Q: My church is considering outsourcing our financial roles. If we choose to do this, what should we keep in mind as we search for the right outsourcing service?
When a church considers outsourcing its financial roles, there are a few key factors to keep in mind: cost, security, and savings.
As for the security or risk factor, you need to be aware that, in essence, you are handing your church’s bank accounts over to an outside service. But this doesn’t have to be viewed as a negative—especially if you land a reputable firm.
“Internal controls are a key area where churches are at risk,” writes Sam Yeo, a partner at ChurchWest Insurance Services, in an online article about outsourcing bookkeeping. “Having someone outside of the financial system reconciling your bank accounts, tracking and verifying your deposits and checks means there is a second set of eyes going over all of your system, increasing the safeguarding of your congregation’s resources.”
Justin Spicer, president of Empower Consulting, offered the following pointers on what a church should consider when evaluating each financial outsourcing service:
What kind of direct experience does the firm and its staff have in local church financial leadership, including a deep understanding of the “language of church”?
Does the firm have a focus on serving churches, or is it a side segment of its client base? Does the service have church clients that are similar in size, budget, and financial operations to your church?
Does the service use the latest technology (cloud-based software, paperless accounting, mobile apps) and do these technologies integrate with your church’s software?
Level of expertise
Along with considering the time you might save, how much additional high-level expertise can you gain from outsourcing? I would argue that you not only want to find a bookkeeper but also a strategic partner in your ministry.
What do church clients say about the firm? Contact several current client references to hear about their experiences working with the firm. Again, get references from churches that are similar to your own in size, budget, and financial operations.
Does the upfront and monthly expense make sense from a cost-savings perspective (saving staff wages or reallocating current staff) and your current budget? Since the price will increase as you grow, are you willing to absorb that into your operating budget?
Regarding Justin’s thoughts on costs, I would add this advice: Look at the salary and benefits for hiring in-house staff to oversee financial operations. This easily runs from $50,000 to $150,000. That’s just the initial cost of a hire. You would also need to add in expenses such as equipment and overhead.
If you decide to pursue a service, get three bids from outsource firms. Vet the firm to ensure that each one has the highest caliber of leaders and proven integrity. Compare the costs. Then compare the “ease of use.” Will you be able to get a check cut quickly? Can you easily get reports?
Finally, you will still need a team to count and deposit the offering, unless you pay a bank to do this.