PCO Giving for a Multicampus Church

Dave Hockenberry blog, Planning Center Online Leave a Comment

 Or…What makes it a sock drawer?

One question it seems to come up a lot when people are beginning to plan their migration to PCO Giving is:
      How do we set up PCO Giving for a Multicampus Church?
The question usually comes from a backdrop of working with other church management systems (Chms). Many Chms provide, or enforce actually, a rigid campus structure for most parts of their application. Then looking into PCO Giving, they don’t see a clear or definitive per campus structure, which generates the question. Having migrated to PCO Giving from another Chms, I can confirm that the struggle is real. After working with a Chms that imposes campus structure, you expect this kind of structure to be available.

Financial Structure

Additionally, a church’s financial structure is also key to how it operates across campuses. Working with multicampus churches, I usually see one of three different financial models in operation:

  • Flat — Churches using this kind of flat model operate as a single financial unit. All gifts to all ChartOfAccount/Funds are singular across campuses. As an example, there is no accounting for gifts to the General Fund from one campus to another

  • Franchise  — Churches are literally operating as franchises, but the operational modeling is similar. Each of the campuses is a unique financial unit, needing to track giving to various CoA/Funds separately. In some cases, there are state/local accounting standards that impose these requirements as well.
  • Hybrid — Churches using a hybrid model have a combination of funds, some campus-specific, and some that singular across all campuses. For example, one church uses a General fund per campus but has a single Missions funds that all campuses can give towards.

In PCO Giving terms, this really boils down to how you want to structure Funds (similar to Chart of Account (CoA) in other Chms). As opposed to some of the campus-strict Chms systems available, PCO Giving provides a lot more flexibility and can easily be set up for a multicampus church – even without a predefined or implied structure, you could easily create your own structure.

The Sock Drawer

The analogy I like to use is a simple one about a dresser:
  • When you buy a dresser from the furniture store, it’s just a general piece of furniture with several variable purpose drawers.
  • When you begin to use the dresser, you decide that (form example) the top drawer is going to be your sock drawer.  This was your decision, and how you want to organize things
  • But there’s nothing intrinsic about that drawer that makes it a sock drawer. But after some use, it’s hard to see it being organized any other way.

Similarly, when you set up Funds in PCO Giving, there is no single approach for how funds can be associated with any specific campus. You get to decide and implement the campus associations as you want.

My view is that allowing you to designate “which is the sock drawer” provides an exceptional level of versatility. This allows you several different models that are just not as easily achievable in a Chms with a strict campus model.

Default Fund

One issue that can arise when you split different funds across different campuses is figuring out how to use the required default fund. PCO Giving requires that one fund be labeled as a default fund, making the one that will be pre-selected in the User Portal Giving interfaces across all of your campuses.

An example of this issue:

  • Setup PCO Giving, with a default fund set to your primary AnyTown Campus General Fund
  • Users from other campuses will automatically see the AnyTown Campus General Fund as the default fund, and (assuming they want to give to their own campus), will need to remember to change this to one of their own Campus funds before submitting.
  • People will forget, or move too fast, and their gift will end up in the AnyTown Campus General Fund.

One workaround that I have seen several churches use is to create a dummy fund with a title something like:

    ***Please select from the following funds:

In other words, they create and select a default fund that looks like its not a selection at all. This somewhat forces people to make a different (and correct for the campus) selection each time. While not perfect this has worked very well for many churches I work with on PCO Giving.

Your thoughts?

Let me know your thoughts or comments on this. Do you have a different approach that works for your church?  Do you have a feature request that we can recommend to PCO to improve things? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo by Zbysiu Rodak on Unsplash

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