Your Church & The Path Forward

Decisions Today for a Stronger Financial Future Tomorrow

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CARES Act

The impetus behind the funds being issued by the CARES Act is to keep people employed and on your payroll. The default is to the employee and the intent is to keep cash flowing in the economy. As church leaders, we also want to default towards caring for our staff. If you qualify, today is the day to apply. 

Giving and donors in this season

When thinking about maintaining giving at this time:

  • Don’t be shy // Now isn’t the time to be quiet or shy. Let your people know what the need is and be honest with them.
  • Cast the vision // People want to invest in the mission. Tell the stories and talk about how the money is helping to move things. 

On a donor side, it’s important to access that data on your donors so you can monitor those givers. Knowledge of the donor database and analyzing it is an important part of taking care of your people. Reach back out to those folks and thank them. Maybe you have staff with time on their hands. Have them people contact your donors to thank them and see how you can pray for them or meet any of their needs. 

If your church isn’t set up for digital giving yet, do it now. You probably need to think through the dynamics of your congregation, but there’s no good reason not to do digital giving at this point. Consider using giving platforms and programs like Pushpay to make it easy. 

Beyond digital giving, consider these strategies for maintain givings:

  • Reach out to key donors today. Consider running 3 or 4 digital town halls. Invite your key donors to thank them for giving, cast the vision, tell a few stories, and be clear on what the financial forecast looks like.
  • People are at home right now. Send some direct mail that casts the vision, shares stories, and makes an ask for the current need.
  • Make a specific ask and tell your people about the opportunity. Don’t be embarrassed about needing to ask for their help.
  • Consider launching a short term capital campaign.

Stewarding your financial resources

Many churches don’t have enough cash-on-hand set aside. A minimum of 30 days’ worth is recommended, but the best practice would be 60 to 90 days of operating cash. Our people give us money to make a difference, but it’s also a matter of stewardship. You have to steward everything God gives you including your staff, your people, your facilities, and your finances. If you’re living so close to the edge and there’s a hiccup that disrupts everything, that’s not good stewardship. If there’s an opportunity that God lays before you and you’re not prepared for it, then you’ve missed that opportunity.

For churches struggling on the cash flow side, there are a few things you should be aware of at this point in time. Do at least a weekly cash flow forecast so that you’re not surprised. If you see the cash crunch coming, there are a few things that you should do:

  • Communicate to and with the congregation.
  • Think about those expenses that can be easily reduced. This might be those outside contracts such as cleaning or lawn maintenance. It might be time to terminate or suspend those services indefinitely.
  • Look at programs that may not be as effective or efficient as they could be. 
  • Consider your staff. Now’s the time to think seriously about making those decisions. 
  • Talk to your bank sooner than later, especially if you have a loan or mortgage payment coming up. 
  • Reach out to vendors to renegotiate contracts. 

While some churches are cutting back and not adding in new services in this season, the financial decisions you make now will be incredibly important for the future of your church. If you don’t have financial expertise in-house, then you need to find an expert you can talk to. Even in a few hours, an expert can provide some great advice around key issues and actually help you save some money down the road.

When we come out of this, the church is going to look different. Churches will likely become more effective and efficient and we’re going to be doing ministry differently. Maybe because we’re reaching out more to the community now than ever before, maybe we’ll be more of a community-based ministry in the future. What financial or structural changes do you need to make or what processes do you need to put in place now in anticipation of that future? 

Question and Answer

Can we access our capital funds or future funds to help our cash flow?
No. When someone gives you restricted funds for a specific purpose, you have a moral and legal obligation to use those funds for that purpose. If you redirect those funds without the donor’s permission, you open yourself up to all sorts of legal issues. You need to look at how much you have but also think about how much you are actually able to spend. You can go back to those donors and ask to reallocate their donated funds, but definitely talk to your legal counsel first. You should also put any of those conversations with the donor or transactions in writing. 

Are there particular areas some churches miss in terms of forecasting when they’re in an environment like this? 

People can be too optimistic or too pessimistic. Do three forecasts: a best case scenario, worst case scenario, and a most likely case scenario. Then monitor those outcomes and situations very carefully.

What would you say to church leadership struggling with accessing or knowing the donor database?
The executive pastor should know these people, not so you can treat them differently but so they can be discipled differently. The reality is, if you’ve been around the church for any amount of time, you’re going to know who those people are. You should know so that you can minister to them appropriately. There’s sometimes a fear in pastor’s minds that they’re going to treat people differently or be discouraged, but it usually lands far more on the other side in seeing how generous people are. 

Non-profit employees are not eligible for unemployment under FUTA guidelines. Does the CARES Act change that in any way beyond the $600 allocation?

Yes. Generally speaking, church employees do not participate in their state’s unemployment measures, but under the FFCRA, they do qualify. Check out our webinar from March 27, 2020 on how the FFCRA is impacting your church for more details and information. 

Track with Rob and CapinCrouse

CapinCrouse // Visit the website for contact information and free resources including the Church Financial Health Index.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.