Churches build community and support their mission through a wide range of programs: fundraisers, community work, study groups and more. Behind the scenes, however, keeping these programs running requires staying on top of a tedious expense management process. Replacing traditional expense management — reimbursements, petty cash, physical receipts and extensive paperwork — can streamline your church and make more time for your mission.

Here are four common challenges that churches face no matter the size of their congregation and some tools to help address them.

1-Protecting Church Funds From Misuse

To maintain accountability to church donors and the congregation as a whole, it’s important to ensure church funds are being spent responsibly and appropriately. While expense approval paperwork allows for manual checks and balances, it’s cumbersome and difficult to manage.

With a smart expense management platform, you can automatically enforce spend rules that protect church donations and funds. Set limits on daily spending or on individual transactions to control how much church staff and volunteers can spend. Expense management technology allows you to control where church staff and volunteers can make purchases based on merchant category codes — four-digit numbers assigned to businesses based on what goods and services they offer. Automatic purchase controls allow you to oversee expenses without micromanaging every expense.

The extra layer of accountability prevents fund misuse without preventing church staff and volunteers from doing their jobs.

2-Inefficient Payment Methods

The reimbursement process can be complicated and clunky; asking church staff and volunteers to use their own money upfront puts an unnecessary strain on their finances, especially when reimbursement can take several weeks. Petty cash, while convenient for small purchases, is almost impossible to track, as well as risky and impractical for larger purchases. And while for some larger churches, a shared credit card might seem like a more efficient option, you may not want all staff and volunteers to have access to your line of credit.

Prepaid debit cards with set limits offer a secure and convenient way to transfer funds. With card freeze protection, it’s safe for staff and volunteers to carry cards even when they don’t need to make purchases — administrators can unfreeze cards and adjust balances in real time if an unexpected event need comes up.

Cloud-based tools connect with mobile apps to simplify expense management on your church’s schedule.. Users can request funds transfers for last-minute purchases via text message and church leaders can then approve them remotely for more efficient communication.

With smart payment tools, church staff and volunteers can serve the community without stretching their personal finances, and church leaders won’t have to deal with the hassle of forms and lost receipts.

3-Outdated Approval Paperwork

Traditional expense paperwork depends on church staff and volunteers to manually enter all their expenses, and requires stapled bundles of receipts and multiple approvals. The lengthy process requires a lot of time for your employees to complete, as well as for church leaders to review and approve —  time that could be better spent furthering your church’s mission.

Cloud-based reporting tools give you up-to-the-minute transaction records and a complete digital record of every dollar spent. With mobile receipt capture, staff and volunteers can take photos of receipts and upload them on-the-go, eliminating the end-of-the-month scramble to locate lost physical receipts. With more detailed records, the reconciliation process is simple, and church staff and volunteers don’t have to assemble expense reports themselves. Cloud-based tools can also sync with accounting software, like QuickBooks or Blackbaud, for an integrated solution to help to plan your budget and trim expenses.

PEX is a next-generation expense management solution that offers efficient spend power, automated spend control and enhanced financial security — all of which reduces monthly expenses and saves time on expense reporting. With PEX, church leaders can simplify expense management and devote more time to the church community.