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Finance as a Team Sport

Archie McDowall picture Archie McDowall
2 min

Here at Stewardship, we have often extolled the advantages for churches and charities to have a team of people looking after their finances and I make no apology for returning to this subject once again.

At a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to find people with the appropriate skills and experience to take care of the finance function, it might actually be easier to find a number of people who are willing to share different parts of the role. However, while this might be a very tempting reason to have a finance team, there are other, perhaps more practical, reasons which might be even more important.

In recent months we have come across charities who have encountered the following issues:

  • Losing all of their accounting records which had previously been stored on a single computer, which then became damaged and unusable.
  • Being unable to gain access to the online bank account due to the serious illness of the treasurer, who was the only person with knowledge of the log in details.
  • A church being unable to claim Gift Aid, as the previous treasurer was the only person who could access the HMRC website.

Of course, the existence of a finance team in itself would not necessarily have prevented these situations but they serve as a useful reminder of the dangers of a single person looking after all of the finance function. Where there is a team of people, then each person can have access to the various systems, and cloud accounting systems will also prevent accounting records from being dependent on a single computer.

Finance teams also provide mutual support, accountability and the pooling of knowledge and experience. The old adage of a problem shared being a problem halved might not necessarily be true, but it certainly helps!

With so many benefits coming from having a wider team, should you decide to adopt the team approach, Stewardship has produced some helpful briefing papers which outline how this might be achieved and what should be considered. Our paper What to do when your church treasurer leaves gives some useful ideas on how to split the role to make it easier to find replacements, while our paper How to create a finance team for your church or Christian charity gives some more guidance on what a team might look like.

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Written by

Archie McDowall

Archie joined our Accounts Examination Services team in 2020. Prior to this he was Deputy General Treasurer of the Church of Scotland and before that he managed the charity audit section of a firm of Chartered Accountants. Archie has been involved in advising treasurers and trustees of charities for many years and has also served as a trustee of various charities.

Archie and his wife Sarah live in Essex, where he preaches and leads worship in various different churches on a regular basis. Their daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren live in Lancashire. In his spare time Archie enjoys going to the theatre.

Archie is passionate about the local church and the ways in which it serves its community and the most vulnerable on the margins of society. He recognises the importance of supporting volunteers within churches, particularly those who are facing pressures to comply with increasingly complex legislation on finance and governance.