The Dakotas Conference of Methodist Churches includes 245 churches and a total membership of over 35,000. Covering North and South Dakota, the UMC conference is part of a denomination numbering 12.8 million worldwide.
Jeff Pospisil is the Executive Director of Finance for the Dakotas Conference. We sat down with him to discuss the organization and how stewardship served as a model for their recent transformation.
How would you define your approach to stewardship?
First of all, you’ve got to live it! In my own life, I try to prioritize family, time, and not wasting money. Because stewardship isn’t urgent, you actually have to put it on the schedule. In my organization we do retreats now, and there we can talk about how we are going to improve. We try to teach it and preach it quite often. You have to set aside time and discuss what stewardship looks like. Where does your organization have the opportunity to grow? It’s efficiency, in other words.
Were there inefficiencies with the Dakotas Conference?
There are some things that are important but not urgent, and I think stewardship is one of those. If you don’t focus on it and start planting the seeds, it’s hard to continuously improve the way you do things.
We used Great Plains on a hosted server for many years. Then there was a shift 5 years ago and we had camps included in accounting. We faced multiple problems with having a hosted server, including logging in from different locations. All of this led us to conclude that if we wanted to have people able to log in and work while they were traveling, we needed a cloud-based solution. Also we were not happy with the reporting, which was inflexible with regard to what we wanted to do.
I love the efficiency that technology like Xledger can provide. There is always more work out there to do. You will never ‘work yourself out of work’ by being more efficient. You will just find better things to put your time into.
How did Xledger stand out to you compared to the other systems you had seen?
We liked Xledger’s all-in-one solution. If we went with Intacct, another solution we were considering, we would get financing, but we’d have to buy additional applications for payroll and extra reporting. We would then have to deal with additional integrations, and the risk that somebody else’s integration would break. We liked that we didn’t need several other contracts if we went with Xledger.
We also liked that Xledger was from the beginning a cloud-based solution. It was not somebody dipping their foot into it or trying to figure how cloud-based works. It was reassuring that Xledger had been 15 years in the cloud-based accounting world. We wanted to get the best experience that we could for our users.
What were some of the difficulties in building those efficiencies?
It was a big adjustment to change to Xledger from the previous system. It was almost like speaking another language. We moved from a server-based machine and had to rethink a lot of our processes. It was a huge thing for us even to have workflow and to see the actual invoices. It also helped improve accountability. We had it where some people would charge to other people’s budgets. Now with workflow, we can actually say no. And these were actually very healthy conversations for us to have.
But the implementation team did well, and the Xledger Implementation Methodology (XIM) kept us on track.
And has Xledger enhanced your stewardship or ‘efficiency?’
I love all the automation. Someone enters a voucher, and the information automatically populates in the system. We just finish it up, and someone else remotely approves it from Mitchell or Minnesota. Also, being able to enter a batch of checks with the GL makes it nice and easy for someone doing large batches. In July I had to enter in 200 checks, which would normally take us a good day’s work. But we were able to verify and set up the spreadsheet beforehand. It only took me an hour to finish it, and once I uploaded it, I was done. It saved us three quarters of a day of work. And in that three quarters’ day, we took care of one year of work in one spreadsheet upload. That’s amazing!