I had the pleasure of speaking with Mandy Perkins, the Executive Director of Choices of the Heart. Choices is a non-profit organization that provides support and compassion to women who are or think they may be pregnant. Choices of the Heart offers emotional support without judgment by providing counseling, testing, education, and resources. They are with women every step of the way, regardless of their income.
What drew you to the company and to join in a leadership capacity?
My husband and I have been business owners of a fabrication business for the past 20 years, and I also own an antique shop near the clinic. Our pastor started choices of the Heart in 1983, so I have always supported it in some capacity. In March 2021, there was a huge staff change, and the pastor asked me to use my business knowledge and take over as Director. I agreed, and even though there has been an enormous learning curve, I feel very blessed to be here.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced running a non-profit organization?
A non-profit is very different from a regular business. With a non-profit, you aren’t physically selling anything to pull in income. We are entirely donor-supported, which adds a whole other stress element because we can’t operate if we don’t have the donors’ support.
How does your work fulfill your passions?
We support women who are pregnant or think they might be. We provide pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, counseling, and additional resources. Even though this role can be very exhausting, I know this is my purpose right now.
Who or what prompted you to start using FINSYNC?
I was so tired of Quickbooks. I used them with our fabrication business. I have used it for years and have never been impressed. But when I came here, it made zero sense how Quickbooks works for a non-profit. Because with our non-profit, we are not here to take payments and invoices. Instead, we need to outline our budget and collect money from donors. QBO is set up for invoicing, bringing in cash for a service rendered.
When I first came on board, QBO disconnected from Synovus, the bank we were currently using. However, I kept going back and forth between these two companies, trying to get to a real person, and they each pointed their fingers, saying it was the other’s fault that the bank account no longer synced. I worked for four months trying to reconnect! I was reconciling pen to paper with a spreadsheet. It was ridiculous.
I finally got fed up with it and decided to change banks to Morris Bank, which eventually led me to FINSYNC.
What are the biggest benefits your business has experienced using FINSYNC?
Quickbooks treated our donors as invoices, as in businesses being invoiced, which did not make any sense. This ended up being more work on my part than it should have been.
Plus, ACH donations were not tracked in QBO. These donations were only tracked through the bank. So each month, I had to go to the bank and login into two accounts, transfer ACH donations using a token code from one account to another and then manually put this into Quickbooks. It was ridiculous, and I just knew there had to be a simpler way.
The most significant benefit FINSYNC offers is its customer service, without a doubt. I talked to Phil Weidner on many occasions because I am not very comfortable with technology, and Phil was very patient with me and helped me get set up. Phil is still helping me, and he has transferred all my bank statements from 2021 to be up to date. Phil has helped me with ACH payments and transfers done and eventually reconciling. I know he will walk me through whatever I need to ensure I am doing it correctly.
We have to thank our friends and partners at Morris Bank for this introduction and relationship; tell us a little more about your relationship with them.
I am so happy with Morris Bank. My feeling all along is that we are a local non-profit, so we should be with a local bank and have each other’s back. When we moved Choices from Synovus to Morris, I told Robert Benson, who I have known for some time at Morris, that I was so frustrated with Quickbooks. Immediately, Robert said, “Let me tell you about FINSYNC.” I told him that if it keeps track of my donors and allows me to reconcile donations, I am in! So Robert put me in touch with Jack Stone, who walked me through the software and showed me how simple it is, which I like. I am so happy with what FINSYNC allows me to do.
Could you talk more about the partnership between Morris Bank and FINSYNC, particularly at the beginning of the relationship?
My husband and I already have our personal accounts and other business accounts through Morris Bank here in Statesboro. So when I called, Robert was extremely helpful in this transition. Robert is the son of Dr. Benson, who we know personally. When I started working at Choices of the Heart, my first thought was Morris Bank.
Do you have any other financial institutions connected to FINSYNC; if so, how is your relationship with them; how would you compare the relationships?
When I go into Morris, everybody recognizes me and says, “Hey Miss Mandy!” so happy and cheerful. When I walked into Synovus, it wasn’t like that at all. I wasn’t recognized. They didn’t know who I was, they were there to do a job, and that is it. They weren’t involved in the community.
It is a huge difference, and I guess if you are not a business owner, maybe it doesn’t matter so much. But when you are a business owner, you want to call up your banker, and they know who you are.
How would you grade your experience connecting your bank accounts to FINSYNC; did you connect more than one account? How has this helped make your business life easier?
Very high! It was very easy. Phil did most of it. He will tell me to press here, click on that. I really appreciate that extra help. Phil was able to design it for what we needed. If I ever have a problem, I know he will figure out a strategy somehow.
What advice do you have for others running a business or 501c3 (non-profit) like yours?
Pray a lot! Learning along the road is the best way because if you come into a non-profit with no prior experience in 501c3, it will shape you to what it needs. Versus someone coming in thinking they know everything and changing the organization.
With non-profits, our budget is our main thing, and we have to stay in line with our budget since we don’t have discretionary funds.
Finally, you have to have the attitude that we are here to serve, not just be served. I think all non-profits work in that way.
Anything else you would like to share with other potential and actual small business owners?
You need to love what you are doing. If you don’t love it, you don’t need to be in a non-profit. This is not a job; this is a calling. If you want just to earn a paycheck, don’t work for a non-profit.
The girls that walk through those doors into our clinic need to know the moment we greet them, that they are not being judged. They are truly our #1 focus. You can’t do that if it is not in your heart. I have often said if this ever gets to be “just a job,” I will move on to something else. Right now, my heart is here.
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