Don’t Leave Your Money Behind!



Just the other day we were talking to a church that was hoping our implementation team could combine their contributions database with their member database as part of our 9-week implementation.

We said yes.

Because combining two or more people databases is pretty routine when we implement a new MinistryPlatform church. Sometimes we are combining a check-in silo, but a surprising number of churches left their contributions behind the last time they switched church management systems (ChMS).

We think this topic is blog-worthy because we want people to think twice before they leave their contributions behind. 

Before we get to the reasons why you should keep it altogether, let’s recap the reasons a church might be tempted to leave the contributions behind…

  1. It just happened. We found a new system Check-in/Volunteers and we left the money behind.
  2. The accounting department did not want to change.
  3. The new system wasn’t as good as the old one for contributions processing.
  4. The company we picked promised us we could sync the two systems.
  5. The new system did not have an interface to our accounting system.

We are pleased that 100% of the United States churches who have selected MinistryPlatform, implemented MinistryPlatform as their solution for processing contributions. Many of them use excellent digital giving solutions in addition to MinistryPlatform.

We made this a priority early on because we are passionate about giving churches a single source of truth.

The giving data is especially valuable because it is usually carefully entered. It is also audited by the donor when they get a contribution statement. Often, the first recorded interaction you have with someone is through a donation.

The advantages of having this data in the same database as your attendance, milestones, and groups are significant:

  • One place to update contact information
  • A more full picture of households
  • Ability to leverage the frequency and recency of giving for identifying changes in involvement
  • Categorization of participants based on how and whether they are investing their time, talent, and treasure in ministry
  • Insight into whether specific discipleship efforts are having a meaningful impact on people’s faithfulness through giving
  • Confirmation as to whether someone is qualified to lead

Not every church is concerned with all of these topics, but please do not assume that one must note amounts given by individuals to glean useful insights. Many reports can obfuscate names and suppress individual amounts while still helping us to understand larger trends.

If you agree that one people database is best, we still have to address the fears and concerns that lead churches to split their member and donation databases.

Here’s how we would address the five reasons given above:

  1. Let’s not let it “just happen” again. Let’s be intentional. Our team will coach you through putting these two systems back together. We’ll help you avoid duplicates and gain confidence about your historical data.
  2. Let’s make sure we bring the accounting department into a “deep dive” demo where we share how we help churches of their size and complexity make the transition and settle into new routines.
  3. Let’s look at the advantages of our system which is designed for large churches with multiple congregations and lots of giving designations (funds).
  4. Let’s avoid synchronizing two complex databases. There are far more horror stories than success stories. If you plan to use a third party system as your main contributions system and you want to sync people and contributions back to MinistryPlatform, you should be aware of the risk and you should NOT want to be in the first year or so of that effort. Look for long term success before you commit to this reality.
  5. Let’s be honest about interfacing with accounting systems. This is minor. All we need to send to the accounting system are journal entries with debits and credits that balance and match with the deposits we are making. This is simple stuff. MinistryPlatform can provide journal entries for many systems.

A new trend is emerging as some of the online giving providers begin to offer ways to become a stand-alone contributions database for all offerings. This new trend is one where churches leave the member database behind and move to a new contributions database. The reasons for this are different, but the end result is the same.

While we live in a marvelous world of API connectivity, this should primarily be leveraged to ensure you can have flexibility in the tools you pick while having a single main database. Churches have broad and changing information needs and you cannot rely upon the typical company that creates apps for churches to transmit more than just the essential data from their system to another.