Church Finance: 3 Reasons to Dig Yourself out of Excel
Since the inception of Excel, almost 30 years ago, Microsoft has been improving the computing power of the spreadsheet. As business intelligence requirements emerged, the need for unique calculations – graphing and macros (automating tasks in a spreadsheet) – became instrumental in the process of gathering and reporting data. For many years, analysts have lived and breathed in Excel. Excel provided users with the ability to produce results with automated computing power. For those buried in church finance data, this was a life saver.
So what’s the catch? Well, for those manipulating the data, the results of the calculations are only as good as the data in each cell. Even with check and balance triggers inside the worksheet, the data represented in the final report is all dependent on the user’s capabilities and not necessarily the data itself. I am not saying that Excel isn’t a great tool. It will continue to be a vital part of every organization’s tool set, but with the coming age of cloud technology, we now have more options.
Transfer of POWER
When it comes to gathering and reporting on financial data, what if the data storehouse generated, calculated, automated and graphed that data for you? What if you didn’t have to export data into Excel to manipulate it and produce reports? The older I get, the more I realize that my own limited perspective on “change,” especially when it comes to technology, should not limit the possibilities for improvement. I say that because we often find ourselves looking at what we do now and thinking that it works just fine. Why do I need to change if something is working, right? In the nonprofit world, we are all about being good stewards of the funds given to our mission. Well, time is money and when we spend too much time building and presenting reports, we must look for a better way.
A Better Way
I think it is exhilarating to be around those that call themselves “change agents.” Now I’m not for change just for change’s sake, but without change there is no growth. I once saw someone illustrate change with the following formula: change = conflict = growth. The status quo is not always the best option. Change agents are willing to struggle through the conflict to reap the benefits of growth. When we find ourselves buried in Excel reports spending hours on end trying to manipulate and reconcile data, we need to ask, is there a better way? I have asked myself that very question several times (the answer is YES) and would like to share with you some of the benefits of change.
#1 – Reduction in execution and increase in examination
With financial systems like Intacct, data can be calculated and presented without the use of Excel. Replicating your current Excel formats is easy because the data is stored and sorted natively within the system to mimic the Excel results. Non-financial information can easily be incorporated into Intacct’s financial platform to allow for greater in-depth analysis…without exporting into Excel. More time is spent on analyzing the data versus building reports. Real-time, relevant data is the catalyst to establishing and fulfilling your visionary goals.
#2 – The tunnel of technology
Why pull data from other systems manually when an API can do it for you? Cloud technology has opened communication between systems so that data can automatically flow between them behind the scenes. That means you have access to data from a central repository and can minimize the man hours of fetching data yourself.
#3 – More proof that old dogs CAN learn new tricks
We need to embrace change in order to expand our reach as a non-profit. Generations come and go, and with new generations come new inventions. Be willing to examine your current processes, workflows and data input requirements. There could be a better way.
“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
Take the Time to Find Solutions
If you are buried in Excel in order to produce board reports and unable to provide program leaders timely data, take the time to find the right solutions. With the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, non-profits reap the benefits of operating expensive business technology at a fraction of the cost. If you want to get better results when it comes to productivity, time management and financial analysis, get out of the insanity business and make the changes needed to produce different results – compliments of Albert Einstein.
*Written by Tammy Bunting, Director for Not-for-Profit Services at AcctTwo.
Tammy Bunting is AcctTwo’s Director for Not-for-Profit Services. Tammy has more than 25 years of experience in accounting, business administration, operations, and management. This includes work in both the secular and non-profit Christian environments. She’s been responsible for providing the controllership functions of all business environments at a multi-ministry church enterprise, and been a partner in a thriving Intacct value-added reseller business. Tammy was raised and educated in the Christian church, and has a unique perspective into the world of non-profit and faith-based business administration and accounting.
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