5 Ways to Work With a Tight Church Budget

Easing the stress of finances during lean times

1. Create or Review Your Current Budget.

The first step is always to see what you have and what needs to be done with it. Be it personal, business or organizational, this is a great place to start when trying to get a look at the whole financial picture.

Budgeting tells you what direction your organization is going in and protects your board of directors. It’s your guide to where to focus those funds and exposes weak areas where you might need to rethink either investment or goals.

Start by reviewing your previous year’s budget, if you have one. If not, pull financial reports and get a reasonable estimate of what was spent and why. If you weren’t before, start using the proper expense reports and forms to determine any excess spending. Review it monthly to make sure that you are staying on track, and see where you can lower any fixed costs, like utilities.

2. Let an Expert Sort it Out.

If this is too much for you to do alone, or if you’re not sure where to start, hiring a bookkeeper that is experienced with nonprofits and religious organizations can be worth the investment. By tracking your expenses and income and generating financial reports, this type of expert can be truly helpful in getting a clear picture of the organization’s finances.

Bookkeepers sort and categorize every single transaction to make things easier for you. Hiring someone to do this for you can reduce your stress and let you focus on your ministry instead of watching numbers and praying that it makes sense. Our experienced bookkeepers will help you succeed with your finances.

3. Meet People Where They Are.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that God will use anything to reach his people. From daily mistakes to worldwide lockdowns, he will teach us new ways to guide his sheep back to the fold.

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One of these is the ease and accessibility of online services. The fact that anyone can find a church from the comfort of their living room, and get acquainted with their new family over a screen before walking into an actual building, is such a wonderful thing.

Taking full advantage of reaching people where they are can impact so many communities and lives. A community that has never been to church can be drawn in to hear about his unending grace and love doesn’t just depend on the right marketing strategy and whether parents can overcome social anxieties to be welcomed. How amazing is that?

The products that were available to larger churches in the world of livestreaming and social media are now a viable option for churches and ministries of every size and any location! So many are seeing regular attendees from across the country that they are continuing online services even after restrictions have been lifted, and those that are still practicing social distancing don’t feel left out.

4. Start Fundraising.

Fundraising is an important part of any organization. Tithes and offerings are the lifeblood from which the mission comes to fruition, and when they take a dive, it can be hard to recover. Fundraising can help supplement income in low seasons, and it’s generally pretty simple to begin a fundraising campaign if you know where to start.

Make sure to provide enough avenues for your community to donate or purchase through. This can be accepting cash or using online platforms such as Stripe or Square. Making your organization flexible helps when a majority of the country uses electronic forms of payment.

According to Internal Revenue Code (IRC) § 513(a)(3), “[T]he selling of merchandise, substantially all of which has been received by the organization as gifts or contributions,” is not subject to unrelated business income tax.

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Therefore, whatever the thrift store receives from the sale of donated items is tax-exempt income a church can receive. Selling drinks and meals before and after services or operating a bookstore or coffee shop can also be an easy way to generate revenue.

5. Establish a For-Profit Arm.

Essentially, a for-profit arm is a ministry-owned business that is established to make tax-free money paid as donations and dividends to the church.

When it comes to establishing a for-profit arm for your church or ministry, the possibilities for revenue are endless! With a for-profit arm, your church or ministry can:

1. Generate real income in the form of tax-free dividends
2. Create job opportunities for members of the community
3. Financially thrive without having to solely rely on tithes and offerings

With so many ways to supplement your organization and provide amazing contributions like jobs and accessibility to your community, it’s hard to believe that some of these options were unheard of before the pandemic. But God uses every opportunity to reach and meet us where we are in our lives, and that is the easiest part to believe.

First published on StartChurch.com. Used by permission.