The Essential Nonprofit Software Toolkit
You want your organization to be cutting-edge, but your board might be hesitant to shell out cash for every new piece of software hitting the market. These days you can automate nearly any accounting task if you have the resources, but how do you know which technology to adopt? At the core of this dilemma are three critical needs that all nonprofits must address—raising money, monitoring results, and keeping track of your funds. These three processes deserve the best software to help your cause.
Without the inflow from donors and grants, you wouldn’t be able to fulfill your mission. Today’s donor software can be very sophisticated and you should make sure yours keeps track of donor history so you can see trends and opportunities. Try to spend some time evaluating your contribution sources and figure out how much time you spend maintaining them. If you sell memberships, how do you want your software to help you to manage them? If you’re dependent on grants, what type of grant management do you need? The program you select should be specialized so you know it will work the best for your organization. Do your team a favor and find the software that will work as hard as they do!
Any organization should be aware of the key drivers behind its mission. There are many programs on the market right now that only show a piece of your financial picture using a few charts—avoid these! Instead of looking at each piece of your data individually, you should be able to see how all your data interacts together. Business intelligence software is the best way to do this. It should break down the walls in your data, collect information from all your sources, and then present the information you want to see in the way you want to see it. You want a program that is easy for your employees to use. The business intelligence software you ultimately decide on should have multiple dashboards available, so your finance manager can view her KPIs and your marketing director can view his.
Keeping Track of your Funds
Fund accounting presents some unique challenges and not every software can do it properly. It may be enticing to pay less for a software that doesn’t have specific fund accounting capabilities and use additional Excel spreadsheets to get by, but it won’t work out as you expect. You’ll be stuck in the weeds every day, rather than free to focus on big-picture ideas. When evaluating accounting software, think of the fund-specific accounting procedures your organization undertakes. Make sure the software you choose meets every one of your needs. If not, you’ll end up with a complicated system that is prone to breakdowns in communication and potential loss of data. The goal is for your mission to be the focus of your attention, not your books.
Nonprofit organizations are constantly pushing back against the myth that they must keep their overhead extremely low—and this means having to fight harder to get approval for new software purchases from the board. Finding software that addresses these three aspects of fund accounting are vital for your nonprofit and can help your leadership achieve their vision.
Cougar Mountain Software is the creator of Denali Fund, a complete accounting solution specifically designed for nonprofits. To learn more, contact us at (800) 388-3038 or firstname.lastname@example.org.