure, auditable way, the same way your accounting system does it, so your GL entries seamlessly match what is entered into your accounting system.

“Though online giving systems don’t ‘converse’ directly with accounting systems, it is really great that Vision2 is able to give me files and output that look like what’s in my Quickbooks, so I’m able to easily confirm the validity of the information and integrity of the numbers. I never had that with our previous online giving,” Laila says.

Ensure there is an unalterable audit trail

Your church accounting system is governed by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) to keep transactions and fund management on the up and up, including:

  • True fund accounting, providing accountability for money from various sources flowing into different funds.
  • Internal controls to ensure accounting integrity.
  • Audit trail, date and time-stamped records of the history and details around a ledger entry.

Unfortunately, if your giving system isn’t also GAAP-based, it becomes a weak link in the chain. Moving money around without the necessary protections puts your staff, funds and church at risk.

The internal controls that prevent fraud and error should be a baseline expectation in an online giving platform. But the simplistic way most giving systems manage transactions in the back office requires and allows workarounds for needed changes to donation designations, refunds, and issues, like insufficient funds.Vision2 does. With our audit trail, no transaction can ever be edited without leaving a record of it.

Vision2 was built to GAAP standards. We approach internal controls proactively, automating our processes so that most changes occur seamlessly. You would rarely ever need to change a transaction.

But most importantly, with our true fund accounting audit trail, no transaction can ever be edited without leaving a record of it. No one can just add a couple of zeroes to a transaction and pocket the difference. Our audit trail protects your staff, volunteers, funds and church from fraud and human error.

Automate both online and offline giving processes


For large churches, processing cash and check gifts can be quite time-consuming. For example, before becoming a Vision2 client, it took 17 people 4 days to process the Saddleback Church offering each week.

Vision2 now enables Saddleback to complete their offering processing in a matter of hours with just a few people.

Laila’s experience both before and after Vision2 was similar: “It was a nightmare having to make multiple scans to get cash and check transactions into each of my systems.”

“We used to scan checks once for remote deposit, then we’d rescan checks and cash two more times, once into our ChMS and once into our accounting system. It’s incredible how easily we now scan checks and envelopes just once.”

Vision2’s embedded scanner provides unparalleled check-scanning speed and accuracy for all kinds of checks (money orders, traveler’s checks, personal and business checks) … PLUS cash envelopes.

One scan enters all your giving data into our system, where we quickly transfer your funds to your bank and send the information to your ChMS (reported at the campus level).

We automate every point of every gift’s lifecycle, including NSFs, chargebacks and bank files, and reconcile your giving to the penny every day. How much time could your finance team recoup with single scanning
of cash and checks?

Look for Auto-Reconciliation; it’s real, and it’s amazing!

With most online giving systems, the typical reconciliation process includes these nightmares:

  • Trying to match batched deposit amounts to specific gifts
  • Manually breaking down gifts into their various designations or campuses
  • Sorting out gifts according to the various fee schedules they fall into

Vision2 makes reconciliation easy! Our short, simple GL files report validates ALL transaction details for you, including:

  • Automatically sweeping chargebacks, refunds and any other changes, and attributing them to the right transactions, then updating the GL.
  • Attaching unique deposit IDs to transactions so that tracking back transactions to deposits during an audit is a snap!

“It’s beautiful,” says Laila. “We used to have to do this manually. Vision2’s report is very comprehensive. We have 36 funds so we could have a file that has giving designations for up to 36 lines, though it typically averages 12-20 lines, rather than, say, 4000+ lines in our previous online giving system. Posting designations is not a problem. This report alleviates so many pain points. I could easily delegate reconciliation to my team. It cuts the process of reconciliation by at least 50%.”

Confirm that the Church Management integration is bi-directional and in real-time

Systems that don’t integrate with each other really slow your finance team down. Keeping everything updated becomes the job, rather than focusing on givers and the church’s financial health.

