I’ve spent the past few days trying to find a good accounting program for our church and have wanted, on more than one occasion, to smash my head through the computer as I searched in vain. Thankfully, my computer is a really nice Mac, so I was able to resist the urge. In the end, I’ve found a solution that I think will work well for us. For the sake of trying to help some schmuck like myself who is out there googling “fund accounting software for churches” or “mac fund accounting software” hopefully I can help save you some time.
First, what we needed:
- The ability to do Fund Accounting. If you’re a church, you’ll need this too. (what is fund accounting?)
- Mac compatible or online access.
- Nothing else!
I stress the “nothing else” part because so many software packages for churches want to be Church Management Software. So, along with your bookkeeping they will throw in member management, donation management, volunteer management, facilities management, payroll management, and a whole host of other bells and whistles that we don’t need. Now, let me stop and say that if you need all those things too, then one of these all-in-one systems might be right for you. We, however, already have all these items elsewhere. We run our donations management through TheCity. We outsource our payroll. And we’re currently using Planning Center Online for volunteer management. So, all I was looking for was some fund accounting software.
The second issue, and a big one for us, is that it needed to be able to run on my Mac. Our whole staff is Mac based, so I wasn’t going to go buy a Windows machine (or set up boot camp) in order to do the bookkeeping. We chose the Mac platform for a reason and we’re sticking to it.
Now, within those three constraints, there are essentially no options at all. Here are the hand-full that I considered (excluding the one I chose, because I’ll tell you that part last).
- PowerChurch Online Version – They have a demo version on their site that you can take for a spin if you’d like, but here’s why I jumped ship 2 minutes into the demo: It isn’t really “online.” Essentially, they will install PowerChurch on their server and you can access the program remotely. It is kind of like VPNing into the program. So, you’re basically running a Windows program on their server, remotely. This just isn’t the elegant solution I was looking for, so I bailed.
- Quickbooks Online – Everyone knows about quickbooks. It is a really robust accounting software package that the pros use. It is the Photoshop of accounting software. But, just like Photoshop, 90% of the users only need or use 5% of the program. I signed up for a trial of Online Plus with Payroll just to see if I could make it work. The problem is that Quickbooks isn’t designed to be intuitive for fund accounting. From what I understand, it can be done using “classes” as funds. But, after a few hours trying to get it to work, I decided to try something else. Perhaps if you can get an QB pro to come and set it up for you, it will all flow nicely from there. For me, if I can’t figure it out in a few hours, then we’ve got to find a better solution.
- Quickbooks for Mac – Like above, just on your computer.
That’s it! Those are the only fund accounting software packages I could find out there for my Mac. I was just about ready to call it quits when I remembered a program that I had used several years ago for my personal finances (fund accounting is a great way to budget your money). The program is called Mvelopes. Now, again, this is designed for personal finance, but I’m convinced that it will work for most any church, especially church plants!
Here are the highlights of why we’re going to Mvelopes in 2011:
- Fund accounting. That’s what it does. We can set up all our fund, assign them budgets, and then track monthly, quarterly, and yearly progress.
- Automatically pulls transactions from our bank accounts and all we have to do is assign them to the proper funds.
- Online access. Get our financial records when and where we need them.
- Split transaction ability. This means when someone turns in a reimbursement form, I create 1 transaction (the reimbursement check) and split the total of that check across the various funds that the money should be pulled from.
- No payroll, membership management, or anything else. Just the bookkeeping.
- Good reporting (reports could be a little better, but you can export everything and build custom reports in Numbers easy enough).
- Price! It is only $10 a month if you pay for the whole year in advance. Compared to the $65 I was going to pay for QB, this is a STEAL!
We’ll be rolling Mvelopes out in 2011, so I’ll let you know how it goes. But, for now I’m just happy to have SOMETHING.
As a side note to all you entrepreneurs out there, here is a great opportunity. Build some sweet church focused fund accounting software and you’ll hit the freakin jackpot. Church planters need something easy to use that is built for them.
Photo Credit: kevindooley