Here we are at another new year. It’s another opportunity for a fresh start.

Maybe this year, you are making some resolutions and commitments that are all new—really stretching yourself and your church. Or maybe you are making the same resolutions you made last year but failed to accomplish. If you fall into the latter category, you aren’t alone.

If your church has been struggling to get your books in better shape for as long as you can remember, 2016 is your year! Here’s why:

Bookkeeping doesn’t have to be a huge headache. It doesn’t have to slow you down.  The start of the new fiscal year is the perfect time to shop around and find an accounting system that does church accounting the way it SHOULD be. If you want to get your church’s financials in order (and want to be an accounting rock star while you’re at it!), here are some features you will want to be sure are in your next accounting software:

1. Real Fund Accounting

In a standard business you want to know how much was spent, how much was earned, and how much was left over. With a church you want to know all of these things, but you also want to make sure that the money given for a particular purpose was used for that purpose, such as a new Building or Missions Fund. This is fund accounting, and most accounting programs like QuickBooks and Xero simply don’t do it.

With fund accounting, you can:

  • Improve stewardship by properly allocating and tracking money in designated funds
  • Easily run a balance sheet by a specific fund to know how much is currently available for this purpose
  • Demonstrate transparency in accounting that builds trust with your members

2. Connect Accounting with Giving

Tracking your giving for both your accounting and giving statements can take time if your two systems don’t communicate. Frequently this means separate spreadsheets, needing to manually add contact information in multiple systems, and extra hours spent on data entry. With more churches moving to online giving, most churches indicate the importance for both systems (accounting and donation tracking) to connect and automatically share the donation information. There are a number of church management and church accounting software options, like Aplos, that can actually track both your accounting and donations in the same software. By reducing the manual data entry and separate documents you are using to track giving in your church, you can improve the accuracy of your accounting, as well as save time in the process.

3. Free Support

Yes, most companies offer free support but that doesn’t mean the support is good (or fast for that matter!). Though many offer free support, it’s usually through email or chat only — very few offer free over-the-phone support by real employees of the actual accounting software! Check out some church accounting reviews to hear what other customers say about the company’s support. Oh, and what about free account set-up and training? Getting set up correctly is crucial to the success of moving to a new accounting software, so make sure you will have access to all the help you need to get your questions answered and your account customized the way you need it.

A strong accounting program is vital to demonstrating good stewardship. If your church’s accounting software lacks any of the above, it’s time you begin thinking about switching and starting your next year with a software that meets all your needs. There are online church accounting options, like Aplos Accounting, that have joined the established old guard of church management solutions on the market, so you have a variety to choose from depending on your needs.

Aplos is accounting software built for churches by a former executive pastor. Because it was designed with the specific needs of churches in mind, it is simple to use, making your church more nimble and efficient in one fell swoop. You can take a look around by signing up for its free, 15-day trial here.