With Vision2, the back office of the future is never out of date, thanks to real-time bi-directional data synchronization with your church management system.

Constant communication back and forth within your systems means member profiles and giving history are always fully synced between your giving system and your church management system (Fellowship One, MinistryPlatform, PlanningCenter, Rock), giving you a complete view of each donor, no matter which system you’re in.

Provide members with self-service access to all their giving details

Most consumers are accustomed to and prefer managing their online profiles with the organizations they do business with. If they’ve gone to the trouble to login, they want to find whatever it is they came to do.

If they don’t, you’re not leaving a good impression. And staff is then burdened with managing it for them.

With Vision2, your givers can access their account profile right on your church website, where they can manage their:

  • Contact information
  • Payment methods
  • Giving history
  • Recurring gift schedules
  • Pledges and goals
  • Mission trip participation

Givers can view or print their IRS-compliant giving statements. Or you can now easily send givers their donor statements by email and text, and track who has downloaded them. The benefit to your staff is significant when you factor in the time and expense of printing and mailing tax statements.

“It’s so convenient that someone can login to their profile and manage so many aspects of their giving.” Laila says. “Such access creates a win for everyone, time saved for the back office and 24-hour availability for the congregation.”

“We save so much time and money by not printing out giving statements,” she continues. “I always say printing, mailing, managing incorrect addresses and the time it takes to do all of this is wasted time and money. It’s not how we should be spending the Lord’s money. 95% of our individual’s statements are now accessed via Vision2’s self-service portal.”

Join Forces with a Giving Partner


In many circles, “support” has come to mean leaving a voicemail and hearing excuses when you have a problem.

Our unique team of technical, accounting, design and content experts is at your fingertips. We monitor every gift from start to finish and take on the heavy lifting of gift management.

While most giving platforms primarily collect financial gifts, Vision2 is so much more. We are the only comprehensive giving and stewardship solution. We are your partner..

“Vision2’s customer success team are rock stars,” Laila says. “I instant-message them all the time at various hours throughout the day. They’re so quick to jump on stuff and solve it for me, or provide me with documentation as a reference. In the beginning, we spoke daily, but now it’s maybe just twice a month. It’s easy to convey what they show me to our team and, when necessary in the early days, they’ve connected me with a professional accountant in their network.”

Demand enterprise-level reporting analytics

First time givers? Loyal, long time givers? Lapsed givers? How can you know?

Access to the same enterprise-level reporting that major nonprofits use for giving trends and donor segmentation is the only way to:

  • Know your church’s financial health
  • Be proactive for its future
  • Minister effectively to a large congregation

Vision2 understood that churches should have the same enterprise-level reporting that major nonprofits have for giving trends and donor segmentation. Vision2 Analytics offers real-time, intuitive, simple-to-use reporting and analytics functionality. It’s the closest thing to a time machine there is for managing donors and financials. You can see the past, take action in the present, and plan for the future.

Vision2 Analytics offers real-time, intuitive, simple-to-use reporting delivered right to your inbox or device (and shareable to your Pastor or team), including:

  • Year-over-year or month-over-month giving
  • Number of households giving
  • Fund-specific comparisons (i.e. general fund vs. designated gifts)
  • Lapsed givers
  • Giving channel sources (where gifts are originating from)
  • Growth of recurring gifts

…and more!

Vision2 Analytics makes it easy to customize your dashboards so you can take the guesswork out of your church’s fiscal management and put your finger on the pulse of giving trends.

Vision2 helps future-proof your financials

With these and other essential features found in Vision2, you won’t need a time machine to eliminate the hassles, inefficient manual processes, and accounting risks the back offices of churches of every size face today, despite massive technological innovation.

With enterprise-level analytics delivered your way, everything you need in one platform, and no giving limits of any kind, Vision2’s comprehensive contribution management software can take your back office to the future so you can focus on ministry and growing generosity.