During the 2014 Synod, a key outcome regarding leadership was to reduce the administrative effort required of pastors/administrators/parish directors and their staffs. It is more important than ever to help our parishes find ways to reduce the time spent performing routine accounting functions. Significant enhancements are now available in accounting software to more efficiently complete routine accounting tasks as well as upgraded tools to aid in financial decision making.
This initiative will consist of two phases. First, a collaborative team of business managers from various parishes, including single and multi-parish, those with schools and without, those larger in size and smaller in size as well as rural and urban will be formed. They will meet to recommend an updated accounting structure. This group will review current parish needs and anticipated future needs, ensuring these requirements are incorporated into the updated accounting structure.
A second collaborative team of business managers with varied demographics like the first team will gather to review various accounting software packages. This team will be responsible for determining software functionality requirements as well as those functions which are nice to have. The team will meet with multiple software vendors to view demonstrations and make their recommendation on the accounting software that best meets the needs of parishes.
Anne Levendoski will be leading this initiative. The Archdiocese will be hiring an individual to manage the common accounting software. These individuals will work closely with these two teams.
The accounting structure is the coding system used to record transactions. This includes the chart of accounts along with the account type, fund, and program. You may find the current coding system in chapter 3 of the Parish Financial Management Manual.
Why is this important to update? The accounting structure is a key component in accounting software. It will drive how the accounting software is set up. The more the accounting structure meets the current and future needs of parishes, the more effective the software will be.
The primary objective of this initiative is to find accounting software to help parishes reduce the time spent on routine administrative tasks. Opportunities to reduce time spent in this area include:
- Creating workflows that will allow for electronic approval of vendor invoices to occur timely, securely, and remotely.
- Building financial statements that are generated with ease.
- Making reporting less time-consuming. For example, one objective is to create a report which will generate the Confidential Financial Statement (CFS).
- Incorporating analytical tools to help with the budgeting process and aid in financial decision making.
- Balancing restricted funds with minimal effort
- Forming a software user group to allow peer to peer consultation on tips and tricks on how to best utilize the software.
- Complying with regulatory bodies including Canon law, the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), and accounting principles and policies.
- Having consistency across parishes, thereby reducing the level of learning required when transitioning to a new parish.
Initially, parishes will be encouraged but not required to use the selected common accounting software. The updated accounting structure is a key component of the common accounting software and will be integrated into the accounting software selected.
Review and updating of the accounting structure will occur first. Once this is complete, the review of accounting software will begin. The goal is to complete a review of the accounting structure in the next six months and then select the accounting software in the following six months.
The cost for the software is not yet known. These costs will become clearer once the common accounting software is selected. Cost will be shared when it is available.
This is a major undertaking, and it is important to share these points with parishes:
- Hearing the concerns of parishes is essential. Creation of multi-demographic teams will occur to hear firsthand parish needs, concerns, and wish list. Those selected will represent a cross section of the parishes within the Archdiocese including single and multi-parish, those with schools and without, those larger in size and smaller in size as well as rural and urban. These teams will have a voice in recommending an updated accounting structure as well as the common accounting software.
- Discussions with other dioceses who have implemented common accounting software continue to be held to learn from their successes and failures. These discussions will help our Archdiocese learn how to gain benefits of utilizing common accounting software while also helping us to avoid the common pitfalls experienced by other dioceses.
- Annual review of the successes and opportunities for improvement of using common accounting software will occur. While it would be great to say everything will go well from the start, that is not reality. Rather, the successes will continue to be built upon and the opportunities for improvement will be reviewed each year to learn what did not go well and implement changes to turn these into successes.