For Church Community Housing Corporation (CCHC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing safe and affordable housing in Rhode Island, helping their community is an essential goal. Founded in 1969, CCHC has been at the forefront of affordable housing development in Newport County, Rhode Island. With more than 2,000 units of housing, including single-family homes, apartments, senior housing, and shelters, CCHC has positively impacted the lives of many local low- and moderate-income residents.
However, many of their financial processes had not changed in decades. They were still using paper checks to pay bills, and tracking those payments manually. The challenge of balancing administrative tasks with their core mission was becoming increasingly difficult. That was until they discovered BILL, which helped lay a stronger foundation for their financial operations.
CCHC relied on labor-intensive, paper-based processes for their invoicing and billing, leading to significant time and resource consumption. It took an average of 5–7 business days from receiving an invoice to issuing a payment, causing delays and inefficiencies.
Additionally, the high fees associated with rent payments added further financial strain to the organization, which has a lean operating budget, and to its tenants. According to Sean Saunders, Deputy Director of CCHC, “The interchange fees end up being a percentage of the transaction instead of a flat fee. So we wondered, do we add that cost on for the tenant who's already living in affordable housing? Or do we take on that cost? If we take it on, that ends up lowering the amount of rent that we collect by a significant amount. That’s why we were looking at BILL.”
“If it weren’t for BILL, we'd be spending more time on administrative work than we would be on building.” — Sean Saunders, Deputy Director
Recognizing the need for a modern and streamlined approach to their financial operations, CCHC enlisted Saunders’ expertise and embarked on a search for a solution that would move them away from a paper-based process and help make their accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR) move faster and smoother. Because of its straightforward processes and common-sense solutions, BILL emerged as the optimal choice. “Before BILL, people would print out invoices and put them in my inbox. And now whenever anybody gets them either they'll have to scan them in and email them to the BILL email address,” said Saunders.
Since adopting BILL, CCHC has experienced a remarkable transformation in their day-to-day operations. The easy data import and export between BILL and their existing accounting software, Sage 50, proved to be a game-changer. “We thought it would be a heavier lift,” explains Saunders, “We anticipated all of these issues, but there weren’t any—it worked the first time.”
Processes used to be tedious. “We were manually entering in all of our invoices, and then printing out checks individually,” explains Saunders. “Every check would have to be reviewed by our executive director per our policy and then signed by a board member. So by the time the check finally went out, it could have taken somewhere between five to seven business days before we were able to pay somebody.” Luckily, BILL has sped up their processes. “Now it’s the complete opposite,” Saunders describes. “We get an invoice, and our board members just sit at home and approve payments.” Instead of five to seven business days, checks are mailed out within 24 hours of receiving an invoice.
The impact of BILL on CCHC’s efficiency and productivity cannot be overstated. What once took days to process now takes only hours, enabling CCHC to allocate more time and resources to their core mission of housing development for those in need. With invoices approved and payments issued within 24 hours, CCHC has streamlined their payment cycles, ensuring timely and accurate disbursements.
Keeping things organized also benefits CCHC’s tenants. “We pay for the utilities at all of our properties,” Saunders explains, “Part of making things affordable is that we also want to make sure that if a tenant is unable to pay, that their electricity, water, or gas aren't getting shut off. So we take on those bills, and BILL makes sure that they're paid on time. And things have been going as smoothly as possible.”
“The entire process from beginning to end of getting an invoice to uploading into Sage50, it is hard to stress just how much time it took with this very manual paper-based process. Before BILL, we used to spend about 20 hours a week on our old process for doing all of these payments and transactions.” — Sean Saunders, Deputy Director
In addition, the transition to electronic payments, including ACH and BILL virtual cards, have expedited the payment process and enhanced the organization’s relationship with vendors. “They're getting paid even quicker than they were before,” describes Saunders. “When things are going well, you don't hear from anybody—but when they're not going well, you hear from people all the time. And it’s been a good sign that we're not hearing from anybody. Payments are going out the way they're supposed to.”
CCHC’s vendors were used to waiting on payments, but those days are in the past. “We just finished construction on two single family homes,” Saunders explains, “And the contractor who was responsible for that construction signed up to receive ACH payments through BILL. Then within a day or two of putting an invoice, he's getting paid, which has never happened in the history of this organization. That was one of our biggest pain points before BILL: when somebody does work like that, they expect to be paid immediately, but sometimes they have to wait maybe a week before getting a $90,000 check for their invoice.”
“As a nonprofit, if you are spending too much time on payables, BILL is a no brainer. For the cost vs the value, we’re saving both time and money. It really blew us away.” —Sean Saunders, Deputy Director
This kind of efficiency is no small thing, because it doesn’t just impact one payment. “This contractor is a sole proprietor, but he was hiring subcontractors, and he needed to make sure everybody's getting paid,” says Saunders, “So for him, this process made it so that he could pay people faster himself.” In the meantime, the new homeowners were able to move in and get settled.
CCHC is one of the oldest housing developers in the state, but they haven’t stopped looking forward to the next big thing. The organization is currently building three new residences that will be net-zero homes. According to Saunders, “This means the homes will produce as much energy as they use. So for the homeowners, they're not only getting an affordable house, but over the lifetime of the house, they shouldn’t have to pay for any utilities except water.”
It’s a model of efficiency—much like the efficiency that BILL brings to CCHC’s financial operations. By leveraging BILL’s capabilities, CCHC has achieved substantial time and cost savings. Administrative tasks are less of a burden, because BILL saves the team 10-20 hours per week, allowing the organization to focus on their primary objective: building affordable housing and supporting their communities. The financial burden of high transaction fees on rent payments has been alleviated, resulting in a more sustainable and affordable housing model for CCHC and its tenants.
“I've worked a lot of jobs,” Saunders says, “But there aren't many where at the end of the day, you can actually say that you've made a huge difference in somebody's life. But at CCHC, you can.”